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Heidi LPC
Heidi LPC, Psychotherapist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 278
Experience:  Licensed Professional Counselor
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My son is 24 months old. Hes been attending the same daycare

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My son is 24 months old. He's been attending the same daycare since he was an infant, and periodically they've had problems with him hitting other kids. He was agressive three weeks ago, and then last week things were better. However, this week he's been even more aggressive. He's now hitting and kicking, and he's started spitting. His daycare teacher told me that they correct it each time, but his behavior is actually getting worse rather than better. He knows that it's wrong to hit. Yesterday, he walked up to another little boy and hit him. The boy turned around and hit him back. My son looked at this little boy and said 'no hitting'. So he clearly understood that hitting wasn't allowed. He just didn't think that the rule applied to him.

They told me that when it occurs, they usually give him to their time out area to take a break. But he immediately gets up and walks around. They said that he thinks its a game. Yesterday they got to the point where they took him to the director's office for a while.

We don't have a problem with hitting or kicking or spitting at home, although he occasionally wrestles with my husband. But we also don't have other children around. When he does have a tantrum, we walk away rather than give him attention. We tell him 'no' a lot, but we don't give time outs because we know he'll just get up and walk away.

My instinct is that he's figured out that if he hits he'll get attention from the teachers. Yet I know that they can't ignore it when it happens.

Any ideas how we can work with them to resolve the problem?

Heidi LPC : Hi there! My name is XXXXX XXXXX I am a licensed psychotherapist, former teacher and Child Development Center director, and I hope I can offer you some assistance with your question today!
Heidi LPC : This is a common problem; in the old days, the 2's stage was called the "terrible 2's" primarily due to the types of behavior you are describing! Of course, now we call them the "terrific 2's", as we understand that this is a period of incredible teaching and learning opportunity!
Heidi LPC : Two's are still trying to learn to communicate. When children display challenging behavior, it is for 1 of 2 reasons: to GAIN something, or to AVOID something. We must be detectives, and figure out their purpose, and then teach them more appropriate and safe ways to express themselves.
Heidi LPC : Teaching language skills, and helping them to learn feelings, feeling words, and proper actions for when they are frustrated is an on-going task at this age. Teachable moments are many!
Heidi LPC : Here is a link to one article that may help shed some light on it:
Customer: We've been working with him to teach him how to express his feelings, and he's become fairly proficient at telling us 'no thank you'.
Heidi LPC : Great!
Heidi LPC : This is a book that I recommend to any family looking for parenting advice through the stages:
Customer: At his daycare, he seems to be hitting and kicking even when he's not frustrated. He'll just walk across the room and hit someone. Yesterday, the little boy that my son hit turned around and hit him back. My son looked at him and said "no hitting." So he understands that the behavior is wrong, to the point that he corrected another child. But when his teachers sit him down somewhere for a time out, he immediately stands up and tries to run away. They say he's laughing and thinks it's a game. They say he doesn't look angry when he hits. I'm actually beginning to think that he's just figured out that this is a way to get attention and play chase with others.
Heidi LPC : I think you may be correct there. His teachers need to understand that re-direction rather than punishment is the proper approach with toddlers.
Heidi LPC : Here is another list of specific instructions to re-direct hitting behaviors. You might want to ask his teachers if they have read anything like it before:
Heidi LPC : 1.Take the child by the hand and say, "It is not okay to hit people. I'm sorry you are feeling hurt and upset. You can talk about it or you can hit this pillow, but people aren't for hitting."2.Help the child deal with the anger. 3.Ask, "Would it help you to go to your time-out spot now?" Time out is not helpful unless the child has helped create a positive time out spot in advance. Also, time out is not helpful if the child does not see the benefit and chooses it. If you "make" your child go to time out, your child is likely to see it as punishment and may rebel.4.After the child has calmed down, ask what and how questions. "What is upsetting you? How are you feeling?" See if you can get to the bottom of what is really bothering your child and then help the child discover what other things he or she could do besides hitting to deal with the problem. (Children under four years of age do not understand abstract reasoning. This is one reason why lectures are not effective at this age. There are other reasons why lectures are ineffective at any age.)5.With children under four, try giving them a hug before removing them from the situation. This models a loving method while showing them that hitting is not okay. Hugging does not reinforce the misbehavior. 6.Even though toddlers don't fully comprehend language, you can still use words (while removing them) such as, "Hitting hurts people. Let's find something else you can enjoy doing."7.When babies hit you, put them down and leave the room immediately for a minute or two without saying a word. At this age, they will understand actions better than words.8.When your preschooler hits you, decide what you will do instead of trying to control your child. Let her know that every time she hits you, you will leave the room until she is ready to treat you respectfully. After you have told her this once, follow through without any words. Leave immediately.9.Later you might tell your child, "That really hurts" or "That hurts my feelings. When you are ready, an apology would help me feel better." Do not demand or force an apology. The main purpose of this suggestion is to give a model of sharing what you feel and asking for what you would like. People don't always give us what we would like, but we show respect for ourselves by sharing our feelings and wishes in non-demanding ways.
Heidi LPC : Sadly, many programs haven't yet established positive discipline programs, and are still learning how to handle behavior issues. I say speak with the director and find out if he/she can bring in some training topics regarding positive discipline to assist the staff, as well.
Heidi LPC : What we give attention to is inevitably what we see more of with kids; your intuition is on target there.
Customer: I'll share this with them. They've obviously dealt with this before, but he seems to have them a bit stumped. They did mention that they believe that is very bright and on track developmentally. They also said that part of the problem is that they need more challenging activities in the classroom (they had a turnover issue with lead teachers that put them off track a bit). Realistically, I know that my husband and I need to do a better job of not ignoring behaviors at home that hurt others or can hurt himself. In the meantime, I'm also going to ask them what he's doing prior to hitting other kids-- is he sitting by himself bored? Or is he frustrated with something?
Heidi LPC : Absolutely. And kids love power. When they can get a rise out of someone, they feel powerful. So mention this as well, and that any irregular behaviors must be managed quickly, but without fanfare so that they aren't positively reinforced.
Heidi LPC : He is probably just liking the feeling of feeling that he can cause a big stir, but he is way too young to be purposely manipulating people. He is still learning cause & effect.
Customer: O.K... Thanks for your help. Enjoy your holiday weekend!
Customer: I'm headed into a meeting, but I appreciate your feedback. Great job!
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