Hitting, biting, pushing, etc.

A blogger who may not wish to be named writes about her 2-year-old:

"[Kid] is hitting. When disciplined, she laughs. And then hits again. I'veslapped her hand (now for the third time, something I'm not proud of)
instinctively (why does being hit make you want to hit back?), which
she also thinks is very, very funny.

Today, she picked up her toy computer and, full force, smacked the
dog in the head with it and when we
tried a time out (I know you don't like them, but I don't know what
else to do) she laughed. She reacts, a bit, to our anger–meaning she
stops what she's doing for a second and then starts to run away–while
continuing the action.


I'm at wits fucking end here. We do 1-2-3 magic with
most things and that has been working really, really well. But not with
the hitting. Help?"

Man, I hate that reflexive hitting. I've done it, too, and it just seems to happen before I know what I've done. It makes me feel like a big old jerk, although apparently it's acceptable <eyeroll>, at least according to the people who make those V8 commercials in which the wife sees that the husband isn't eating any vegetables and smacks him on the forehead. Srsly, why they wanna play us like that? We don't have enough problems with 1) eating vegetables, 2) relating to our spouses, and 3) expressing anger appropriately already? They need to make that stupid commercial with the tired old gag from the 70s?

I think the not instinctively hitting back is just something else we can work on, and I'm guessing eventually the instinct just goes away. People who never reflexively hit and have never had the urge to: Were you hit as a kid? Because it's my suspicion that the reflexive hitting happens because it happened to us when we were small.

But anyway, on to the problem. It sounds like she's frustrated or angry. It's certainly the right age for it. And it's a problem that a lot of kids that age have. Some manifest it by hitting, or biting, or scratching, or kicking, or whatever.

I've talked about this a couple of times in the past, but the important thing to keep in mind in this phase is that it's totally OK for your kid to feel frustrated and/or angry. It's not OK for your kid to hurt people or animals. You don't want to try to make your kid suppress their rage or act "good" or anything that teaches them that what they're feeling is wrong or doesn't matter. The end result of that is that they go underground and start hiding from you.

But you do want to teach the kids that there are things they just never do. And hurting animals is one of them. One way to do this is to give them a designated alternate thing to hit. Some people have gotten a little pillow that they carry around, and whenever the kid starts to hit they reinforce that they can't hit mommy or the dog or whatever, so they should hit the pillow instead. Help the kid hit the pillow, and while it's happening help the kid verbalize the feelings. ("You're angry!") Here's a post from the wayback machine about how I used this idea to get my older one to stop biting people when he was this age.

Giving them a substitute allows them to feel and express their anger when they're still too young to verbalize it well, while also teaching them that there are always ways you can express anger that don't hurt other people.

Anyone else? Did you do things that you thought worked well when your kid went through a phase like this? And how did you deal with the reflexive hitting if you've felt the urge?

0 thoughts on “Hitting, biting, pushing, etc.”

  1. Honestly, this is where we spank. We follow the advice of not losing your temper, being firm and simply stating “You are not going to behave this way.”

  2. (1) Have done the reflexive hitting. HATED myself. The best thing I’ve found that works for me is to know my triggers: what makes me freak before thinking is when one twin brother (2.5 years old) hits the other on purpose, with a calm, mean look on his face. I’m immediately horrified and want to defend the “victim”. (I find odd comfort in the fact that they have both done it to each other). Now, when I see it happening (less and less, thank goodness), I immediately rush over and pick up the “aggressor” and put him in a nearby chair, away from his brother, and facing me so I can talk to him. Knowing that these are the situations that get my adrenaline going has allowed me to change my impulsive reactions to it.(2) I don’t think that the reflexive hitting thing is about being hit as a kid. And not only because of my N=1 sample of myself, who was not hit. (That doesn’t mean that kids who were hit may not also reflexively hit now.) But I think it’s about the anger/rage system that is biologically programmed. We have different triggers that start that program off, but when it IS triggered, the immediate, evolutionarily-wired, impulse is to attack. We CAN override that program, but I do think that seeing your offspring purposely hurt you, your loved ones, pets, etc. is a natural trigger for many people, especially parents. And I don’t see why you would have had to be hit as a kid for that trigger to work.
    (3) As Moxie and lots of others have talked about, this age is the PEAK of aggression. There’s lots of good developmental studies that show that aggression peaks at 2 normatively, and then declines over the years. Of course there are exceptions and some people (e.g., Richard Tremblay, a researcher in Montreal) have suggested that our work as parents is not to teach children to act “naturally” but to teach them NOT to, in terms of natural aggressive impulses.
    DUDE. I sound like the boring prof I never wanted to be… Sorry.
    I guess the bottom line with #3 is that if we keep setting consistent limits, demanding respect, letting kids express their emotions in appropriate ways (as Moxie says), this is a totally normal developmental phase that WILL pass.

  3. I took my inspiration in dealing with this behavior from back when we were training the dog. When the puppy bites you stand up and turn your back. No attention, positive or negative is a pretty serious consequence for a puppy. And in some ways puppies and kids ain’t so different.Granted, my (human) daughter never had a very bad aggression problem, but this method really worked on the occasions I used it. I remember when she was about two and a half one day she was repeatedly kicking me in the gut while she was on her changing table. Didn’t stop when I asked, so once we were done I put her on the floor and left the room silently. Boy, did that make an impression. And once, way later she kicked me in the gut, once, and I when I asked what would happen if she continued she re-hashed the incident pretty accurately and promptly quit.
    It at least gets you out of hitting range, gets you out of the situation where you might hit back, might send her the right message, especially if her normal reaction to discipline is to laugh.
    And sending the message to a kid that people aren’t going to hang around you if you’re violent with them is pretty accurate.
    But on a different note, in the V8 ad, when the husband is at the salad bar and says something like “Ooh, cheese! Oh crap, it’s just carrots” I think I laughed out loud. Because I think I’ve done that.

  4. I am in general not in favor of time-outs, but I do use them for the big stuff (which is hitting, basically). I do offer a choice of time-out or time-in, meaning they can sit by themselves or on my lap, whatever is going to help them calm down.The laughing when reprimanded drives me crazy, too. I think seeing that they have succeeded in annoying Mommy was always kind of a rush for them. But I also think they were sometimes trying to persuade themselves that they weren’t scared of their own emotions or my possible reaction to them (not so much the reflexive hitting, which, yay me, I have done too), but the fear that they’ve gone too far.
    I know that it probably doesn’t seem like putting a kid in that mood into time out is a going to help, but I think being able to stay calm and ask what would help them calm down — being with me or away from everyone — let them see that this was about their learning to be in charge of themselves, not about mommy not loving them because they’re being bad.

  5. I don’t know how effective it is, but our strategy (with our 2.5 yo daughter) has been to have her sit in her chair or on the floor/ground “until [she] can control her body.” We explain that no one is allowed to hit her, and she is not allowed to hit anyone. If she is angry/frustrated we tell her she should say “No, thank you” or “That’s MY body” depending on what is making her upset.We’ve also found (especially when we are out) that sitting her down and having her count to 20 with one of us helps calm her down and refocus her. And then she needs to apologize to whomever she hit and we talk about what’s going on. It helps that she is very verbal.
    If she is in a mood and hurting the cat (we have two, but only one of them sticks around to be abused), we explain that we don’t do that because he is part of our family, we don’t hurt people or animals, etc and that if she can’t stop she is not allowed to play/pet/feed him for the rest of the day.
    When she was younger and not hitting out of anger, but more because it was fun, we would have her clap her hands and/or give us high fives.

  6. Holy crap! I could have written that question. This is EXACTLY my daughter who will be 2 in 3 weeks. Love the suggestions here and knowing that my little fight-club girl isn’t the only one.

  7. We had a hitter and a biter too, at this age. We used the same “removing ourselves” tack that Caroline describes. It didn’t solve the problem, but helped us to cope while he grew out of it, which he did. The blogger’s kid sounds a lot like ours, who just laughed (and still does) at our feeble attempts at punishment/correction/redirection/distraction (and we tried it *ALL*). But if we walked away from him (soundlessly), that had a big impact on him.Re: the dog. We eventually used the same approach with the dog — we had to separate them. I know this isn’t feasible for everyone (esp urban folks who live in apartments), but our dog trainer told us that there was no plastic surgeon who could repair the damage that a dog could do to a child’s face. ‘Nuff said. Our dog never showed aggression when she was hit, but it was too much of a risky possibility for us.

  8. Ahem, does wanting to reflexively snap back with some really nasty words at my (temporarily) sulky, smart-aleck 4-year-old come from the same place? Sorry, rough morning…and my mom is an expert at cutting putdowns, which she did use on us in addition to some spanking and hand slapping, so maybe that’s part of it.On the hitting, I haven’t actually hit Mouse back, but sometimes it took all the self control I could muster. We accidentally pursued the “walk away” strategy at the age the poster’s talking about, and it worked great. What happened was Mouse walked up to me one day (when she was about 2), clenched her teeth, and slapped me full across the face. The trigger was some darn thing or other that was frustrating her–I was shocked, and I just stared at her, said “no” and left the room. Mr. C left too (it was a safe room). Mouse caught up with him first and he explained that “mommy needs to be away from you for a little while because you hurt her” and that if she said sorry, I would most likely come back. Well, this off-the-cuff reaction made a huge impression on her…and in the process, helped me cool off enough to help her with the difficult emotional task of making an apology. Then we could talk about hitting and how “no one can hit you and you can not hit anyone”…and what to do if you are mad (yell, bang on the couch, etc.) that is better than hitting.
    I also find that if I can model calm in my body it helps. I have a really hard time doing this if I’m on my period, and I have a correspondingly harder time with Mouse because she seems to pick it up and be much more fragile and frustrated–does this happen to anybody else or am I just weird?

  9. Some additional thoughts – the book “Hands are not for Hitting” can be helpful. As can encouraging the child to express themselves verbally, to the extent possible with a toddler. Maybe signing would work here? I never did much signing with my kids, but since it’s coming out of frustration it might work. I would actually argue against the “hit this instead” model since at some point you will have to retrain that as well.The other important thing, along the lines of what professor mama said is protect the dog at all costs, as you are actually protecting your child and give attention to the thing/person that is injured while ignoring your child. She’s doing it to make you mad so if you take that away, it gives her less of an incentive to do it. So over-the-top attention to whatever has been her victim will completely take the wind out of her sails and give her less reason to do it.

  10. I disagree that it sounds like she is frustrated. The parent here says that the kid is laughing.With my kid I see two different kinds of hitting. One, when we take away the cell phone/camera/precious violin that he has grabbed. That is definitely frustration. For that we have, yes, used time-out. Because the point is that he needs a break to calm down.
    The other kind of hitting is when he’s playing his little slap and laugh game. Time out didn’t seem logical, because he’s plenty relaxed already. For that we tried total ignoring. We don’t have a dog but if I did maybe I would take the dog and be all “poor baby dog! are you ok? I love you, doggy”. while ignoring the kid.
    I am not saying this has stopped the behavior cold–but, it does give us a strategy and a plan.

  11. Oh man, my 15-month-old has already started this a while ago! We’re so in for it with her. A little strong willed Gemini with an older brother to learn from.When my 3-year-old was going through this I turned to AskMoxie and followed her excellent advice about redirecting the anger toward something not living. Worked like a charm. My girl seems to have more aggression than my boy did so we’re going to work with her in the same way and see how it goes.
    And the reflexive hitting is such an uncontrollable thing! I’ve always been a reflexive hitter (smacked my sister in the face HARD once when she jumped out to surprise me) but have had no incidents since having children. I wonder if I trained myself to not have any physical aggression toward them or if I’m just so tired that my reflexes are gone…

  12. Moxie, most parents do spank. And my guess is that spanking for hitting is a common reason. It may seem illogical and/or wrong to you, but it probably also works in the short term.In my case, I don’t have the urge to hit reflexively (and was spanked once as a child), and wouldn’t have dared to give in to that impulse (or to spank unimpulsively) because I lived with the spectre of abuse/neglect investigation through my kids’ childhoods.
    I have known Very Good Parents ™ who do spank.
    I wouldn’t take a toddler’s laughter at being scolded too seriously, any more than a 13 year old’s defiant “I don’t care” when she’s being punished for something. Otherwise that becomes a tool for them to evade consequences.

  13. Hitting a child, whether spanking or otherwise, does nothing but teach that it is OK to hit someone smaller and weaker. Hypocrisy is not lost on a child. My parents spanked me, and I’m fine, my brother and sister are fine. But this does not mean that I am beyond learning a new way of dicipline. I get the sense that most of the women here are not as well, otherwise, we would not all have such powerful feelings about our own reflexive hitting.

  14. I am 100% anti-spanking of any kind, but I do accept that many parents are okay with it. I feel like it falls into the realm of CIO. Some parents view it as child abuse and some see it as a legitimate parenting tool. Moxie, I am surprised that you came out so strongly in the comments. I thought this was a safe space for all kinds of parents to comment.

  15. @enu, when you say that most parents do spank, how do you know? I am really curious about this. It does seem to me that hitting to teach a child not to hit, bite, etc., is illogical. From what I’ve heard, my mom spanked me once after I ran into the street at around 2 years old. Her spanking came from being really scared that her kid ran into the street and felt in the moment that I needed to be “shocked” a little so that maybe next time I would think twice about endangering my life. But it was a split-second decision, and one that she said she would not have repeated if given the time to consider it logically.Anyhow, I’m just curious why you say that most parents spank – personal experience with parents you know, or knowledge from publications, etc.?

  16. I’m with the ‘the reaction is biologically wired’ side, with a whiff of ‘the degree of my reaction may have something to do with own childhood issues’ – mainly because I have one who hits by instinct, one who pinches, one who slaps if she’s feeling bold or just curls up and screams, and one who full-body tackles with fists flying or screams at the highest pitch he can hit. Of the kids, that is. So I think whether they react as hit or pinch or slap or scream or kick is relative to their wiring.How much it winds me up is probably relative to my experience.
    We’ve had the range (goody for me – can’t we have had two who were just alike SOMEHOW, so I could recycle my parenting? Dang learning curve with each of them…). Um, anyway. So far, all of them have responded pretty well to the low intensity response to hitting, but firm, with boundaries and rules/principles (‘safe, respectful, kind’ stuff). That is, when someone hits someone else, the hitter gets the least exciting response I can give (okay, sometimes I suck at that, but it works when I do it better) – BORING is the last thing they want. Then follow with excited/engaged for anything else after that. It takes their energy cycle focus off the hit=interesting process.
    Child: Smack!
    Me: (boring, calm voice, minimal eye contact, *try* for relaxed body) We don’t hit when we’re (angry, excited, scared), hitting isn’t safe (or whatever the rule is). When we’re angry, we (stomp, clap, run in circles).
    Child: Ha! hahahahaha. (we did have one of the laughers, and MAN… oh, oh, the immediate twist inside when they laugh at your attempt at power/control…)
    Me: (boring voice – do not wrap up, or you’ve made it interesting!) Here’s something you can hit. If you’re angry, you can hit this. That’s safe.
    *repeat as needed in that moment – keep the wording the same so it stays boring*
    Child: (tired of the boring thing, wanders off to pick up a book)
    Me: WOO, look at the BOOK! Isn’t that an exciting book! Do you like it? Shall we read? WOO! BOOKS! I love books! (blather but engage)
    It usually took three days for the ‘whatever next else you do is interesting, the hitting-and-defiance bored me’ routine to extinct the hitting.
    Granted, I couldn’t always manage three days in a row. Because… well, ack. Especially with the ha, you can’t boss ME thing. If I’d wind up, get exciting, I could literally watch them cataloging how to get me to do that again. Break out the labelmaker, boys, we’ve found another Mommy Button!
    Second tactic: Empathy gone wild – engage on the feeling, not the action.
    Child: Smack!
    Me: (quick intervention to stop the action – move child, move pet, move me, then…) You’re ANGRY! SO ANGRY! WOW, that was angry. You wanted X, it didn’t happen, that’s ANGRY! I’d be angry, too.
    Child: (usually repeats or tries to repeat the expression of anger – this is a ‘YES! You GOT IT!’ reaction, so be prepared. More verbal kids may just say YES!)
    Me: OOH, when I’m angry, I like to stomp! Or scowl!
    Child: (totally flabbergasted look – what? huh?) Older kids (over 18 months) may ‘get’ the idea and want to play along – stomp! Scowl! Younger kids may need a few days of repeating this offering before they figure out that this means that there is an approved way of expressing angry, and a not-approved way of expressing angry. It’s one of those ‘tell them what TO do, not what NOT to do’ or as someone I think here said, ‘don’t tell kids to do things a dead person could do’ – ‘don’t hit’ or ‘don’t anything’ a dead person could do.
    Repeat the above empathy party for as long as it takes for them to try it on for size – then THROW THE BIGGEST EMOTIONAL FEEDBACK PARTY YOU CAN MANAGE. Happy dances, making faces to match the feeling, swinging them up in the air, party party party!
    They rapidly get the picture that Angry (or excited, or whatever) means empathy but still no nice visceral way of expressing it – at least not the way they initially tried. But Angry plus expressing it in a useful/approved way means empathy plus party and attention. WOO! (It really helped for me to pick one that was as physical as their initial option, which is why the ‘hit/bite/pinch this other object not person or pet’ often helps – it’s JUST as physical, and they may even feel free to be more visceral, more active, in how they express it.)
    Basically, all animals understand the concept of ‘jackpot’ and what they really want is your focus, like a laserbeam, on them. The hitting comes out the way it comes out (slapping, kicking, whatever), but the repetition comes out because it gets double feedback – feels right to them, plus gets focus and attention. I hesitate to say they do it BECAUSE it gets a reaction from us – it’s more complex than that. But they do come to rely on it because it solves more than one problem – expression and attention at the same time.
    Also, one cue for me about what my child is feeling is how I feel when they do it. The one who laughed did so because my reaction left him feeling powerless or less-than or incompetent (unable to successfully express himself). So he did whatever it took to get me to feel the same way. In that case, laughing did it. The kids who didn’t laugh had other reactions to my response to their behavior – they might feel angry, scared, embarassed, frustrated, dismayed, whatever – but they sure could bring that out in me in record time, as we’re wired to do (biology is fun, huh?).
    Sorry for the post tone, I’m sleep-deprived and running on too few calories for the second day in a row (not intentionally)… I can’t even tell how that one came across. I just feel very hyper. Bleah. New routines for new school year, but at least everyone has started as of today!

  17. Enu is correct as far as the stats go – but the stats include reflexive hitting, which I don’t classify the same way. (~90% of parents have AT LEAST reflexively hit their child. Many reserve spanking/smacking for safety emergencies. I will see if I can dig up the stats… there was a study released this year I think that dealt with that, but I didn’t like the ‘spanking is any hitting with open hand including a single instance’ definition.)Not a fan of spanking, myself (yes, was spanked, but it was useless, as what I needed were skills, and it taught none other than how to isolate my feelings so I didn’t care what they did anymore… whoops! Not even that power was by force, or that force was okay – just that I could always win if I went to ‘they could hit me, but they couldn’t touch me.’)

  18. I was spanked (never in anger, never excessively) and so were my 3 siblings. We all turned out wonderfully (if I say so myself) and don’t feel that we were victimized in any way.That being said, my husband and I have decided NOT to spank our son.
    However, I wanted to reiterate that there ARE some loving, kind, in control, thoughtful, gentle, intelligent parents out there who DO choose to spank. Perhaps there are many more who spank out of anger and frustration. Our closest ‘couple friends’, who are stellar parents, spank occasionally. I agree it is hard to see the rationale. However, there are people out there who spank and who I still respect as excellent parents.

  19. This is helpful to read. At 10 months, the boy isn’t trying to hurt the kitty, but he adores her and wants to play with her and often his idea of playing with her is to grab her fur (and tail, and ears, and paws) and lean on her. Since the day he came home we’ve been telling him about “gentle pets,” and now we help redirect him to being gentle with the cat–and when he does give her gentle pets, we praise the hell out of him, telling him how much kitty loves when he touches her nicely and how happy it makes her. But I’m sure the day is going to come when he starts hitting her to see what happens, and it’s nice to have some tools already in the box for when that happens.

  20. @Johanna “@enu, when you say that most parents do spank, how do you know? I am really curious about this. “Because I am a reference librarian 😉 Looking up stuff like this is what I live for.

  21. When my almost-2-year-old smacked the Great Dane as hard as she could on the top of the head, we immediately removed her from the dog and told her “NO. We do NOT hit in this family.”She screeched and moaned and carried on. When she started calming down enough to listen, I took her back to the dog and asked her to say she was sorry and give the dog a gentle hug.
    I think the only way to weather it is to stay on top of it and require them to “try again” with gentle touches. Eventually they’ll grow out of it!
    Bad parenting happens on both sides of the spanking fence. But being a “spanker” doesn’t mean you are bad. And I don’t think that ANYONE who comes to the Moxie blog is remotely a bad parent! Intentionality and thoughtfulness are the name of the game here.

  22. There’s research that shows that catharsis, specifically relieving anger by hitting, doesn’t work. So I’m not sure that it’s such a great thing to encourage.I just read yesterday about an experiment where they angered people and then either ask them to punch something, or to punch a cushion and imaging the face of the annoying person on the cushion, or to wait a bit (basically distracting them). Conclusion: Hitting something instead of the object of your anger increases rather than decreases your anger. Its worse if you imaging hitting that person. Distracting yourself from the anger does decrease anger. Sorry I can’t find the link right now.
    Here’s a link to a press release about a study with similar conclusions: http://www.apa.org/releases/catharsis.html

  23. yeah, wow, spanking. Moxie, I’m kind of shocked you’re not allowing for differences on that one… by far (statistically and experientially) most parents spank. At least occasionally. But even if that wasn’t true and only a few people spanked, it would still surprise me to find condemnation here.

  24. No time to read comments before pick-up–sorry if I repeat or say anything non-applicable. Please just ignore if my story is unhelpful or redundant or anything. My 2-yr-old just went through a mild hitting her big brother phase. She adores her brother, and he can talk her into almost anything by force of just suggesting it. She’ll be happily looking at a book, and he’ll say, “Are you a puppy-dog?” and then she’ll be doing that. I think she sometimes wants to say no, but doesn’t have the wherewithall (yet) to tell him no, as his attention is such gift to her, too. The hitting seems to have disappeared since I started stepping in during those interrupt-y situations and telling her brother, “No, she’s working now, she’ll play with you a little later.” I hope, HOPE, I am giving her a useful-by-example strategy that she can start to use herself as she gets more capable. Or the hitting could have just stopped ’cause she’s done. I may have just occupied myself and not affected anything, as is often the case. Anyway, I wanted to contribute my story as a second to Moxie’s original post that the hitting kid is probably frustrated or angry about something. I look forward to reading the comments tonight. (And I hope I haven’t jinxed myself by writing this.)

  25. I struggle with the impulse to hit – never have – but it flashes through my mind weekly. And it’s always when I feel pushed over the limit/too tired to cope. IMO the impulse is connected with my own history of being hit, slapped, etc. Always out of anger or frustration (from what I remember). Since my teens I’ve vowed to myself that I would never spank because it made me feel fearful, degraded, and angry (as the recipient). But it’s a struggle, like I said. I agree with PPs who have mentioned the hardwired reflex to hit back – that makes sense to me on an intuitive level (which is not to say that that makes it true). But I feel like I have more than that reflex – I vividly imagine hitting sometimes – and it’s not like I try to imagine it, it just pops into my head. Each time I try to remind myself that I’m human, and frustrated. I also probably draw into myself a little bit to avoid lashing out. At some point I want to figure out how to model impulse control and managing angry feelings for my son, just don’t feel like I’m there yet. I do verbalize what I imagine he’s feeling and describe that my body/the cat’s body/daddy’s body doesn’t feel safe when he’s hitting. But I withdraw a bit too, for my own protection.Regarding strategies, I’d also echo others who have described lavishing attention on the “victim,” or walking away if you’re the victim. In thinking about this just now, I think it’s especially difficult to watch my kid inflict violence, even if it’s a “natural” response to frustrating circumstances. I want my kid to feel empathy, but duh, he’s probably not going to know how unless I help him understand how others might feel.
    OK, done rambling.

  26. Some days I swear you are in my house seeing what is going on. Last evening and again this morning my lovely sleep deprived (as in will not go to sleep in bed, must fall asleep on the couch, then once transferred into bed, stay for a few hours, go sleep with daddy then get up with him at 6 am) 4 molars coming in, adjusting to a new brother, 27 month old daughter has resorted to hitting and attempted biting. First it was not putting her towel on NOW, THE RIGHT WAY, then not throwing back the ball she threw at me while I was holding her brother. All I wanted in both cases was to tell her why I wanted to dry her off and why she could not throw the ball at me right now. Both times I gave her time to herself to calm (and the second time so I could put baby down) and then talked to her. When I tried to ignore it made her freak out even more, and time out does not actually “calm” her in the sense she is not crying but more in the sense I can get down to her level and we can talk. I am really interested in the comments so I can try and see what works for her. Since she has become a big copy cat, hitting her back would just make her think it was fine or cause her to do it to the dog. Which we have avoided somewhat so far.I think she is a highly reactive child, as in she will react to a situation so quickly, I don’t even see it coming. Does this make sense? And it has been so random…
    I will continue to read with much interest.

  27. @Laura: I don’t think Moxie calling something illogical is making this space unsafe. We should all be able to throw out our views and have them challenged as well.Spanking is always a divisive topic. I come from a culture that routinely uses spanking as a discipline strategy. Most people coming from that culture will vow that they weren’t psychologically (or physically) damaged by the practice. I’m also a developmental psychologist — and we’ve been trying to empirically and finally declare that spanking is harmful to children’s development. The truth is, there is no good evidence for it (please don’t make me review the evidence… in fact, in some cases, the evidence goes the opposite direction). But that’s because spanking happens in different contexts, with varying degrees of harshness, with and without verbally abusive accompaniments, with different types of parents, in different types of cultures, at different levels of socio-economic hardship, for different purposes and with different ends.
    Having said that, I wholeheartedly believe that hitting a child (however lightly) to teach them not to hit is completely illogical. It may be oddly effective, but illogical.
    And don’t imagine that logic and hypocracy can’t be picked up by toddlers. These little buggers are SMART. My 2.5 years old, J, the other day grabbed a train from his brother with huge force and threw his brother into a wailing fit. This had been the 3rd time that morning. I walked over to J., reminded him that we never grab things from other people (and that we use words instead), and snapped the train away from him, returning it to his brother. J looks at me horrified and screamed: “NO GRABBING, MAMA!”
    Busted, I was!

  28. @Toni, one of the things I encourage is transition away from the close-in visceral reaction (hitting/biting/pinching) and toward calming activities before expressing the feeling and problem-solving.I read similar research (maybe the same?) that showed that if you hit a pillow, you were more likely to be agressive toward others later the same day, where if you were coached to calm down and relax, you were less agressive later the same day.
    However, I also know that the rage/anger/express-NOW feeling is pretty overwhelming at first, so starting with a single step away from the target (punch the pillow) and then teaching/backfilling the ‘how to calm down, spot your trigger, de-escalate your mood’ skills after that is a REALLY important step. Eventually you can get to where the anger-impulse reaction goes immediately from WANT TO, to CALMING MYSELF NOW.
    I’m not entirely sure it is possible to extrapolate from childhood straight to the adult reaction. Being ‘allowed’ to be physical with the emotion has different import at the two ages, or at least it did for me. Strong empathy without dealing with the expression at all directly (other than general prevention) can work, but many kids flounder for the ‘how to’ – and I can recall very clearly being FURIOUS and hurt and angrier when I was told I didn’t get to have a visceral reaction to a feeling, I was required to have a calm one, be nice, gentle touch, etc. Anything that really enables the feeling to be real, allowed, whole, and complete seems to be important as a starting point with kids, and some would say with adults. It *is* possible to have that without doing the ‘hit this pillow’ routine, but many parents skip that step and go right to ‘gentle touches’ instead of allowing enough time/space for the empathy for the feelings.
    I think it was somewhere on here (maybe on my blog) that I wrote up the ‘model how you calm yourself down when you’re angry’ – talk your way through it. This also works, but it is usually too wordy for kids the age indicated – but it works REALLY well around 3 or so. Just talk through any emotion your child is having trouble expressing safely/effectively. Whenever you feel that same feeling, make it clear that you feel it, and talk it out. “WOW, I’m mad, I am disappointed, too. I want to call her up and yell at her. I want to kick the wall, slam the door… but I’m not going to. I’m taking a breath. I’m taking another. I’m relaxing my hands. Now I’m calming down. Okay, now I can think about what happened. Did she mean to do that? Was she trying to be mean? Hmm, no she wasn’t. It was a mistake. So I need to think a moment – how should I react? I will choose to be sympathetic. She maybe is having a bad day. I’ll smile at her. I feel better now.” (or whatever)
    Definitely start modeling that process as soon as you can – the more I’ve done it, the less my kids think they’re the only one who ever feels ‘that way’ (whatever way it is). Because if they get angry and want to hit, and I never do, then they are stuck with no tools – and don’t even think I get angry or not AS angry, because I don’t do what they would want to do. If that makes sense.
    Okay, must run…

  29. @Bella: you’re right. If I was Neener I would have felt hurt and attacked by what I perceived as the tone of Moxie’s reply. I would not have felt “safe” commenting again. But that doesn’t necessarily make this space unsafe, generally speaking. Thanks for clarifying.

  30. There are a lot of great tips! I will have to try some and expand on ones I’ve been trying. My 18 month old is hitting, throwing and biting a bit these days, and definitely laughing at the reactions/non-reactions. I really feel that her laughing is because she doesn’t know how to handle the feelings she has. In a fiction book I read recently, a psychologist told a teen that emotions can get all mixed up so you can laugh when really you want to cry, and I think with this age range they don’t know how to distinguish always.It still drives me nuts and makes me so angry. But I just try to remember this, take deep breathes and removed myself when I can.
    My instinctive reflex for when she is trying to hit me or the dog is to grab her arm and slightly squeeze. It’s pure reaction, and I don’t do it hard. I hope it’s just enough to get her to focus on what she is doing. I hope that it’s not in the same category as hand slapping. I honestly don’t do it as any sort of punishment.
    As for spanking… I was very rarely spanked as a child. I turned out wonderfully also, BUT there was no need to ever spank me. I could have been just as easily deterred or reprimanded in other ways that would have worked. I won’t say I’m scarred, but I remember and I regret that they did it (even if they don’t). My husband and I will never use spankings. We believe that there are other ways, the ways we want to model for our child. (I also clearly remember my parents basically using CIO on me when I was toddler-ish, and that really did traumatize me, although I know it doesn’t for most.)

  31. Hmmm. Let me add, that I’m not judging people who do use CIO or spankings. I think it’s a personal parenting decision, and I’m not one to tell anyone what they should do. I’m just saying what happened to me, how I feel as an adult looking back on it, and what I intend to do for my children.

  32. You took the words right from my mouth! I’m full of empathy as I’m dealing with the same situations with my 2 year old son. I’m a little ashamed to admit that it makes me feel a lot better knowing that I’m not alone.It’s encouraging to know that people I respect have gone through it too. Thanks for all of the suggestions and the “been there, done thats”. They’ve made me feel like I’m not such a loser afterall!

  33. I am always awed by the parents who are so good at choosing parenting strategies based on their kids needs. We are (so far) choosing not to spank because I learned as a one-time foster parent that my anger in response to non-compliance is out-of-control and if I give myself permission to hit, I may one day do much more damage than is safe or legal. S is choosing not to because spanking=closed fist punches in his house and he doesn’t trust himself to not get there. I could probably write an essay about why it’s wrong and ineffective but the truth is just that we scare ourselves and can’t risk doing that kind of harm because of our own issues.That said, I wonder too about not being allowed to be angry around our kids. If I always model calm, quiet, that’s okay aren’t I kind of lying. I have read hedra’s stuff on modeling better frustration and it makes sense to me on one hand (especially since I hate other people’s anger so much) but on the other hand, shouldn’t children learn that they can provoke anger and that it is an ugly thing to live with and perhaps they can choose sometimes not to piss people off just because the outcome is so awful?
    I honestly don’t know what I think here, but I find myself quite conflicted reading some of these comments. I just this morning found myself feeling ‘bad mom’ because I raised my voice with my 15 month-old in front of another mother who looked a bit shocked. But why do I have to feel bad for communicating through tone of voice that said action is not okay? ohhh… i want to quit today.

  34. I don’t know how saying that I think it’s illogical makes it “not a safe space.”I am 100% sure that spanking is never good. As I’m sure that hot-saucing is never good, and any of the other physical punishments that teach kids that it’s OK (and even good) for adults to violate their bodies.
    I’m not judging *people* who spank. But I’d hope they’d start looking into better parenting strategies that aren’t going to enforce blind obedience out of fear, and aren’t going to make their kids learn that they can’t enforce their own physical boundaries. There are tons of techniques out there that work really well, whether they’re the things you grew up with or not. And, enu, just because all the other parents are jumping off the bridge, does that mean we should, too? 😉
    @Toni, that’s super-interesting, and maybe we should ask for some volunteers to test the alternative. The chew toy worked like a charm for us (in a few days, as if by magic), but maybe part of that was that as he was chomping on it I’d joke with him that he was a dog. Maybe it was the distraction of the dog imagery that did it instead of the inanimate object to bite?

  35. My baby isn’t even a year old yet, so it’s disingenuous of me to be commenting on this topic. I’m not here to judge anyone – it’s like many of us have said before – if you’re an Ask Moxie reader, pretty much there’s no way you could qualify as a “bad parent.”I’d just like to share my own perspective. My hope & goal for myself as a mom is that I won’t become a spanker, BUT I’m not naive enough to think I won’t be tempted when DS gets a little older and a little more willful, because I know that even if the spirit is willing, the flesh can be weak.
    I was never spanked as a young child. However, my mom is a rageaholic who slapped me across the face a handful of times during my jr. high & high school years. The last time she hit me, I was about age 16, and I was so enraged that she’d hit me and called me some awful things, so I hit her back. I hit her so forcefully that it knocked her to the ground. After that incident, she never raised a hand to me again, and to this day pretends it never happened. Even now, I still feel a lot of shame & ambivalence about having actually hit my own mother, even though I was a child, even though she hit me first, it’s a pain I live with everyday. I never want to put that kind of burden on my child.
    The second reason I hope never to spank is because I once dated this wonderful, sexy guy – we had a lot of promiscuous fun together back in college. Not to get too blue with you all, but, ahem, he LOVED to be spanked. His parents were very good natured folks, who liked to tell these “whuppin” stories about his childhood just a little too often, and so in my mind I made some icky connections about something that I’m sure was innocent enough. But still.
    Again, no judgments here. Parents have a wide latitude to choose the behavior they want to display in front of their kids, and I know we can continue to have a good healthy dialogue here despite our differences.

  36. It’s a long one, sorry about that. Let me begin by saying whether or not you spank—this is still a safe space for parents, however, being safe doesn’t mean you don’t have an opinion. That’s what makes Moxie so good, she’s honest, safe and challenges all parents to really look at their views and “why” they feel they way they do.And choosing NOT to spank doesn’t mean you’re safe from the desire to spank. For some parents spanking would never enter their minds, for others the instinct to hit is always present and they have to make a conscious choice each time not to hit.
    Unfortunately, the stats Enu quoted are correct, 90% of parents do spank, and that takes us into murky waters. The question is why do parents still spank? The research is clear, toddlers and preschoolers look at everything parents do and say as a form of teaching. So what are you teaching when you spank?
    No real learning has occurred with a spank. The child was not told, while still emotional and can relate to the event, what she’s supposed to do instead. All she knows is I misbehaved and I got hit. Or I got mad, hit Mom and she hit me back.
    All toddlers and preschoolers understand that hitting is a NO, what they’re missing is the ability to think logically and connect the dots. The part of the brain that develops into cause and effect thinking, the part that gives a child the ability to connect action to consequence, that type of thinking doesn’t appear in the brain until age 7. So even though a toddler or preschooler knows that if they hit the dog they’ll get a timeout or be spanked, the fact that they know the end result doesn’t motivate them to stop themselves before they hit, not at all. They’re still in the repetitive stage of developmental and need to be taught, repeatedly in order to make up for the part of the brain that hasn’t developed yet.
    The research is clear, just like adults the way you treat a child determines whether he fights with you or listens to you. Parent’s have learned that a child’s foundation, the core of who he is, is being built during early childhood. A child learns whether or not her emotions are accepted or punished. She learns whether self-control is managed for her, by spanking or consistent punishment or she learns, by how her parent deals with defiance, that ultimately, she needs to control herself.
    Hedra is correct. Begin modeling and use yourself and your life to show children how “you” handle your own frustration. It is so key to begin putting words to a toddler and preschoolers emotions, but make sure you watch your expectations. You can find yourself doing all the good stuff and your child may still hit, that’s what I call “The Danger Zone”. The Danger Zone is the time that begins just after a parent starts a new parenting technique and extends until a child understands this new boundary is permanent. That’s the time when parents begin to think this new method isn’t working because the child is still reacting.
    There’s no such thing as instant perfection after a correction, toddlers and preschoolers need repetition to learn.
    Caroline hit the nail on the head when she said walk away. I just helped my niece with this exact issue. She has a 3 week old and a 2 year old. The 2 year old has begun to hit and is trying to grab the baby’s head as she’s nursing.
    I taught her to make her statement of NO, and then go silent. Parents can then walk away or silently stand there, depending on your style. If needed, repeat the statement again, go silent. It works because you, your face, your body language all change after being hit. You go from being the loving sweet nurturing Mom to the clear boundary Mom and it’s a shock, my niece reports this works like magic.
    Yes, you could make the statement that spanking sends a similar firm message and it does, but spanking also sends other messages too that teaching doesn’t. Spanking sends messages like, my feelings don’t matter; only my parent’s feelings matter.
    And spanking leaves parents no other place to go when behavior gets bigger, and trust me misbehavior gets bigger and louder as they grow, even if you do all the beautiful things stated here, that’s life and human development.
    Over the last 17 years of teaching parenting parents have said, “I spank because nothing else works as well.” So when I read the research that 90% of parents spank I wanted to create a way for parents who spank to make the shift, if they want too, from spanking to using another method that would produce the same clear results and would also teach a child everything they need to learn about their behavior while being respectful and announcing their feelings and allowing them to “try again”. Check out seminar #1 and #2 on my website.
    To ACJ, I think it’s truthful to show feelings and go from your head—the theory of what you know you want to do, to the truth of how you feel. But you need to watch where your feelings take you. You’re dealing with toddlers and preschoolers who are forming their views about themselves. I think it’s about intensity, and the result of your anger. Don’t lie, be honest, but watch the intensity and where your anger takes you. Ask yourself am I expressing my anger at the preschool level or the adult level? Am I expressing myself so my child can learn that yes, adults get angry too and they have to control themselves, just like I’m asking you to control yourself or are you doing damage? That’s the way to be honest about anger and still do no damage.

  37. Haven’t read the comments yet, probably not saying anything new here, but back in this stage my standard intervention was something like this: Get on her level, grab the hands/legs/arms gently and (trying for eye contact) say “You seem angry/frustrated. Hitting hurts. I’m not going to let you hurt me.” Then I amplify the feeling part if I know what caused it. Like, “you’re so frustrated the blocks won’t stack the way you want. You want me and the blocks to know just how frustrated you are!” and then might suggest a more appropriate expression – like words!Or, with dogs in particular, I adopted a great deal of concern toward the dog, less toward her. So it sounded sort of like this while I petted the dog gently “You hurt Dog. Dog are you okay? I heard you cry out. I’m so sorry that happened to you. It isn’t okay for anyone to hurt you.” Usually that resulted in the child coming to touch the dog gently and I was able to reiterate directly to her that Hitting hurts a dog and hitting isn’t okay.

  38. Oh, how much I would prefer that today’s topic be all about Hush’s college sex life (which was clearly a lot more exciting than mine), instead of the difficult and divisive topic of spanking as discipline.I send support to all the parents out there that have made mistakes and try to move forward and learn from them. And I’m going to send some of that support my way, too.

  39. Baby (2 last week) is doing this EXACT same thing. Very curious about animals, petting them, wanting to hold them, then suddenly stepping on/kicking/hitting them – and he was doing the same thing with the babies in the daycare until they moved him up to the bigger kids’ room. Arg.He doesn’t seem “angry” at any of the objects of violence – more like he’s just trying things out to see what happens (anyone see the “stirring up the fish” For Better or Worse comic today?).
    I do know that he’s finding himself balked in a lot od the things he wants to do, lately, being forced to put on a shirt, or go to bed, or leave the house in the morning when he wants to keep playing. So maybe he’s just experimenting with what it feels like to be the “bigger” one with some physical power.
    But yeah, the laughing makes me CRAZY!

  40. Interesting discussion today – I have a “laugher in the face of discipline” as well (actually have 2). Hardest part for me is that I don’t know how to express my anger functionally. I’ve always surpressed it and if it becomes overwhelming I just get excessively frustrated and start crying. Since I don’t know how to release/express my anger correctly, I’m sure having a heck of a time teaching my boys how to do so.Also, I’ve found that I get sooo frustrated and start yelling at the boys and that definitely vamps them up – however, at that point I’m yelling because I feel like I’ve lost all control (which I have) of the situation. Yelling doesn’t wind up helping the situation and we all wind up “losing” (crying, yelling more, etc.) Not sure where to go once things escalate so high – luckily spanking doesn’t seem to come up as an option in my mind too often (most likely because I wasn’t spanked when I was little). That said, I did lose it one time and smack one boy’s read-end when I was at a complete loss – felt bad the rest of the day and just went to my room and cried.
    rudyinparis – your comments the last couple of days have made me laugh (thanks!) – you’ve seemed extra spunky lately. Love it.

  41. good comments. Since my DS just turned 1, we haven’t reached these issues…yet. So we haven’t even considered whether to spank or not. This is a good wake-up call to discuss with DH before things happen. I’d like to *not* spank. Because I would like to teach my son a better way to deal with anger.Like Mo says, I don’t deal well with my anger. I have a quick temper and deal with it by YELLING and criticizing and jsut being plain nasty. And I have been known to strike out. I’m not proud of it. So it sounds like I need to practice on myself, like Hedra says, and in doing so, will model good behavior to my son.

  42. i feel very similarly to laura. i’m a bit scared off of commenting by moxie’s admonishment(s), and i suppose that’s what laura meant by “not a safe space.” i don’t think the spanking issue is as cut and dry as all that, though personally i’ve never spanked and hope i have the strength to continue to keep my house spank-free. the CIO analogy was a good one. i’m feeling really once bitten, twice shy over here and i wasn’t even the one bitten, but most of you guys seem totally relaxed about it so maybe it’s just me.

  43. the “blogger who does not want to be named” (actually, I so don’t care) is very thankful that you responded to my question! LOL.I’m liking the advice.I think offering Tori a pillow when she’s angry makes sense, but not so much when she’s hitting and laughing. I think I’ll try the turn-the-back thing.
    Now, what do I do about the kicking in the face during diaper changes? Potty train? LOL.

  44. @Maria Wood: I went through a period where I very consciously tried to identify my emotions as I felt them. I would literally stop in my tracks and think, “What is this? What am I feeling? I’m disappointed. Because I couldn’t read for another half hour, I’m disappointed and that’s why I’m being snappy.” For instance. It had the effect that the power of the emotion dissipated immediately.When are you updating your blog again, huh?
    When I use words to ascribe emotions for my daughter, I say it fairly straight-forward, rather than with a lot of emphasis. Not lecture-y, but a bit sympathetically.
    @Billa: I couldn’t agree more about that being a poor analogy. It makes it sound like CIO is what people do who have no other ideas of what to do. As this site has very nicely outlined, it all has to do with what sort of environment your child responds to. My daughter could not wind down if I was with her. She had to settle down by herself, and it meant intermittent crying til she fell asleep. I would never leave her if she was crying hysterically. Nor could I start leaving her at all until she was 8.5 months old. Only then was she developmentally ready to learn to self-soothe. Unfortunately, you have to find that out by trial and error.
    I encourage anyone wanting to know more about sleep training to read the archives here that talk about tension gainers vs. tension releasers.

  45. @Maria Wood: I went through a period where I very consciously tried to identify my emotions as I felt them. I would literally stop in my tracks and think, “What is this? What am I feeling? I’m disappointed. Because I couldn’t read for another half hour, I’m disappointed and that’s why I’m being snappy.” For instance. It had the effect that the power of the emotion dissipated immediately.When are you updating your blog again, huh?
    When I use words to ascribe emotions for my daughter, I say it fairly straight-forward, rather than with a lot of emphasis. Not lecture-y, but a bit sympathetically.
    @Billa: I couldn’t agree more about that being a poor analogy. It makes it sound like CIO is what people do who have no other ideas of what to do. As this site has very nicely outlined, it all has to do with what sort of environment your child responds to. My daughter could not wind down if I was with her. She had to settle down by herself, and it meant intermittent crying til she fell asleep. I would never leave her if she was crying hysterically. Nor could I start leaving her at all until she was 8.5 months old. Only then was she developmentally ready to learn to self-soothe. Unfortunately, you have to find that out by trial and error.
    I encourage anyone wanting to know more about sleep training to read the archives here that talk about tension gainers vs. tension releasers.

  46. I am late to the party and had no intention of commenting. My boy is just 14 months and we haven’t reached the point when discipline involves anything other than redirection. I did want to say, however, that I heart Susannah’s angry dance. I also need some sort of physical release when angry, and hitting pillows just makes me feel icky, so I am going to start doing the angry dance, just for me. I hope the boy finds it as cathartic! And thanks to all the commenters. This thread gives me a lot of tools to look to when faced with difficult, confusing, and frustrating situations.

  47. I guess I REALLY don’t get how hitting your kid is supp’d to teach them not to hit others. I am def not saying people who spank are bad people but I also don’t think the fact that 90% (or whatever the number is)of parents spank means it is ok or right. It only means that it is socially acceptable on some level to a great many people. I guess I am not in that group.

  48. Sorry to have caused a problem, I just now checked back in. We do spank. I have never,ever reflexively hit any on my children. I also use a wide variety of other discipline techniques. I especially like 1,2,3 Magic and Love and Logic, depending on the kid (I have 4). But, there is a ‘end of the road this behavior will stop right now’ that only spanking (for my kids) works for.I certainly don’t advocate beating children, and do believe some parents are not capable of spanking correctly, but many are and I see no harm at all in it.

  49. For the hitting – I personally ignored the laughter at that age. Laugh away, just don’t hit. So here’s what we did that seemed to work:Immediate shift in my body language. Expressively frowning face with a firm but not really loud or interesting “We do not hit people/the cat. No hitting.” Then an immediate redirection.
    And – probably most importantly – my husband and I learned to read our son for when he was likely to start hitting and we would whisk him into some kind of sensory play – sand, rice in a box, bath, outdoors, whatever we could find. That managed to head a lot off at the pass.
    Re: spanking. I guess I’m in the 10% and I just don’t get it. I mean threatening, screaming, and scaring the pants off kids also produce compliance but I do not consider them okay. This does not mean I do not sympathize with people who fall into it, and some of my best friends spank. But I don’t personally believe it is right.

  50. one part of this discussion that perked my ears was getting your kids to say i’m sorry…at the daycare where i volunteer, they have a policy not to force kids to say “i’m sorry”. when one kid hits another, the hitter has to stay with the hittee until the hittee has been soothed by the teacher and is ready to return to play (and the hitter is told “that’s not okay” and given an example of what would be appropriate alternative behavior).
    the teacher models soothing and talking through the situation, saying “i’m sorry you got hit”, etc. that usually prompts the hitter to spontaneously offer a geniune apology.

  51. @Sharon – CIO= cry it outI could have written this post. My 18 month old is a holy terror right now. He’s going through a hitting and biting phase (I hope it turns out to be a phase, anyway!) at the moment. Often it’s because he’s frustrated and can’t express himself, either because he lacks the words (though he is very verbal) or he can’t manage his feelings well enough to put words together when he’s angry. In those instances, we remove him from the situation, and pamper the injured party.
    Often, I’ll pick up the other child to comfort her (his usual victims are a girl that I babysit and my older daughter. The violence usually revolves around toy possession).
    Sometimes it’s as simple as “you’re where I want to be. I’ll bite you to make you move.” Haven’t come up with a good (meaning effective)response for that one yet. And that’s a particularly humiliating scenario, because to others, it looks like he’s viciously attacking other kids for no reason, when, in fact, he has a reason (just not a very good one by adult standards). We’ve been working on verbalizing what we want him to do. He did that to another little boy at a cooperative preschool get-to-know you event for my older child. Boy, we made a good impression.
    Sometimes, he’s testing boundaries, or seeing what kind of a reaction he will get. And sometimes, he just seems to like the action of hitting things. In those instances, we encourage him to give high-fives. It works remarkably well.
    One thing that’s helped is changing the dialogue from “NO HIT” to “gentle touches, please”. With the “no hit,” he started yelling “NO” while hitting. Fabulous. Switching to “gentle touches”, and modeling that behavior has helped immensely. It sounds obvious on paper, but is difficult to implement when your child is on a rampage at the playground.
    I think part of the problem, for me, is recognizing that he is a different child, with different needs than my daughter. (shocking, I know. I’m a whiz at this parenting thing) She’s always been gentle and nonviolent, and if I stuck close to her on the playground, it was only if there was a violent kid nearby. With my son, I think I need to just stick to him like glue to help him redirect his feelings and impulses until we get through this phase.
    Impulse to hit – yes. Have I done it (a quick smack on the hand in response to a smack)? Once. Fortunately, my daughter was old enough to speak clearly, and said “Mama, why did you hit me back? That hurt.” and shamed me enough
    to teach me a lesson.
    For data points, I was spanked – often, and for offenses like “being noisy” – and we are not spankers.

  52. Sorry to cause such a fuss. Yep, we spank. We also use a variety of other discipline measures, I particularly like 1,2,3 Magic. Children (btw, I have 4) must learn to control themselves. Yes, it is childlike to hit and tantrum and throw fits, but they must learn that such things are absolutely NOT acceptable. For the record, I don’t believe in CIO (cry it out) or circumcising boys. I do vaccinate. I think all of these things are part of the parental decision making process. Spanking is no different. If a parent feels they cannot spank with out losing control and beating their child, then, by all means, never spank. However, that doesn’t mean other parents cannot use the discipline tool of spanking.

  53. are folks here conflating “reflexive hitting” and “spanking”? just wondering. the “spanking” comments seem to characterize the action as more planned/rational (e.g., “i’m going to spank you now for doing this”) rather than the reflexive hitting that might come from that biological anger response/urge mentioned earlier.would this characterization make a difference?

  54. Sharon, CIO is letting your child Cry It Out.We had a problem with biting. We realized we were fixated on the biting, and changed our focus to No Biting. We rewarded No Biting by giving him a Mickey Mouse pin to wear. If he bit someone, he lost the pin for a period of time. After that there was great celebrating of No Biting and he got the pin back to wear. It made a huge difference the first day, and solved the problem after several days. There are lots of options for rewards; it’s just focusing your attention on positive behavior. No reason why it couldn’t work for hitting as well.

  55. i will always trust in the safety of this community, and i really hope you all will, too.***
    first, i wanted to thank bella for spelling out the idea of rage being triggered as a program, that is nearly impossible to stop once it’s got going- that is me to a t. i have no idea if it was because i was spanked as a kid, or b/c of my control issues, but it is true- i have totally hit on impulse, haven’t wanted to, hated myself afterwards, know that logically using violence on anyone as a way to relieve my own anger is stupid. but it certainly doesn’t change what is happening at that moment. like mo and ada my anger gets out of my control and i feel like a jerk afterwards *every*time*- it makes me feel like an abuser! it’s something i work on, feel i make progress on, then fall back and start all over again. i’ve never willfully spanked, mostly because in my case if i am clear headed enough to plan a spanking i’m clear headed enough to discipline in another way.
    thanks also to mommiementor sharon for giving me new tools to deal with all the ways being a mama drives me crazy which cause me to make poor decisions in how to set boundaries for these sweet maniacs who are my kids. this is what i need, better tools, better strategies, more effective examples of what works! not what doesn’t. so lets keep posting what works, since i for one need all the suggestions i can get!
    and hush, was he in rubber training pants at the time of the spankings? cause i knew someone who had a fetish for latex and spankings back in the day as well…it makes me wonder what my kids will be in therapy for, really…

  56. I think the definition of “spank” in the study that claims 90% of parents spank must be overly broad.This whole discussion has me wanting to research more. As for me, I’m with ACJ in my motivation (one, anyway) to not spank: I’m simply not confident that I won’t lose control.
    Thanks to Sharon (Mommy Mentor) for the insight on action-consequence development. I appreciated your whole comment.

  57. @rudyinparis: I am completely on your side. I would much rather hear about hush’s active college sex life (wow, with spanking!) than have to take sides on spanking my kids. :)We don’t spank, although I was spanked as a child and feel completely unscarred. My husband was abused as a child and doesn’t trust himself (though I have never seen him be other than 100% gentle) and I don’t reflexively hit, but I’ve pinched out of anger once or twice, and am ashamed of it. I seem to have grown out of that, thank goodness, with a bit of work and thought.
    I heard someone talking about their discipline the other day, saying “My daughter hits my son, and it just makes me so mad, so I spank her.” I just wondered if she could hear herself objectively. My daughter gets mad and hits, so I get mad and hit. Hmmmm. But this has been said before.

  58. 20 months into the mom gig. The reflexive hitting urge hasn’t struck me yet (so to speak) But when B hits me, I will sometimes spontaneously yell “ouch!” in pain and surprise. Then I remove myself from harm and if necessary nurse my wounds for a few seconds until the adrenaline rush has passed. Then when I can manage a calm, serious, quiet voice, I tell B that we don’t hit, hitting hurts, and I don’t like it. I say I feel sad and angry when he hits me, and “hands are not for …. (long pause)” B usually finishes: “hitting!” (a favorite book). Then occasionally he says “awwwww” and gives me a hug. Then usually we move to “are you feeling angry about something?” and we talk about ways to show anger (see notes on the angry dance below).I’m not sure this is such a good strategy because it’s definitely the opposite of what Hedra does, and as far as I can tell, that is never a good thing ; ) And it definitely isn’t boring. Also I occasionally wonder if shouting, even if briefly and not *at* B, could be considered just a verbal form of hitting. But somehow it doesn’t seem that way, and it does seem to work for us so far. It is a way for me to deal with that physical rush of feeling without being aggressive toward B. And it just feels emotionally honest. When B strikes at me I am often shocked and hurt and angry, and sometimes it really really hurts. I guess it just feels right and important to me to let B know that I have feelings and that I can be hurt, rather than biting my tongue and responding as if it didn’t hurt. Based on what Sharon says, it seems like a good thing to model as well. I would be just fine if B hollered “ouch!” and pulled away when he got hurt.
    But at the same time I don’t want to over-react to him and I really don’t want to teach him to worry about his own aggression. So after saying that something really hurt, I don’t make a federal case of it. The message needs to be “I will make sure we are both safe”. So after the initial yelp, I recover as quickly as possible and we have a teachable moment with mama calm and focussed and generally feeling more in charge.
    On the other hand, when B goes to hit other people or animals, I don’t respond with that instant “ouch” reaction. In those cases I go straight to the firm, boring limits- pretty much the way Hedra does (relief here).
    I’d be interested to hear what others thought of this approach (all perspectives welcome).
    Also, about punching pillows etc, I’ve noticed that for B, encouraging “aggressive” expression toward things does seem to key him up to do more hitting later. So we don’t do that much. But I’ve noticed that B still needs to discharge a lot of physical energy when he gets mad. Lately he hops around, stomps his feet, shouts, and shakes his fists. We call it the “angry dance”. It’s so adorable it’s really really hard not to laugh. So when he goes there, I usually get down and do too, because it’s a lot of fun and keeps me from laughing at him. Usually we end up laughing together after a while. We also practice it a lot when he’s not mad. Practicing over-the-top angry dancing with increasingly extreme faces and gestures gets us both laughing hysterically.
    About expressing anger, for me personally, and now apparently for B, there seems to be something important about letting out all that physical energy. If I just try deep breathing, I usually calm down but I often feel like I’m left with the residua for a long time. But I’ve tried pounding a pillow, and it makes me feel worse. It seems I have to let it out some physical way that is tension-releasing, not tension-building (to borrow Moxie’s CIO language). The angry dance and then a good laugh seems to work pretty well for that.

  59. @sharon – CIO is “cry it out” where you leave the baby/toddler to “cry” it out until s/he settles her/himself to sleep (or calms down).Moxie’s suggestion reminds me of something similar I read in the “Magic Years”, however the author suggested that the surrogate aggression target was most appropriate with children whose language hadn’t developed to the point where they could adequately express their frustration. If the child has enough words, she recommends getting them to use verbal expression instead of physical aggression.
    Anyone have thoughts on how to deal with a toddler (2.9 year old boy) who is just generally shoving and snatching toys and being an @#$hole in the playground? To me it looks like he’s really throwing his weight around and feeling his power. Even has a quiet smirk while this is happening. Mostly happens with children a bit younger than him (like 18 mo – 2 years). I’m trying time outs and “catching the good” behaviours (praising any incidences of sharing, turn taking etc) but it’s not having a lasting effect. It’s been increasing over the past month or so. Any tips? Is this a stage/testosterone surge that I just keep trudging through or is there something more effective I can be doing?

  60. @mo, I am so there with you. My reaction isn’t to cry, it’s to yell and stomp and generally behave like a freakin 2 year old, but exactly the same trigger. The excessive frustration and not knowing how to express anger appropriately are so hard!I have gotten a LOT better about my reactions over the past year, but only in controlling my reaction, not in substituting a healthier one. To give myself credit I guess I’ve also gotten better at detaching enough to not get to that point… but certainly not 100% of the time. I have been in despair over not knowing how to teach my daughter something I really have no clue about myself, and I have seen in her from an early age reflections of my helplessness and disdain from talking about emotions. A day at a time, a little progress at a time is what I’m trying to learn to be satisfied with.
    Re hedra’s excellent suggestions about playing out empathy, naming the emotion (“You’re so ANGRY! That didn’t happen and you are FURIOUS about it”), my daughter HATES it when I try it. I don’t know if it’s because I’m not good at it (often can’t name my own emotions, what am I doing trying to name hers?), if it’s because I’m not consistent with it and if I lived through her reaction a few times in a row it would start to soften, or what. It does seem in the moment like I’m making things worse when I’m trying to help, so I back off. Thoughts on this are welcome…
    I love you moxie, and all you commenters!

  61. I don’t think the spanking/CIO analogy is accurate. I would never spank my children, but CIO (Cry It Out) is the best thing we ever did. Both our kids are excellent self-soothers, both in their cribs and out. We had the guts to allow them to learn to soothe themselves rather than be dependent on the associations that they (we!) had developed: rocking, bouncing, shushing, patting, etc. I think there are lots of ways to raise kids well, and some prefer to sleep with their kids until they are 6 years old. Our kids have slept soundly in their own cribs for 12 hours per night with almost no wakings (unless sick, etc) since they were 5 months old. Good sleep=well rested child=child who is less cranky, ready to learn, play and thrive.Sorry about the tangent. Ok, so we are heading into this normative aggression phase, too. Lots of biting going down. The tricky thing seems to be how to handle the one who has gotten bitten and make them feel better without overdoing it. what i mean is, i noticed that my daughter started picking up on the fact that she gets lots of attention when her bro bites her and she cries, so she started crying and seeing if we were watching and trying to fake that she’d gotten bitten!

  62. Wow, lots of good ideas. I’ll have to come back and read more carefully later.Our Pumpkin has been biting at day care. She’s 17 months old. Since she doesn’t do it much at home, so we have infrequent opportunities for actual discipline. So we’re trying a “play it out” approach (based on ideas from Playful Parenting, by Lawrence Cohen). Day care told us the aggressive incidents are usually triggered by two babies wanting the same toy, so I had two of her stuffed animals “play” with some toys. The bear stole the toy from the bunny, so the bunny bit the bear. Then I scolded the bunny like I suspect they scold at day care- “No, no bunny, we don’t bite! we use our words. Tell the bear ‘No, no, I was using that toy!'” And then I had the bunny scold the bear, “No, no bear!”
    Pumpkin now regularly scolds her bear. She shakes her finger at it and says “no, no!” It is cute as can be. Unfortunately, she got sick this weekend and hasn’t been back to day care yet, so I can’t say if it has helped with the aggressive incidents at day care. But we went to a birthday party on Saturday, and she handled the toy “sharing” really well, even saying “no, no!” when another girl tried to take a toy from her, and not trying to hit or bite. So we’ll see.

  63. But the research has shown that spanking is wrong, and even the authors of Parenting with Love & Logic wrote in their updated version that they have changed their minds on the subject and do not advocate spanking.What do you do when the kid asks for his spanking to get it over with?
    I was spanked by hand and by blunt instrument as a child, and I became more resistant to physical pain. Spanking became totally ineffective. What do you then? How far are you going to escalate???

  64. I feel I must speak on this one.I will never spank my child, not in anger or with a calm facade
    declaring this must be done.
    My parents are fundamentalist christians who believe if you “spare the rod, you spoil the child’, so my siblings and I were spanked constantly for even the most minor infraction.
    Often, my father was extremely calm as he told me to lay across the bed and proceeded to hit my bottom with his leather belt or just his hand.
    I cannot explain the utter humiliation and violation I felt visited on my body. The message I received every time was that my body was not my own and that adults could do what they wanted to me. Isn’t this the opposite of every thing we want our children to believe ? Don’t you want your child to feel in charge enough of their own body to say NO to the right people? It takes a certain kind of self respect and body awareness to tell a sexual predator that “no one is allowed to touch me there”. Everything I have read tells me that it is the ultra compliant children that are the targets for abuse.
    My brother’s reaction was to challenge my father to hit him harder and harder . He refused to have his spirit broken as hard as my father tried.In fact, for every time he was spanked he came back with some new hellish iniquity for my parents to deal with.
    Often he would pass the violence down to his younger siblings.I watched him go from willful child to violent adult.
    So I can tell you from deep experience that aside from being a humiliating activity for a child, it doesn’t work. Perhaps in the short term, but as Jennifer pointed out, where do you stop when it escalates? Or suppose you do successfully break your child’s spirit and you curb the behavior through violence and fear,do you really want to send your child out in the world with the message that their body is not their own?
    I am not saying I have never or will never have the urge to spank,
    but I want to be courageous enough and present enough to try new methods of parenting in those intense moments.
    It is no surprise to me that in a country enamored of guns and violence,90% of all parents spank. Someone mentioned the book
    “Hands are not for Hitting” and I think how wonderful it would be if we actually modeled this to our children.
    I pray that my son never knows my hands as anything but loving.

  65. @ACJ, there’s value in being honest, too. For some kids, they really do need to see that you have those feelings. However, making them just another form of punishment doesn’t sit with me any better than any other fear-inducing response. I find that having them feel sorry that they did something disrespectful BECAUSE it made me angry and that scared them and they don’t like being scared doesn’t feel anywhere near as good as having them make the same choice BECAUSE they love me and care for me and like to make life pleasant for those they love.It’s the motivation factor that matters, for me. In the end, I want my kids to grow up to be people who choose not to make people angry because of love, compassion, and empathy, not fear.
    That said, it is still honest to be clear about how angry you are. And being honest is OK. For some kids, it is essential for them to see the level of frustration – two of my kids seem to work much better if they can SEE how I feel, not just hear it in nice calm logical words. They’re both highly visual people, by the way, and both passionate and emotional. I try to keep from alarming them with it, because fear is NOT the point, but they need to see the feeling to know it is there.
    The book Parent Effectiveness Training deals with that ‘making nice all the time is a lie’ and ‘it’s okay to be angry/unhappy with your kids – it just isn’t the solution – it’s a signpost of the problem, only’ stuff. Really useful for navigating exactly the question you raised.

  66. @Susannah, I busted out laughing at the ‘it isn’t what hedra does, that’s not a good thing’ heh… None of my kids is your child, and I’m not you, so none of my methods might work for you. I try to give examples because it is hard to understand the process without the story, sometimes. But those are just the stories I happen to have…

  67. Whoops, hit post too soon. The angry dance sounds like exactly what I mean about finding the way ‘we’ express ourselves when we’re angry. Ours were not hitting something else. They were still physical, just not quite what was the automatic response. And frankly, the angry dance sounds like a more effective one than the stomping one, for the long-term. That’s one I couldn’t think too far ahead on for G, and he still stomps for anger. His future wife is SO not thanking me for that… and at almost 11, he’s not really going to go for the angry dance. Though he does seem to be able to go for putting his head down on the table until he can get calm enough for words… so there’s hope for his future wife (he’s pretty straight so far, hence the gender of partner assumption… had to add that because of today being the day it is – my sister is getting married today to her partner of 28 years! WOO! I get to finally ‘officially’ call auntie E ‘my SIL’. In Law being a really powerful statement. 🙂 )… sorry, digression, there.)

  68. @jilly, testosterone does start to increase around 3 years old (growth shifts from calorie-driven to hormone driven, and testosterone is one of those hormones), but … I think I’d look for leadership roles for him. He may be seeking admiration, power, authority, etc., which is common at that age, at least with our kids. Ask him if he can show another child how to do something, maybe? And pick up the Ames and Ilg 3-year-old book, I think! Good luck…

  69. 90% of parents spank? Really? None of my friends spank their children, none of my siblings spank their children, save for one very conservative Fundamentalist Christian couple. I guess I’m in the minority.And here I thought that spanking was on the decline…

  70. Cecily – Just piping in our the kickig while on the changing table. Doesn’t always work and it really depends on if your child actually prefers to go nude or have no diaper, but if they do prefer to have their pants/diaper on, this is what we found worked for one of our boys. If he started kicking (he’s 3 now and we still do it), we’d ask him one time to stop kicking. If he didn’t stop kicking, we’d stop all changing and get him down without his pants and/or diaper depending on how far along we were into the changing process. He’d get upset because he wasn’t fully changed and we’d let him know when he was ready to behave on the changing table, we’d be happy to change him.Distraction on the changing table also works wonders for us. Both my boys love books so we’ll let them pick out a book to hold/read while we are changing them.
    Good luck.

  71. I’m really uncomfortable with some of the language being used in this particular discussion, beginning with the judgment implicit (and eventually explicit) in Moxie’s comments.For example, @Jennifer writes, “the research has shown that spanking is wrong.” Wrong? What researcher would ever impose such a value judgment? The research may have shown that spanking is an ineffective behavioral response, or that spanking produces anger in children, but I very much doubt the researcher concluded that it is “wrong.” This may seem like a picky point to make, but I think using judgment-laden language makes this space feel unsafe for people.
    And for the record, I know many thoughtful, careful people who spank or have spanked and are excellent parents — parents who have raised kind, respectful, and emotionally mature children.
    Let’s remember that plenty of stuff happens in the privacy of domestic spaces that will never appear in a pseudo-public forum like this one. Maybe 90% spank and 60% admit to it.

  72. @p, I agree on the ‘wrong’ thing. Though a lot of the research write-up (especially headlines) tend to go way over into judgment, so it can be hard to separate those out. Read the actual research, and you get the sense that they’re saying ‘ineffective’ or ‘carries risk’ or whatever, but read the ARTICLE on the research, and it comes across much more as ‘this is bad/wrong’. So, since most people don’t go read the actual source study, it does appear that the researchers think X (whatever) is ‘wrong’ or ‘best’. (And frankly, some of the studies are clearly designed with judgment firmly in place, too… bias sneaks in all over the place.)Good reminder to be aware of those judgments, because they don’t serve anyone. Clarity in terms is useful.

  73. I have no problem admitting when I am wrong or doing something bad, and I stand behind my usage of the word because I, like many parents, teach my child that hitting others is not good — it is wrong. You can call it whatever you want; it’s wrong, and you don’t want your kid hitting other kids.So why would I hit him or spank him? Haven’t I been teaching that hitting other people is wrong? Logic?

  74. @Jennifer, it was just the ‘research says/demonstrates it is wrong’ thing – research doesn’t say that. WE do. Which is very different.I personally say hitting is wrong. But the point I think was tying that too closely to what the research ‘says’. I’m good with ‘research says that spanking leads to violent behavior toward others at school and this is bad, therefore hitting is wrong. And also with ‘I’ve read a lot of research on hitting, it doesn’t appear to have benefits, it does present a lot of risks, and as far as I’m concerned, that makes it wrong.’
    Too wordy for most posters, though. I guess what you meant to say was ‘I’ve read the research, and my conclusion is that spanking is wrong.’
    I still prefer more specifics. Wrong, bad, good, etc., all too general. Just as ineffective as using them as praise or commentary for child behavior. Hence my filters, since it seemed way too big a bucket to say ‘this is bad, that is good, this is wrong, that is right’ – my kids wanted WHY is it wrong or right? So Safe Respectful Kind was born… We also use a lot of other specific terms – generous, thoughtful, considerate, dedicated, polite, etc. The more specific I am, the more likely they seem to be to understand what exactly I’m talking about, and apply it later. Probably the same with talking about spanking (etc., whatever) – I think ‘wrong’ leaves too much unsaid, and allows others to infer what they THINK you meant instead of understanding what you intended.
    But that’s me.

  75. I’ve just read all of the comments. Wow. It brings up so much. I am almost embarrassed to be posting anonymously but things are too personal here. But here goes… my mother spanked us. she would say calmly and with out anger but as a lesson. we knew she was really pissed us at. it made us better at not being caught, it made us scared of being caught but it did not change our behavior. IT DID NOT CHANGE OUR BEHAVIOR. My sister became more and more in our mother’s face rebellious, i just hid what i was doing better. It was embarrassing and scary and i remember that awful awful feeling in that minutes before you were about to be spanked and it had NOTHING to do with what the original problem had been. It taught us nothing about understanding why we did something, why we shouldn’t do something. I think it is an awful parenting tool. I think it doesn’t work. My mother is horrified now that she spanked us and says she would never do it again. Also, my father never hit us and who did my sister and i LISTEN to when he said stop? Who did we listen to when he explained why we shouldn’t do something? We listened to my father. That must account for something too. He got the respect my mother didn’t from us and he used no force, no yelling, no spanking.I think there is a connection to CIO because i think both things –spanking and letting children cry themselves to sleep — CAN (not always by any means, so please don’t take this as an inditement of all people who use some form of CIO) have something to do with adults using force to get the behavors that they want out of their children. I remember being left in my crib to cry myself to sleep (at 24 months) and it was scary and awful and lonely. Does it really teach them how to soothe themselves? Or is it an easier way to get the results you want? In my opinion, spanking is the same thing, you get the results with a little effort, without the work of trying to show them the way to handle themselves, guiding them throughh their own feelings and you scare them.

  76. I’m another one who has a lot of bad memories associated with spanking. It didn’t matter that my young, ill-equipped parents tried to be unemotional during the spanking (at first). It was absolutely degrading, and made me feel worthless as a human being. I remember thinking, as a 4 year old, that they must not love me to be able to do this to me. And yes, my older sister started hitting us more, and becoming very violent and frightening. And then more rebellious. And then things escalated. I remember how at first, my parents tried to be “creative” with punishment, like hot-saucing, or “Oh, you mashed up this stick of butter for fun? Now you have to eat the whole thing,” I think because they wanted something else that wasn’t hitting, but in our house, as my sister’s behavior became more out of control, so did the spanking, until it became outright violence, with dislocated jaws, and tables thrown over at dinner to get at her and you name it. I remember feeling great shame that we were such a mess. I don’t mean to horrify anyone, or imply that that is how it would be, I just think you don’t know where things will go once you start giving yourself permission to hit. It can be unpredictable, because like some have said, hitting something can really ramp you up, as a parent, too. And yes, we had a lot of trouble defining for ourselves where our boundaries were with our bodies, and I feel that there was a strong connection with our parent’s style. I remember feeling like it wasn’t my choice whether someone touched me or not, that if they wanted to, that was the most important thing. Yup, lots of therapy has been very helpful. Nope, we will not spank. I feel it is a slippery, slippery slope.I think CIO is a very different thing. We were resolved not to do it, and for 8 months we didn’t, well after cosleeping became nonfunctional for us- we wanted it to work, so much. When our bedtime routine became back-breaking, and resentment-inducing, and made me cry and the baby cry (she couldn’t get to sleep if I was with her) we did research, settled on a method, and it worked in 2 nights. She just cuddles her loveys now, and rubs her face on them, and I am glad we waited until she showed us some signs that she could self-soothe, and that we gave her the chance instead of insisting on helping her and martyring ourselves. In that case, our resolve not to let her cry was really not in her best interest, and we had to modify. It was eye-opening for me. But do I put it in the same category as resolving not to spank? Not at all.

  77. What we tried to do at this age with hitting biting etc (because our kid also laughed in our face at any other kind of reaction, and I find toddlers tough to discipline) was watch her really closely for a while to prevent it. It takes a bit of vigilance to shadow them, but sometimes even just a couple of days of being able to grab their arm before they haul off, or redirect them when they go in for a bite, is enough to break the habit. Then they kind of move past that behaviour. If they do succeed in hitting/biting we move them away from the victim and ignore thwm, and make a tremendous fuss over the victim.

  78. The best parenting advice I’ve ever received was to not take everything your child does personally. If they slap you across the face, they’d be doing the same thing to another woman if she were their mother. It has everything to do with the child trying to figure out the boundaries of life and interacting with others.After really taking that to heart I am a million times more patient and I don’t find myself in the middle of a flash of anger over something my son says or does. That’s not to say I’m never angry or frustrated with him, but it helps me to remember that.

  79. I was abused, I was beaten. So now as an adult do I feel there is a difference between spanking and being beaten? No. I don’t. While I can try to see some points of view, I personally feel spanking your child is an adult form of aggression. If you can walk away from a situation and then come back 30 minutes later and still hit your kid for whatever it was they did, fine. However I am sure no one would. If you yourself wouldn’t want to be hit, don’t you yourself hit.

  80. I hate it when I arrive late to a discussion!@Cecily–I love your posts about that feisty girl of yours… but I have no advice! I encouraged my two older children to stomp their feet and yell when they were frustrated, but I’ve got nothing for the laughing as she acts out. Except to say that my 15 month old appears to be headed down the same path. So, when you get it worked out, but sure to enlighten the rest of us!
    @Moxie–For your data points, I was spanked and slapped as a child. Never the calm “I’m spanking you so you won’t repeat this behavior”, always a spanking/slap out of frustration.
    I popped #2 on the bottom once when she was about 2 out of pure frustration b/c she wouldn’t let me put her pajama bottoms on, and it was the final straw in a long day. When I flipped her back over from the pop she continued to kick her legs, so I turned her over again and popped her on the bottom one more time. Flipping her back to face me she gave me the “Yeah, I see how this works” smile. I called for her father and removed myself from the situation. I’ve never hit her again (nor have I ever hit either of her brothers). But the guilt with that one instance lingers. Not because I think the one instance harmed her, but because as a child who felt so violated by the hitting in my own childhood, I was ashamed that I had placed my own child in that situation.
    The spanking vs. CIO debate is interesting, and I can see both sides. I have used CIO with zero success on #1, great success with #2, and decent success with #3. But I confess I’ve never felt great about it. I still use it with #3 b/c with 3 kids to get in bed, I can’t always coddle him after his bedtime. I guess I see it from a teaching perspective. I see a hypocrisy in trying to teach children not to do things–including hitting–by hitting them. But I don’t see any hypocrisy in teaching a child that once you are safe and sound in bed, crying is not going to get you attention. I agree that the child might see the bed as scary, but it is not a dangerous place. Whereas there is no other way to see spanking other than what it is… a hit.
    It’s late… am I making any sense?
    @Moxie (and others)–What’s bad about time outs?

  81. Thanks everyone for the useful info on this topic. I’ll definitely be trying some of these tactics (not spanking, though). I empathize with another mama who says that their kid around 1 yr old is also doing this… I’m so hosed when we hit 2!! My 14 mo-old is really into kissing your cheek which then turns into a bite, or grabbing your lower lip or nose & twisting, or smacking, or similar. Drives me & her dad crazy. It seems to happen when she’s tired and/or hungry, but saying no and moving her away from us hasn’t helped yet. I don’t think it’s aggression (yet), but rather experimenting with her behaviors & our reactions. But still… makes one batty. Will try ignoring, as I can’t bring myself to smack back (DH did it reflexively once and felt bad about it).Any further age-appropriate advice on handling this experimental biting/ hitting stuff most welcome.

  82. I made the initial spanking/CIO analogy, so I just wanted to clarify– I wasn’t meaning that these two things are similar in and of themselves. The similarity I see is that they’re both controversial, there is a huge range among parents in both how they’re perceived (abusive vs. necessary discipline) and how they’re implemented, and parenting experts/gurus run the gamut on what they recommend. My thought in making the comparison was that discussions about spanking require the same sensitivity we give during discussions about CIO. Hope that makes sense (if anyone’s still reading at this point!).

  83. I’d never heard the term reflexive hitting and was a little relieved to see it described and to see others have done it too. I don’t believe in spanking or any kind of physical discipline but then without thinking pushed my two-year-old this weekend after he kicked me hard and then again with a laugh after I said we don’t hit. I’ve been consumed by guilt since this happened but feel like I will be able to cope infinitely better with this in the future just knowing this is a pretty common toddler behavior.

  84. mine pushes/hits to greet other children. There is no anger in it but other kids hate it.he does also suffer from frustration and has been known to bite himself if hes upset he also hits when angry he nips too.
    hes 2 and a half. hes always been big and strong and i think seem weak to him (he is 2 and a half and the size of a strong 4 year old)

  85. (see prev meassage) oh and also, i dont hit him. i also think its disgusting to squeeze a childs hand through frustration but i found myself doing that in public the other day to tell him off without a fuss which to me demonstrates that i am not in control. because it is not what i want to do. physical discipline is if spontaneous and out of your control dangerous and if planned a little like torture!i think/hope hes just a boistrous impulsive 2 and a half year old with a bit of a sharp temper that will mellow when hes past his twos!!!

  86. I’m reading all of the comments – which are great and help me realize I don’t have the only two-year old boy with a Viking complex – I have already started incorporating these ideas and the hitting is declining – whether that is me or because he is getting older who knows.However, what do I do about daycare? There the concepts are – hit or push and he gets a time out and is written up if it is hard hitting/pushing or if it is the 2nd time that day. I don’t know what to do about the behavior there. I can’t punish him after school – for a 2 1/2 year old he doesn’t understand why or for what I’m punishing him 3 hours later. Many times he hits just because, but he often hits in retaliation for hitting or a toy being taken.
    We are at a new daycare because when he had just turned 2 (he is significantly taller, bigger and more physically advanced then other 2-year-olds) I had a teacher tell me that my child has a disorder because he hit when kids took his toys or pushed when they didn’t move out of his way. I went and talked to a professional who informed me that often it was out of boredom and frustration that he reacted that way – particularly since he did not react that way anywhere but daycare. He is a very social child and does not hit/push anywhere except daycare. He has hit me 1 time when he was 2 because I told him no and he reacted strongly. The teacher saw this and declared that any child that would hit a parent like that had to have a problem.
    He is very honest – if he ask him what he did wrong he will tell you and he feels remorseful – however, he can’t seem to stop himself from doing it again.
    I’m really frustrated with how to stop the hitting/pushing at daycare when I’m not around to perform any of the items that are working for him. The conferences are not very productive. They just go straight to the gentle touches with no middle item. HELP!

  87. I have a very tall, articulate, physically advanced 2 almost 3 year old. However, he is very physical. I am using these items at home with success…well, most of the time.However, what about daycare? The solution at daycare – timeouts and write ups. There is no middle ground about expressing his emotions only straight to gentle touches. I even went so far as to ask a professional about any possible behavioral problems – he’s just physical, frustrated and sometimes bored. How do I fix the issue at daycare? HELP!

  88. I’m reading all of the comments – which are great and help me realize I don’t have the only two-year old boy with a Viking complex – I have already started incorporating these ideas and the hitting is declining – whether that is me or because he is getting older who knows.However, what do I do about daycare? There the concepts are – hit or push and he gets a time out and is written up if it is hard hitting/pushing or if it is the 2nd time that day. I don’t know what to do about the behavior there. I can’t punish him after school – for a 2 1/2 year old he doesn’t understand why or for what I’m punishing him 3 hours later. Many times he hits just because, but he often hits in retaliation for hitting or a toy being taken.
    We are at a new daycare because when he had just turned 2 (he is significantly taller, bigger and more physically advanced then other 2-year-olds) I had a teacher tell me that my child has a disorder because he hit when kids took his toys or pushed when they didn’t move out of his way. I went and talked to a professional who informed me that often it was out of boredom and frustration that he reacted that way – particularly since he did not react that way anywhere but daycare. He is a very social child and does not hit/push anywhere except daycare. He has hit me 1 time when he was 2 because I told him no and he reacted strongly. The teacher saw this and declared that any child that would hit a parent like that had to have a problem.
    I’m really frustrated with how to stop the hitting/pushing at daycare when I’m not around to perform any of the items that are working for him. The conferences are not very productive. HELP!

  89. Great article! When it comes to disciplining my child I divide it into acceptable and unacceptable forms of discipline. Acceptable forms of discipline include: Time-outs, spanking, diversion, grounding, taking away privileges and possessions, requiring my child to suffer the consequences of his actions (within reason and safety), talking to him sternly.
    And unacceptable forms of discipline include: Hitting—this IS different from spanking, humiliation, public embarrassment and humiliation, ridicule, breaking promises, and physical neglect.

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