What to do when our children cross the line ?

What is most important is to understand first what makes our children hit in order for us to react appropriately. We can't adopt the right attitude if we don't know exactly what is the real problem we're trying to solve.


Angry little boy

First thing to clear up right away : children hitting do not want to physically hurt us. Actually, a child who hits does it because at one point, hitting is the only response he can find. It is impulsive. Here are the situations that might "push" your kid to hit you :

  • Not enough attention from his parents. Attention for your kid basically means time spending with him.
  • Neglected basic needs : tired, hungry...
  • Sudden changes without telling him before : leaving the park or a friend's house, changing your mind about something you told him.

These are the basic situations in which you child may see no other options but hitting you to express his frustration and anger.

So it's normal ??

No of course not ! Children hitting is not normal and shouldn't be tolerated. What we parents have to understand is that it is our "job" to teach our kids how to temper themselves and express what they feel and want with respect.

Spanking ?

Before I go further with the solutions to such behavior, let me tell you a few words about spanking. Children hitting do not see what's the problem with their attitude. Spanking them means that it's ok to hit ! How can you expect them to stop hitting if your own answer is to spank them ? They will just see that you are expressing your anger with the same means. NOTHING will change.

And, by knowing what causes your child hitting behavior, spanking him becomes pretty unfair don't you think ? It doesn't teach anything useful, doesn't make your kid think of another way of reacting, puts him in a quiet mood for a few hours because he's afraid and not because he understands.

So no, spanking is easy but has nothing to do with education and will only make your child hit more. It's "do as I say, don't do as I do". Forget it.

Oh, and it's not because you've been spanked when you were a kid that it's a good thing. I was and I've decided not to spank my daughter


Screaming kid

So, how to react to children hitting ? The first thing to tell yourself is that the education you give your children cannot consist only in saying yes or no, allowing something or not, setting dinner times and sleep times. Of course it goes beyond that. And I'm sure we all agree on that but when we're facing

our kids bad behavior, we sometimes forget our pretty words about education, and act impulsively. But it's in those moments of tension that your role of parent needs not to be neglected. That's where you teach your kid how to become a responsible, respectful adult, able to solve problems and temper his emotions.

Here's what you can do when your child hits you :

  • Temper your anger, don't show it. Stay calm and don't imitate your child.
  • Show that you're hurt. Make a sad face and say "Ouch, you hurt me ! Really you did. It hurts when you hit me" Your child needs to see the effects of hitting. Show that you can be vulnerable and teach him the feeling of compassion that way. You don't hit the people you love. And that's why you don't spank him or hurt him physically. Never.
  • Ask your child why he hit you. He will not be afraid to talk if you stay calm and looks hurt and shocked by his behavior.
  • When you know the reason, tell him that there are other ways of showing his anger or frustration. He can express it with words. Show him examples : "You can tell me : mummy I didn't want to leave the park. I wanted to stay 10 minutes more !, instead of hitting me".
  • Punishing your child because he hit you is ok of course, especially if talking about it isn't enough. Put him in his room and ask him to stay there for 30 minutes for example because you can't accept his behavior.

Of course all this is less easier than a good spank but who ever said raising kids was easy ? :)

Adopting this attitude is taking education as it is : a patient teaching of what the world is like and how to become an adult, a mature one. You don't want him to hit ? Don't hit him. You want him to learn how to communicate ? Talk to him and explain things to him. You're the model for your child. Never forget it. And start being coherent in your parenting style. The lack of it provides no boundaries and therefore no respect. A parenting method could definitely help (see the link in the author info on the right).