Ask Bracha

  • Question:

    Dear Bracha, My two year old has discovered hitting? How do I curb this behavior?

  • Answer:

    There are two things I need to know with regards to this "hitting" behavior.

    1. Is hitting being displayed by others in the home, daycare setting or other environment that he spends a lot of time in? If so, it is imperative that he not be subjected to these examples, which are naturally mimicked by him. 2. What is your response to his hitting? Understanding behavior as an attention-getting device is in most cases extremely accurate. It is very hard to get your brain around how to discipline with out giving attention. For instance, giving him a lecture on why it's bad to hit, is giving him attention. Even yelling at and punishing a child can be seen as attention.

    So let's go to a little example. If you are talking with an older child,(or in the kitchen, etc.) and your son hits someone, instantly you are at his side(wow, instant attention). You may feel that whatever you are doing to admonish him, is a negative situation that he would not want to repeat. But attention is attention and obviously, as you have noted yourself, he is not being deterred by what ever you are doing.

    What to do. I would like you to know that this is just an example, to help you create ideas on your own. Your child is unique; please take the concepts in this example and "tweak" it so it fits you family and situation. When your son hits someone, immediately give him a time out on a step or in a corner for at least 2 minutes. When you go to tell him he has his time out, you will only say a short phrase that is to the point such as, "we don't hit, time out now". He is to have no toys or other distractions during time out. Do not make eye contact with him while instructing him, use a firm voice and a angry face. This is the ultimate cold shoulder routine and should be standard for all disciplining situations. . NO ONE is allowed to talk with him during this him, if he tries to talk with you or others ignore him or say, "no talking" DO NOT GET PULLED INTO ANY INTERACTIONS OR EXPLANATIONS!!! I assure you he knows darn well he did something wrong. In the mean time make a sure you shower attention on the victim.

    Work with this and I am sure you will see results. Watch for ways to increase positive interactions with your child to prevent them from seeking attention negatively, you may find certain times of the day especially prone to some type of negative behavior; it will be particularly useful for you to create an inclusive routine for this time. Wishing the all the best,-Bracha

    IN ADDITION------


    How can I control the hitting that goes on in his daycare? As for time outs, that is the mode I use when my son hits. However, the other day, he hit his sibling, gave me a big smile and walked over to the stairs where he had his last time out and sat there with a big grin on his face. like "I know what to do". It was pretty funny although not that effective.


    The sign of a smart child is all over your son, with a good bit of stubbornness too, so now it comes down to which one of you is smarter. He thinks he has you all figured out, and you (like most of us parents) do not have him figured out, thats for sure. Your going to have to work on that day care angle, perhaps you can get some parents together and get something done. In the mean time, watch the eye contact and other forms of attention. No discussion. You may want to re-think your short instructional phrase to be more like, "in our family the rule is no hitting", getting "family" in to differentiate between day care and the home and defiantly get in the word "rule", as children understand rules and that they must be obeyed.

    The next thing I would suggest is to up the ante. Remember not to do this unless you are going to stick it out and be consistent, other wise you will teach him he can get around you if he makes a big enough fuss, and he will. Think about what your son treasures most, such as his favorite toy. when he hits, he gets time out and make a show of taking away his favorite toy for a specific time.(warning him about this first may be a good idea) I would suggest some measure of time he understands such as after supper or until tomorrow morning. He may put up a real fuss, if so thats a great sign, you have him,(now don't you let him see your smile!), The trick is you MUST NOT CHANGE THE CONDITIONS YOU HAVE FOR HIS CONSEQUENCE. He kicks up a fuss, sorry thats the consequence, hurting some one is more important than a toy. don't engage in any other explanation, see first email. If he goes crazy, deal with it, but don't back down or you are lost and welcome to his new routine, worse that the one before.


    Bracha Mirsky is expressing personal and professional opinions and views. These opinions or views are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician, counselor or mental health professional. Bracha Mirsky is not responsible for the outcome or results of following her advice in any given situation. You are completely responsible for your actions and Bracha Mirsky accepts no liability for any situation in your life past, present or future.