If a young child hits another child, what should we do?
I believe that how we respond when children it is very important. And I talk about the radically loving steps to take in my no cost guide Solve the Struggle with Your Kids, available on my homepage. But in this article I want to talk about “prevention”.
This is because children learn their most powerful lessons through how we do things all the time. Not through moral lessons, consequences, telling them hitting is wrong etc.
And of all the many things we do all the time, I’m going to help you understand one very powerful thing that has a direct effect on helping your child not to even want to hit. It’s not something that is often talked about in connection with hitting. But it’s a game-changer. And it’s this:
How we use our hands.
You see, young children learn so much from our hands. After all, they interact with our hands continuously throughout the day. Our hands determine how they experience nose wiping, nappy changing, being picked up and put into car seats, being guided when out and about, having unsuitable objects taken from them. These are just some examples.
Very often we are not aware of how we’re using our hands at these times. Our focus is generally on efficiency and getting the job done. We are not generally thinking about how to convey gentleness or how to make our children feel safe, when we’re helping them out of piece of clothing, for example. And we’re often resigned to the fact that children don’t enjoy things like nappy changes, so we rush through these moments.
But when we come into physical contact with our children via our hands, it is in fact a wonderful opportunity to connect and show them how we do things. So it’s really worth making sure that we are expressing what we want to express. At my parent and child group, Joyful Explorers, my favourite moment is when I help the toddlers with their hand washing. At these times I feel so connected to the children.
In short, if we want children to be gentle, there’s no better place to start than by choosing gentleness during physical care.
If this idea resonates for you, you can start by simply SLOWING DOWN.
Slowing down allows children to feel more a part of what is happening. They can accept these moments better – and even enjoy them.
Let’s take an example. This is how you might approach wiping your child’s nose:
- Tell them you’d like to wipe.
- Pause with the tissue 30cm in front of their face.
- Talk to them slowly about what you’d like to do.
- Allow time for shared looks, words or sounds.
- Wait for their response.
- They may move their nose towards the tissue.
- Adjust and adapt to what they do.
- Always put the relationship first – getting the job done is only part of it!
When you do it like this, with pauses and connecting time, your child doesn’t experience any shocks or jolts. On the contrary, you introduce them to the way of gentleness. Your care has become a caress. When our care becomes a caress, children can relax.
If your child resists nose wipes, I can understand the temptation to swoop in and wipe without telling them first. And I get the temptation to use a little force. You don’t want them to get sore. But what do these actions teach? When we wipe children’s noses without connecting with them first, it’s a shock. It’s a jolt. These are the consequences:
- Children cannot truly relax. They learn that they constantly need to be on the alert, because a shock may come at any time. Being on the alert involves storing tension. When children store tension they are much more likely to hit.
- Children learn from us that it is ok to give people shocks. So when a child hits another child “out of the blue” they may simply be copying adult behaviour!
Are you following me? Do you see now the connection with hitting?
On the other hand, how do you think your child would feel if their day was filled with gentle interactions, such as the hand wash or nose wipe described above?
Mums who approach their children with this kind of conscious gentleness find that things start to change. Children start to trust them more. Not only do hand washing, nose wiping and nappy changes become much easier, but children are more easy going. They don’t need to release excess tension, because they haven’t built it up in the first place.
Try it – and feel the difference.
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