How to keep your toddler from hitting?
We have a very feisty, willful and energetic 1 year old. She is lots of fun but has a problem with hitting. She will smack my glasses off if I don't restrain her and will smack people in the face with her hand or an object. We always tell her "No!" and prevent he from hitting again, but it's not having much of an effect. I consider this to be a real problem that needs to be addressed before she is much older. Any ideas on how best to deal with this?
Thanks for any help.
Brian, what do you do when she hits besides saying NO and restraining her ? I would suggest a firmly said NO -- at the same time-- putting her down facing away from you and calmly walking away with no eye contact or other verbal contact for a short time. The combination of the verbal command and the lack of physical interaction might break the cycle. After a few times, hopefully she will get the idea that she will not get any attention if she acts in a negative manner.
For me the question has always been whether the act was actually malicious or not. At ages less than 1 year, I really believe that there aren't bad intentions with acts like this. At around age 1, then kids start to show a few bad intentions, but in general, I think they operate more in the mode of "What happens if...?"
So, here are a few questions to think about:
Does she hit other children and steal their toys? Then some punishment is certainly in order, because she's learned that she can get a reward (a toy) for bad behavior (hitting).
She may understand that it's not okay to hit, but still want to test to see if it's okay at this very moment, and she may want to get confirmation of the cause and effect relationship she's building up in your head.
Remember that attention is likely a reward for her as well. If she knows she can get your attention (even if that attention is in the form of scolding) she may continue. When our kids are really misbehaving, one of the worst punishments can be not acknowledging them, and not making eye contact. Sometimes, that can get across displeasure more strongly than verbal scolding or physical restraint. If the situation gets really bad, you could place her alone in a crib or playpen for a minute or so. It doesn't have to be much for them to get across that you're displeased and aren't willing to tolerate that behavior.
Does this happen at all times of the day, or only when she's hungry/tired/grumpy/happy/excited? I often found that misbehavior can be caused by these states, mostly because I realized that young children often have a lack of impulse control when they're in any of these states.
What's her response to the action? Curiosity? Laughter? Puzzlement? Anger? Frustration?
Likely, she's just exploring the world of cause & effect, and understanding and learning punishment, as well as understanding what behavior gets your attention.
Both of our children have always had a habit of touching our faces or wanting to touch us very closely when they're tired or grumpy. I've always thought of it as misplaced affection. In my mind, they want to touch and caress us for comfort, but at a certain age, sometimes it comes out wrong, given lack of dexterity, lack of impulse control, and a million other things that are happening in their little minds.
My son does this, too. I have had a small amount of luck with teaching him a substitute behavior. I taught him how to do a "nice touch" and whenever we catch him hitting we tell him to "do nice" instead (which is patting/rubbing gently).
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It takes a fair amount of time.
Removing eye contact is a great idea if you can pull it off. I find it hard to do myself. When I get too upset I will put my son in timeout in his crib for a minute or two. I don't know how much effect it has on him, but it gives me space to calm down. (Necessary when there is hair-pulling involved...like I said, we don't exactly have this problem licked yet...)
Another thing I just thought of is that at age 1, motor control is less than optimal. So it's possible that there are times where she just doesn't know her own strength, so to speak. She likely isn't able to modulate exactly how hard she swipes and grabs. In addition, she likely doesn't have a fully formed sense of "other" yet so she doesn't understand the concept of hurting another person. As she gets older that part should get better.
Curious... is this still a problem as she has gotten older? If no, did it go away on its own or as a result of something you did? If yes, what does it look like now, and what are you trying (or are you still trying)?