How I’m Dealing with Hitting Without Using Time Out
MOMMMM! He HIT me!!!
Ugh. At the beginning of the summer we were in a terrible phase of hitting behavior between siblings. Frustration? SMACK! You said the wrong thing? SMACK! You won’t play with me? SMACK!
I knew time out as a consequence didn’t work well for us, but in desperation I went back to that as a discipline technique. One go-round of a screaming-panicky child pulling while I tried to hold the door closed and I felt like moron; it reminded me why this was a dumb move for us.
I had to look at this from the parenting perspective that really works in our household.
Here’s what I put in place instead of time out:
My husband and I had been busy and TIRED and honestly, not too focused on our kids. I thought back to one of the top recommendations from Amy McCready’s Positive Parenting Solutions Course – kids NEED connection to be able to cooperate. My kids needed us and the hitting was one way to get us to notice this need.
- I took a hard look at my plans and backed out of a few commitments that were not necessary.
- I recommitted to spending at least 10 minutes a day one-on-one with my kids – I particularly focused on the child who seemed most off kilter. This is HUGE for us. I am working to connect with them every day in a positive way so they don’t try and get my attention with hitting and fighting.
- I called a babysitter to gain time to finish up some work commitments so I could feel less overwhelmed and more able to slow down and be present with my kids.
The more the kids hit and fought, the more angry and chaotic I felt. I had to create a more peaceful home in order to help us all calm down.
- I cleaned out the toys from their room and stored or got rid of them. A few toys are left out in our guest room for them to play with. This clear space seems to give us ALL some breathing room and has really taken the tempers down a notch.
- I am taking times when emotions are calm to talk about how people act when they’re angry – what is helpful, what makes us feel bad. When someone (including myself) has handled anger well, I talk about it afterwards remarking on what they did that worked. “I was so angry! I wanted to yell and break something, so I took some time in the other room. I took a lot of deep breaths, then I felt like I could think about a solution a little easier.”
A plan for when someone hits:
I made a plan for what I would do if someone hit. I try and stay out of sibling conflicts and let them resolve their own problems, but since they were going past the point of ‘talking and solving’ into ‘yelling and hitting’ so often I realized they were showing me that they needed more guidance on how to deal with their frustrations.
- I made a kindness board and told them the consequence for hitting or nastiness (you know…just being plain nasty to each other) is that they will need to add one kind thing about the person they hit and a kind thing about themselves to the board. I write down the kind thing they tell me, and if they were too upset at that time I just make a mark on a post it note to remind me to enforce the consequence later. Before a video or dinner or some other event I’ll say, “When you’ve told me your kind things then you can watch the video.”
- I began to make an effort to reinforce sibling conflict resolution skills. If it starts to seem like a fight is getting out of control, or if someone comes and tattles, I reminded them of the words, “When you__________, I feel________ and I would you to____________.” I try and model this for them and helped them find the words they needed to talk to each other.
- We are doing more ‘time in’ – when chaos erupts I take one, two, or all three of the kids and either involve them in whatever activity I’m doing, or take a few minutes to calm everyone by sitting on the couch and reading a story. For more on how people use time in, see the comments on this post.
Dealing with hitting without using time out sometimes feels more complex than a one size fits all answer, but it is feeling more effective than the power struggles that time out brings about in my home. I’m not perfect and have days when I shout at them to stop fighting, and I have time when the last thing I want is to do is pause and read a book to everyone, but over all I’m seeing more cooperation and with practice, more self control.
- You can learn more tools to invite cooperation in your household in the free one-hour video class titled, “Is Time Out a Waste of Time?” that I’m hosting with Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions on July 23rd at 9pm Eastern. Please register HERE if you’d like to reserve a spot!
What about you? Do you deal with hitting between your kids? Any tips for me?
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Alissa, it was great to read this post this week. We are going through something similar at our house at the moment and there are some great ideas that we can start to try immediately, like ‘time in’. Thanks!
Chelsea @ Moments A Day
Very helpful ideas. Going to email this to my husband so we can discuss tonight 🙂
Thank you! I’d thought it was me; it is comforting to know that I’m not the only mother that struggles with this. Thank you for the wisdom and support!
Andrea :: Crafting Connections
I love that you share these types of posts Alissa! Time outs really don’t work in our family either (though we do have times when a little one – or me! – choose to go into another room to take a break or have a touch of alone time). Anyhow, love the kindness chart and that you let your little ones mostly work things out on their own (I do the same).
Kelly @ IdealistMom.com
These are great tips. My second is a newborn, but I know these are going to be useful before I know it so I pinned it for safe-keeping! 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing this, it is exactly what i needed to read today. You’re so right about the need for connection!
I like the multi-pronged approach to this problem….It’s such a common problem for kids and parents- Great suggestions- I’m going to make a kindness board!
Tricia – I like your description of it as a “multi-pronged approach.” For whatever reason that is a useful visual to me to frame it that way. I guess I use a multi-pronged approach to a lot of parenting situations 🙂
Thanks for posting. I’m recently going through a tough phase right now and your newsletter in my inbox couldn’t have come at a better time! I also feel like a moron when I’m holding the door for a time out and am glad to know I’m not the only one (and we aren’t really morons, just at the end of our ropes!).
I was just wondering how to handle the hitting and screaming and sharing with a one and three year old.
I was reading through the comments made on Allisa’s wonderful post and noticed no one answered your question.
With a one and three year old some of the conflict is normal to their stage in development. For example, the one year old just isn’t ready to share and your three year old is barely out of the toddler stage and just beginning to understand that concept.
The truth is there is no easy way around it. You have to be present and pay attention to your kids or they will get your attention in any way they can. This article was excellent. Time out is an easy fix with short term results. Taking the time to allow your kids to learn how to manage their emotions and do what is right because that is their choice takes a lot more time and effort, but with long term results.
To make this work for your 1 and 3 year old pay attention, Pay Attention, PAY ATTENTION (or pay the consequences 🙂 )
If the kids are hitting, find out why. Are they hungry, tired, bored?… or are they trying to get your attention. If they are hitting all the time do they get to bed at a time that allows them to get all the rest their growing bodies need? Are they eating breakfast within say an hour or so after waking up? You would be surprised at how much a child’s behavior can depend on the needs of his/her body.
How do you handle their behavior? (I nor anyone else need the answer to this question posted, it is for you to ask yourself.) If you are giving them a swift response (yelling or otherwise) to their negative behavior, that can be pretty powerful for a child. Remember, negative attention is still attention. Modeling the appropriate behavior can be exhausting. Kids can take a lot out of us emotionally if we aren’t paying attention to them.
This response has turned out to be a bit long and I apologize for that. I love Alissa’s approach to the negative behavior. I hope this was in some way helpful to you.
mother to 3 grown kids
grandmother to 10 grandchildren
In home daycare provider for more than 12 years (cared for 7 kids at a time mostly in the two year old age group. Ages ranged from new born to preschool.)
currently taking care of my 1 year old (nearly 2) grandson and two other little girls younger than him.
Thank you!!! I absolutely love your response here, and I’m so grateful you took the time to share your knowledge.
Thank you again,
Thank You Tammie for responding. I am grateful for the advice. When the behaviors happen I am normally busy doing something or I just spent time with the other child, so it makes sense.
This is SO true for me and my household. Even with boys who are 13, almost 11, and almost 8, when the house is a mess or I am distracted, that’s when they fight. When things are uncluttered and I am present, they get along fabulously.
Dawn @ PricklyMom
Another great, timely post! You described the current scene at my house perfectly. I’m going to check out your sibling conflict link. Isn’t it something how they’re at each other’s throats one minute and best friends the next? 🙂
Yes – my kids give me LOTS of opportunities to teach conflict resolution 😉 but they definitely are great friends to each other too, and I’m so grateful to watch those relationships develop.
Great techniques and I am filing them all away in my little brain for when the time comes that my little Pumpkin has a brother or sister. Thanks!
great ideas! We don’t do time outs either….I really like the kindness board!
Rachael :: Nothing if Not Intentional
I love this. My husband was falling asleep, and I was like, “hey, wait! I think we need to give A (our oldest) more one-on-one attention!” She’s been biting, testing boundaries, resisting our instruction a lot lately, and I think this would help. I may not have chosen the best time to share with him, but I think even someone dozing off can appreciate the wisdom in your words! 🙂
Thanks Rachael. That connection time helps so much and sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that when I’m in the midst of a behavior problem. Once I turn my attention to doing something proactive by making an effort to connect I’m always blown away by both how pleasant it is to feel connected with my kids and by how much more they want to cooperate when their attention “bucket” is filled.
What an incredible post!!!! Thank you so much for the awesome tips. It really made me reevaluate the way I handle disputes between siblings. I’m so excited to use these tactics with my little ones.
I absolutely LOVE this! Your entire article is me to a T and I love you solutions, I’m making a mental note to come back (when I’m not supposed to be working lol) and get all the details so I can implement these things with my boys!
Loved your approach. great perspective.