What we didn't cover was unlearnt hitting in pre-toddlers. That is, hitting that seems innate. And certainly not unlearnt unemotional hitting.
The Wildflower is a very physical child. Actually, that's an understatement. She rarely stops moving. She does have periods of stillness - such as when reading a book. But mostly she moves, even when feeding. She has never been that baby that falls asleep feeding. And before 6 months of age, she was perpetually restless in her sleep.
And she expresses her emotions physically. Once I understood the benefits of allowing her to cry in my loving arms, her night restlessness was reduced.
If she's angry she clenches her fists, stiffens her body, and shouts a definite NO. She hops about when she's extra happy. She's huge on hugs and pretty big on kisses. Frustration at a toy sees it thrown across the room or hitting it. Self-conscious anxiety produces a similar effect. She usually kicks out or rolls about when having a diaper or clothes change. She was almost permanently attached to me until only a few months ago. She watches dvds standing up, and she moves into sleep rather than relaxing into it.
Yes, a highly physical and tactile child.
Me, I can't help but seeing this as typical Aries behaviour.
At first, I found her hitting disappointing. How can my child be a hitter? She has never seen hitting, has never been spanked or handled roughly. She gets tons of attention and love. I let her express her emotions. We have bounderies but otherwise we keep 'no' down to a minimum. Our days are relaxed. My child was going to be the loving peaceful child of a loving peaceful mama... yeah, good luck with that Mon.
I have now accepted it as simply part of her character. She expresses every emotion physically. Hitting out is not 'bad' behaviour. It's one way a small child expresses themselves without our adult tools of control. MAny times it's impulse based. Neither does it have to stem from some deep-rooted anxiety, emotional turmoil, or negligent parenting.
She is physical, willful, often easily frustrated, and prefers her own way on anything. So angry emotions are peppered throughout the day. She hasn't had a full on tantrum yet. I think in part because I know when she needs a big release (through a big cry and thrash out on the bed), because I let her express frustration (never telling her to not cry, or not shout. I do ask her not to whine. And if she is calm enough, to speak nicely if she's shouting), I divert her attention or offer alternatives, I listen to her (98% of the time, the other 2% when I'm going to lose my mind, I walk away). And in large part to the fact that although her temper is quick she's also quick to get over things.
in daddy's shoes
So this is all well and good. But.... she still hits. And hitting is not pleasant, socially acceptable, and one day she might hurt another child.
She has mostly hit me, and her toys. And I have understood that hitting me is good, in that I am her safe place, so she feels safe to lash out at me. A lot of mothers take it really hard when their child behaves the worst with them, not realising it means the child trusts them the most. A too well-behaved child is a fearful child.... but that's another post for another time.
She has been known to slap her own head and face.
So, a few days ago I saw her lift her hand to slap another child (her 'hitting' is really a slapping). I caught her eye and gave her the 'mama look', you know the one. And although her arm continued on it's way, she held back. The other child was oblivious to it.
I'm not really sure what to do about it. My first solution was to show her that it hurt me and that I was sad. But I think she was too young for that. So then I showed anger (mild), saying 'we don't hit', 'hitting is not nice', 'don't hit'... that sort of thing. Not really working.
I tried using positive words. 'be gentle', 'nicely, nicely' (which she understands as caresses), 'tell mama what you want', 'do you want a hug?'... and others. Sometimes works.
I tried ignoring it. Sometimes worked, sometimes made her hit harder.
I've redirected her to hitting a pillow. Sometimes works, sometimes gets her angrier.
I have moved her hands away, and stood up and walked away to create a physical boundary. Works for the moment.
I'm not willing to try time out.
I give lots of encourgement for desirable behaviour, such as when she hugs or caresses me, another person, or a toy.
Telling her things like, 'I understand you're angry', has no affect.
I have given her hitting things, like a xylophone, piano, and drum. Doesn't really have an affect.
Often, her source of frustration isn't obvious. Otherwise I would deal with that. Many times the source is something really simple, like being self-conscious if I look at her while she was doing something non-descript. So many times she doesn't even appear frustrated, just does it. In fact, her hitting rarely follows an angry outburst. Except for a frustrated reaction to a 'no' or uncooperative toy, it's often done much more matter-of-factly. Occassionaly it has been part of a game she's made up. I understand that sometimes she's experimenting with her physical world. Still not an okay behaviour for me.
So for me, the hitting issue is stopping the behaviour, and secondly, understanding why she hits out when seemly feeling fine. To be clear, I'm not freaking out about this, I'm pretty relaxed about early years stuff. But I have decided I'm not okay with this continuing or escalating.
For many children, hitting can be a phase that passes. But if a child hits from some innate need to express physically, then I feel it needs guidance.
I understand that at two years old she has weak impulse control, and that she's only just barely entering an empathic stage. She may just grow out of it. But now that she's raised her hand to another child, I want to step in more.
Hitting in a non-chalant way is, I believe, part of testing her physical bounderies.
I want to help her understand that another person has the right to be touched as they find appropriate, and subsequently, she too has the right to tell someone, no, don't hit me.
I'm about to turn to the books for the first time over a 'discipline' issue! Thought I would turn to you guys first.
I've decided to retry ignoring most of it and saying a simple, 'we don't hit', when I feel the need to. I do feel she's a little older and might be ready.