By: Holly Kretschmar & Julie Gamberg
My three-year-old hits me (hard!) when I try to work on the computer. I want to be gentle and loving but the truth is I feel infuriated at her and even violent at times, especially when it really hurts and I’m stressed because I’m rushing to finish something. I’m worried that I feel so angry, but mostly I just want to know what to do in this situation. Sometimes I just need to get some work done! How should I deal with this?
First of all, it’s a perfectly normal physiological response to feel rage (or even fear!) when you’re hit. If you need a moment to collect yourself, tell your child that you need to take a breath or sit for a moment and help yourself feel better. This will help your daughter acknowledge the impact of what she did, and it models a recovery technique for her too. Taking a pause to breathe is a powerful tool that she can use whenever she’s upset, whether she’s with you, at school, on the playground, or somewhere else. It helps show her that she can take charge of her emotions.
When you and your daughter have calmed down, explain the rule, and, whenever possible, emphasize the positive side – the ‘do’ – instead of the negative side -the ‘don’t’ – so that your child can focus on what she should do rather than what she shouldn’t. For example, ‘we only touch people gently, we don’t hit’ can be more effective than simply ‘don’t hit,’ because it clarifies your desired behavior.
Then, be proactive by asking yourself: ‘What need is my child expressing when she hits me?’ She seems to need attention when you need to work. Before sitting down to work, can you spend 20 minutes in what we call ‘deep play’, fully engaged in a game of her choice? Once her need for connection is met, she may be more likely to play on her own. If not (anticipating that a play break for you isn’t possible), here are some ideas to try:
Some of these tools may work; some of them won’t. Every child is unique, so it’s important to be creative and open to trial and error. Above all, take some comfort in the fact that your daughter enjoys your company and wants to play with you. And let us know how it goes.
Holly & Julie
Holly Kretschmar and Julie Gamberg are two parents, writers, and educators who live in Los Angeles and are writing a book about parenting tools.
You can email them with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
[Photo Credit: Richardalan]
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Originally published on The Seattle Lesbian
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