It will happen at some point; your child will hit you. He or she will raise a hand and smack you right across the face, the leg, the arm, the stomach – whatever body part is within reach. It happens to all of us, even those of us convinced our kids are not little jerks. The good news is that they’re really not little jerks. They’re kids, and they’re working hard to figure out how far they can go, what they can do and how they can react to a certain situation. Kids are not, by nature, violent human beings. This is something that is typically taught to them, but even a child that’s never been hit will turn around and hit a parent. It’s a shocking situation, and there is very little you can do about it in the moment other than gape in shock at your child.
Chances are good even your kid has big eyes and an expression of shock that very likely mirrors that of your own. I’ll never forget the first time one of my kids hit me (I’m not counting small babies and very young toddlers that aren’t sure yet what is going on). I will never forget it because it was my second daughter. She was just about to turn four this past March. She wanted to take a Lunchable to bed with her one night and I would not let her. She threw herself onto the floor and had a fit. I ignored her and went about cleaning the kitchen and she finally stopped crying. I went to her to ask her if she was ready to be reasonable and follow instructions and she reached up and hit me right in the leg.
That kid has a great arm.
I was shocked. And furious. And hurt. She didn’t physically hurt me, but she hut me emotionally. I’ve never laid a hand on that child, and neither has my husband. I was shocked that she even knew how to hit someone. Did she learn it on television? Did she see another child do it? What happened? I absolutely do not condone spanking in my home with my children – ever – under any circumstance, so where did this come from? So many emotions were happening in this moment, and before I could even react to the situation my daughter reached up, put her arms around my legs and said she was so, so sorry. It was obviously a knee-jerk reaction, but still one that shocked me to the core.
I wasn’t sure how to react. That’s when I asked her to go to her room and told her that I’d be there momentarily to speak to her. I didn’t know what to say, and I certainly didn’t want to say the wrong thing.
Take a moment to yourself
I decided to do this first, by sending my daughter to her room. That’s when I hit the internet and my husband asking for answers. What do I do now? Both said the same thing; take a few moments to yourself. That’s what I’d done, and I was right. I asked my daughter to go to her room while I spent a few minutes on my own, and I told her I’d talk to her about her actions when I came in. that was good. Good. I did something correctly.
This time is necessary. We have a fight or flight response to pain and shock, and none of us wants to handle a situation like this when we are clearly upset. For me, I needed a moment to calm down. I was hurt and furious, and I did not want my reaction to make matters worse.
Be firm setting limits
The next step is to speak with your child. Do your best to listen. Ask your child very calmly what he or she was thinking hitting you. When I asked my daughter why she hit me, she said she was mad. It’s all right to be mad. I explained that to her; I don’t want her to think that her emotions are wrong; I get mad about stupid things, too, you know. Even if I don’t think a lunchable in bed is a good reason to become angry, she was three. Life’s different for her.
That’s when I told her that I understand her anger. I get mad, too, and I don’t like it. I then explained to her that when you get mad, you have to find a better way to handle yourself. She didn’t seem to comprehend this at the moment, but we will work on that one as she gets older. I told her it’s not all right to hit someone – and then I told her that you can only fight with someone if they are hurting you (because I have this terrible fear that my kids will be attacked by someone one day and will not fight back because they think I’ll be mad at them, and I want them to know that it’s all right to defend yourself against harm) in some way.
Issue a warning
The next thing is to issue a warning. For me, I felt this was necessary in lieu of a punishment since this was her first offense. I believe that kids learn best when they are given a warning on a first offense. We like to tell them what’s inappropriate about their behavior, issue a warning and then follow through immediately if the behavior occurs a second time. It sets limits.
While I was discussing her actions, I informed my daughter that there are always consequences for poor behavior. I explained to her that hitting a parent, or a sibling, would result in the loss of a favorite toy until it’s been earned back through good behavior. I told her that if she ever hit anyone again, this is what we’d take away from her and this is what she’d have to do to get it back.
She’s never hit us again, and different ages will mean different things for kids. It’s best to keep this in mind during any age; stay calm, discuss why something happened, discuss limits and create consequences.
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