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5 min read

This post is the second part of last Monday's email: 3 Reasons Why Kids Hit (or Bite/Shove/Pull hair)
If this topic is of interest to you, then I highly suggest you read the first part here: https://themontessoriroom.com/blogs/montessori-tips/3-reasons-why-kids-hit-or-bite-shove-pull-hair
It's a quick 3 minute read.
Now that you understand why your child is hitting/biting/shoving, here's four strategies to correct that behaviour.Just note that correcting unwanted physical behaviour will likely require a combination of the strategies below. Different situations might warrant different approaches so be sure to read through them all:                                                                                                                                                                                         

Strategy 1. Get To The Root Of The Issue

Whenever there's a change in your child's behaviour, start by asking "Why?" and "Why now?"Dr. Stuart Shanker, researcher, professor, and author of the book Self-Reg, is an expert on helping children develop their self-regulation skills.He understands that emotions can be very overwhelming when you’re a child (even as an adult!) but children don’t have the life experience to recognize their emotions, understand them, and then self-regulate them.Dr. Shanker calls on parents to "be a stress detective" to find out what might be causing an undesirable behaviour. This could be anything from tooth pain, to an itchy sweater, to a noisy fan, to a sick parent, to large crowds, etcHe's categorized these stressors into 5 groups - biological, emotional, cognitive, social, and prosocial.Click here to see examples of all 5.Often, if you can figure out the cause of the behaviour and help your child work through it, then the undesirable behaviour will fix itself.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Strategy 2. Help The Hurt Child FIRST

When your child has hurt another child, start by approaching the child who was hurt.
This is because sometimes the "hitter" is doing it for attention, which is totally normal, but you want to send a clear message that hitting is not the way to get it.

Instead, approach the hurt child, get down on their level, and ask them if they’re okay - "Are you okay? That looked like it hurt/scared you/made you feel sad. Do you need a hug?"

If you or your co-parent are on the receiving end, rather than another child, you could alsod role play this with each other, i.e. mom gets her hair pulled so dad asks mom if she’s okay.

After the hurt individual is comforted, you can let the hitter know that what they did wasn’t okay and that these actions made someone feel bad.
For example:"You hurt Ben when you hit him and now he's feeling sad. I don’t think you want to make Ben sad so you have to remember to keep your hands on your own body."You’re going to be a broken record during this phase but it doesn’t have to be harsh or mean. Stick with a compassionate but firm tone.
                                                                                                                                   

Strategy 3. Use The "Time In' Approach

If being physical with others is becoming a consistent behaviour, you can try a "time in" approach - keep your child close to you at all times or whenever they're in the environment that leads to hitting - the park, during playdates, in new environments, etc

It doesn't have to feel like a punishment. You can even call them your "helper" or "partner".

This allows you to quickly correct the behaviour when it's happening and gives you an opportunity to observe. You might notice if there are certain triggers or patterns to the behaviour that will help you change them.
For example:

"You hurt Ben when you hit him and now he's feeling sad. I don’t think you want to make Ben sad so you have to remember to keep your hands on your own body."

You’re going to be a broken record during this phase but it doesn’t have to be harsh or mean. Stick with a compassionate but firm tone.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Strategy 4. Work on Empathy

Draw attention to instances where your child or those around them are experiencing and practicing empathy.

  • When your child or someone else in the family hurts themselves, talk about how you helped them to feel better. As your child learns more about empathy, you can talk about hypothetical situations or let them take the lead.

For example, "It looks like your brother hurt himself when he fell. How can we make him feel better?" or "Your friend Sam came to school feeling sad today. Were you able to help him feel better? I wonder what you could do next time to make him feel better?"

  • Read books and talk about how the different characters are feeling.
  • Validate and verbalize your own child’s emotions - "You seem frustrated that Sarah took your toy and that’s why you hit her. Next time….". This will help your child to become aware of their emotions and develop the language to begin expressing it with words.

Patience Is Key

This phase, although normal, can be very frustrating. A compassionate, firm, and consistent approach is best while you wait until your child matures out of it.

Until then, solidarity from the rest of us going through it too ❤️

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