On SmartParenting.com.ph’s Parent Chat forum, mom vhenggaman asked for advice on a thread on little kids who hit. Her post (edited for clarity) read: “I'm so stressed right now! I just enrolled my 4-year-old son at daycare. His first two weeks were okay. But this week, I found him very difficult to manage. He's hurting his classmates without any reason. This happened every day with different classmates. Every time I was called in by his teacher. I talked to parents of the children to apologize, but I know they're still angry at me and my son. I can't blame them. I know I won't always be able to justify ‘bata lang yan eh. Please advise!”
The good news is what we perceive as a child's aggressive behavior towards other people is a normal part of childhood development. At preschool age, a child’s anger or aggression is often a call for attention or help, says Dr. Joy Lim, a pediatrician and family and child development specialist. It can be her way of expressing she's tired, hungry, frustrated or overwhelmed at a new environment (like a new preschool), or frustrated, said BabyCentre.
Of course, it’s not okay for your preschooler to hit anyone, including you, family members and other kids. He needs to understand it is wrong. Here are a few tips on how you can manage your child’s behavior and teach him self-control:
1. Respond quickly. Once you see your preschooler’s aggressive behavior (she slapped a classmate on the back for not sharing a toy, for example), do something about it right away. This is true even if the one being hit was someone who doesn’t mind, like a tito or tita. Your child has to know right then and there that her behavior is not acceptable. Take a minute to get her out of the situation and talk to her. Even a few words are enough for young kids.
2. Be consistent. Respond quickly and consistently. Don't let bad behavior pass by. Whenever you see your child being physically aggressive, let him know that it’s not an okay thing to do. Do this whether he’s with schoolmates or at home with you. A parent who is lenient about aggressiveness or turns a blind eye sends a message to the child that it is okay for him to hurt other people, Lillian L. Juadiong, Ph.D., associate professor of Family Life and Child Development in U.P. Diliman’s College of Home Economics, told Smart Parenting.
3. Don’t fight fire with fire. Children are great copiers. They mimic our behavior even without us realizing that they do. Hence, when you shout at your child for hitting a playmate, you don’t get your message across. He can see and feel your anger, and this tells him that reacting to something he doesn’t like with aggressive behavior is okay. Instead, you should…
4. Be a role model. To test the theory that kids learn their behavior from the adults in the environment, scientists developed the “Bobo doll” studies, Nathan Heflick, Ph.D., a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Lincoln, explained in Psychology Today. In the studies, children saw adults either hitting, kicking, or interacting peacefully with a free-standing inflatable clown. They found that whatever the children saw the adults do with the doll, whether being gentle or hitting it, they did the same
The takeaway? Handle your emotions well. When you’re frustrated, you can let it out by saying something like, “The alarm didn’t go off this morning. It’s so annoying! I guess we’ll just have to move a bit faster today if you want to catch the school bus.” When in a fight with your partner, show that you can resolve the conflict in a peaceful manner, advised Parents. Huwag magdabog!
5. Talk to your child about her feelings. Get to the source of why your child hits. Does he do it whenever he’s frustrated or mad? If so, the first thing you can do is help your child become aware of strong emotions, like anger, whenever he feels them, and explain to him what he can do about them.
After he hits, ask him what made him mad. Then, talk to him about how else he could have handled his feelings. He could try talking to the playmate first, find an adult to help or just walk away. Start early too! Try adding Masaya Ako! by Yasmin Doctor to your toddler’s bedtime books. You can find more about it here.