Featured in Pre-schoolers
While some parents believe that their child’s aggressive behaviors are behind them by the time they are in pre-school, these behaviors are still very common among pre-schoolers. A parent might think that because the pre-schooler can talk, he or she should demonstrate their anger through talking rather than hitting, but in fact hitting or even pushing is not uncommon at this stage of their development.
Methods of Discipline
As it is common for young children to engage in this type of aggressive behavior at different points in their social development and in various situations, parents do need to watch the behavior closely. If the hitting becomes frequent or seems to be a consistent way of reacting to something they do not like, then it is time for the parents to step in and help them to change their behavior.
1. Try to understand the reasons why your child is choosing to hit. Your child is old enough to verbalize to you why they are hitting, rather than using other methods of dealing with anger. It is up to the parent to help the child find other non-aggressive ways to resolve their issues.
2. Be consistent when it comes to disciplining your child. If you say “no hitting” when your child first smacks another pre-schooler in the park, it is just as important to say “no hitting” all the other times he or she does it. It is important that the method you use is consistent so that your child comes to know what to expect know you as well.
3. Stay as calm as you can under the situation. Your natural response is to scream and possibly grab your child, but this behavior only enforces the reaction you are trying to discourage. An approach to try is to exhale and then gently remove your pre-schooler from the situation. Don’t add more anger and irritability to the situation. Once you have calmed down, calm your child down next so that you can sit him or her down to discuss what happened.
4. Try to use the situation to teach empathy to your pre-schooler. Once you have both calmed down enough to discuss what happened, ask your pre-schooler what he or she could do to make the hurt child feel better. If the child is still there, perhaps let your pre-schooler go over to the child and make amends. Do not force your pre-schooler to say an apology he or she doesn’t mean – it will not help the situation.
5. Be aware of when your child’s aggression and keep in check with your child. If your pre-schooler’s hitting seems outside the normal boundaries of development then it might be time to talk to your doctor. Signs might include losing their temper easily, defiant or hostile behavior towards authority figures, and constantly arguing with adults.
Helping Your Child Cope
It can be very embarrassing and difficult for parents to deal with their children’s hitting behavior. It is easy to respond to the aggression with anger, however, your pre-schooler will be looking to you for ways they can control their anger and aggression. Be a role model for your child. Stay calm under pressure and learn to respond in a more positive way when dealing with angering situations.
When your child acts out by hitting, step in and nip the behavior in the bud. Be sure to speak to your in a firm voice. Try to get down to their level so that you are not talking down to them, but are able to have a meaningful conversation that reinforces “No hitting” and that “Hitting hurts”. If the child hits again, remove him or her from the situation and give him or her a short (one to two minutes) time-out. After your child has calmed down, discuss what happened and be sure to highlight that the hitting behavior was wrong. Also ensure you make suggestions as to how to handle the situation (and others like it) in the future.