I’ve got some ideas about that as well and I love what Lori said in her video about how hitting is an age typical. Now I’m going to say age typical rather than age appropriate which is another term that you’ll hear sometimes. It’s an age typical behavior for toddlers, they do it, it’s common. Now that doesn’t mean that it’s adaptive or it’s what we want so obviously we’re going to do some things to see if we can get that to stop because the hitting has to stop, right? This is not going to be helpful for your child or anyone around them if they continue doing it. Keeping in mind that it’s age typical though, it’s a little easier for us to understand what to do about it. You’ll notice that your toddler, your child will go through developmental stages and phases when they are about to accomplish a new developmental milestone or task like talking or walking or one of these things that marks a real milestone for them in their development. It is very typical to see a little bit of an increase in irritability or aggressive behavior or crying, that’s really common.
Remember they’re going through some changes and their little brain is trying to keep up with them but they don’t have the developmental skills or expertise necessary to handle all of that stuff that’s coming at them new and that causes feelings. Now this is true for all people, it’s true for you too, isn’t it? As you go through a stressful time or something that represents a lot of change for you, you start to feel a little more emotionally sensitive, shall we say, and that’s normal. Well these little kiddos don’t have the maturity to do the emotional regulation that’s necessary for them to control their behavior in a way that you and I as adults hopefully are doing so notice that this is a development until process, it’s absolutely normal, it’s still something that we want to address and we will do that but don’t get too tipped over by it because this is kind of what we expect. If this has become enough of a concern that you’re watching this video which apparently you are then let’s give you some steps that you could use and I think the first one probably is going to solve a whole lot of things right here and that is, put your own mask on first.
Now if you’re not sure what I’m talking about here, you haven’t been on an airplane lately but if you get on an airplane and you know when they’re getting ready to take off and they’re taxiing out onto the runway and they go through their safety routine because they’re required by federal regulations to do this, you incidentally are supposed to follow along in your little laminated card, hope you’re doing that and as you go through the safety routine and you see where all the exits are, they may be behind you, make sure that you’re checking, they always get to this point in the presentation where they say if we lose cabin pressure, these oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling, they’re very attractive yellow things that you fasten on with a rubber band, they always say if you’re traveling with young children or someone who needs assistance, put your own mask on first. Now why do they say that? Because our tendency as a parent especially is, “Oh, I got to take care of this child. I’m responsible for this child’s welfare and safety.” Yes, you are.
Why put your own mask on first? Because if you’re out cold in the aisle, you’re part of the problem, you’re just in the way at this point. Put your own mask on first and that allows you then to step up and serve and help other people including your children so I put this as the first step because if you’ve got a toddler who’s hitting and you want to intervene and you come at it with an attitude or a feeling as a parent that you want to hit somebody too, I mean, monitor your own feelings and behavior. You’re going to be feeling things as well and for mom or dad to be out of control just means that we’ve got a big mess, you’re part of the problem now and you’re not helping anybody. Put your own mask on first means take care of you, take care of yourself, put yourself into an emotional state that you’re going to be able to handle whatever’s coming from your toddler and sometimes that’s gonna be pretty volatile because they don’t have the maturity to regulate. Make sure that you do, okay.
That’s what I mean by put your own mask on first. Just another thought about that, if you need to do some focus breathing or if you need to take a little walk or give mom a little timeout or whatever, go ahead and do that, it’s more important to do what’s right than it is to do what’s convenient and sometimes when we get into our fight-or-flight mode, we just react and respond to things instead of taking a very intentional purposeful present and conscious kind of an approach to it so this first step is huge and even if I didn’t share the other three that I’m going to share with you, that would be enough to put you in a position to really help your kiddo and it models them a more calm presence which is what they’re going to need some exposure to in order to learn something else, we’ll come back to that in just a minute. Alright, so once you’ve got your own mask on, here’s what I would suggest you do next.. Set a simple but a firm limit.
This is not the time by the way, Lori mentioned this in her video, I appreciated this particular contribution. This is not the time to have an intellectual conversation with your toddler. First of all, they’re not processing it. Second of all, they’re emotionally tipped over a little bit in the time that you’re intervening with them and they don’t have any comprehension of where you’re going with principles and what’s right and virtues and no, we’re going to instill those at appropriate times in an appropriate ways but in this moment, when they’re hitting is not the time to reiterate all of the family values, this is the time to set a simple and firm limit. I’m not going to let you hit me or I’m not going to let you hit, simple enough. Say that, remove the child physically because you’re still big enough to do this, when they’re 15, 16 years old the game changes so we want them to learn it now, okay, because you can move them and remove them from the situation where they’re doing the hitting, set this firm and simple limit. Okay, now let’s move on to a third step. Present a very calm, now notice that this is time back into step one because you got to get your own mask on first, make sure that you’re in a good place because in this third step, you present a calm adult that gets to interact with them. I love what Nicholeen Peck said about this and she’ll be on the channel at some point so keep watching, parenting expert who’s written a book called Teaching Self Government and Nicholeen said that you maintain a calm face, calm voice and calm body. Just my saying that should trigger something for you, okay.
Do you feel a little more calm just because I presented that? Calm face, calm voice, calm body, this is very important in the modeling aspect as you’re showing an example to your toddler about what it means to have calm face, calm voice, calm body. It also allows you to do this next part more effectively and what you’re going to do is connect with your child. There is some reason why they’re hitting, okay, and remember toddlers don’t have to have as good a reasons as adults might have to have, it could be something very simple like, “Oh I’m frustrated that my sister took my toy.” or “Oh I don’t like that mommy is holding my baby brother right now instead of me.” If you can figure out what the reason is that this toddler is hitting, it’s a strategy that they’ve come up with to try to meet some need.
Well you may not agree with the strategy, that’s fine, we’re going to get to that in step four but you can acknowledge the need so with empathy and again, using a calm voice, calm face, and calm body and you’ve already set the simple but firm limit and you’ve removed the child from the situation, now you connect with them empathically where you show them that you’re tracking and you understand what their need is and then we go to the last step which is to address the strategy. We want to model for our kids some strategies that are more appropriate and more effective incidentally in getting what it is that they want and again, I used the word model, okay, because they’re going to learn a whole lot more from how you do things than from what you say. Now we’ll wrap the words into it too.