How to Stop Your Child From Hitting In Anger
The morning began like any other
So I really wasn’t prepared when the chaos began
We’d already done most of the getting ready
So there was a little time to play
But then both boys reached for the same toy
Of course one got to it just a moment before the other
And almost without warning the volcano
That being my son erupted
The disappointment and frustration
Spewed out as anger
With fists flailing and legs kicking
Most directed at me
Some even landing.
I felt some of that familiar anger rise in me
Like how dare he hit me
He’s 6. He should be handling this better.
This is not okay
He should not do this
But instead I took a breath
I breathed out all the thoughts that were trying to make this moment about me
I breathed in compassion and empathy for my son struggling through these feelings
This doesn’t mean I was accepting the behavior
As I placed my hands gently but firmly on his arms
Pinning them to his side
As I stated, “You can be angry. I won’t let you hit me”
He shot me an angry glare
And then moved his anger to the Legos
Trying to smash all of his brothers hard work
Again I stepped in
That this was not okay
So he began to remove every Lego creation
Off the shelves and onto the floor
Almost comical in his gentleness amidst the anger
And here’s where I got to see all the hard work of emotional regulation
Play out in his brother as he witnessed this
I saw the anger begin to rise in him
But then restore calm without the reaction
That was so typical of him just a short time ago
To run in and try to take his brother’s head off.
Once again, I approached my little boy
So caught in this anger and feelings
He was struggling to find himself a way out
I suggested he go up to his room
Not as punishment but to sit with his anger
To throw is own things
To pound on the bed
And off he ran.
Only to return a little while later
With a look of satisfaction on his face
That I would later learn was the knowing that
He had just tossed his room apart and half of his brother’s room
But that would have to wait as we headed off to school.
As I checked my rear view mirror,
I saw him sitting quietly
The tension from just a short time ago melting away from his face
“Hey bud,” I gently called back
He slowly raised his eyes
“You were pretty angry. I hear you. Anger is okay.
What’s not okay though is not showing respect
To other people’s things and spaces.
After school before screen time
You’re going to have to take care of that.”
He didn’t say a thing as he grabbed his book bag
And jumped out of the car
I have to admit I was a little nervous for the end of the day
I really didn’t want to have to deal with enforcing the boundary
Anticipating push back.
But at the end of the day I instead was witness to
His growth through my acceptance.
As he came in the house, I gently reminded him
Of the repairs he had to make
And without a word, off he went.
He came back about 10 minutes later
Reporting he had picked everything up
Asking to go start his screen time.
I called him over and pulled him into a hug.
He leaned in.
“You were pretty angry this morning” I offered in observation.
“I wasn’t myself” he replied.
“I’m really sorry I hit you. I wasn’t myself.”
“I know.” I shared with him.
“That’s why I didn’t get mad. I would like to support you.
How might we work to do this in the future?”
We chatted a few more minutes
And off he ran
I’ll guess we’ll see next time, I thought with a smile.
Next time came quickly when the same scenario began
The morning after
Either he only wants the toy after he sees his brother grabbing it
Or he really was on his way to grab the same toy, I’ll never know.
But I saw the familiar anger rising as his muscles tightened
And his breathing quickened
This time I simply said
“Remember solutions don’t happen in anger.
Do you want to blow out your candles?”
And in just a little bit of amazement I watched
As he did just that
And the anger floated away
Instead of reacting, he asked his brother if he could have one
And I watched from the sideline as they found
a solution that worked for both of them.
My son learned an important lesson
In this experience
A lesson that wouldn’t have happened
Had I reacted to his anger with anger of my own.
He learned that all feelings are accepted
Even those uncomfortable one
And even when he’s struggling to manage them.
He learned that there is repair to be done
When anger takes over and the choice
Is made to not honor a family value.
He learned that solutions are possible when we
Can acknowledge the anger
Allow it to pass through
And moving forward.
Guiding a child through uncomfortable feelings
Is one of the most important jobs we can do
Helping a child process those feelings
Learning to be in touch with the body as those feelings flood in
And know that calming the body is a choice.
It’s about guiding them to balance the feeling
As opposed to being in the extreme
Which feels very out of control
And while there is nothing wrong with those big feelings
Teaching and guiding a child how to calm the body
Allows the “thinking” brain to come back online.
This feels hard and impossible when we as parents
Never learned to process our own feelings
To have the awareness in the moment
To restore calm and get out of our head
To be able to hold compassion for our child.
Because when the body perceives stress
And a child trying to hit and kick you
May just activate that a little
As you feel powerless to control this
The brain reacts by going into automatic reaction mode
The brain says oh I know what to do here
And the learned response that you have for feeling powerless
Is activated to gain power and control back.
In that attempt you lash out
Using whatever means you have in that moment
To threaten consequences
To pick up your child if you can to place him in his room
And hold the door shut against his tears
To punish him for the behavior.
I know those reactions
Because those used to me mine
Just a short time ago
Where punishment and consequences were the norm
And my reaction could only change when my kids learned to behave better.
But now I know better
I know that I can choose to remain calm
I can choose to see myself as my son’s teacher and guide
I can choose to see my child as struggling vs acting out
Or being bad.
I know that my feelings are created by my thoughts
And that with awareness I can change my thought
That will shift my feeling in the moment.
And in this calm I can let go and just be present with my child.
I know I’m not responsible for his feelings
To fix them, to change them, to end them
Therefore I don’t need to argue with them.
I can stay present in the moment as to not engage
In a power struggle over the behavior
Because I know that if I only focus on the behavior
I’ll just get more of that next time.
I know this doesn’t mean that I accept the behavior
And the thing is, he knew the behavior was not a good choice
But as he said he really wasn’t himself
So instead I focus on giving him another strategy
For the next time that anger floods in.
Teaching happens in acceptance and calm
When your child is open to your influence
Vs. fighting against your control.
Parenting begins with the parent.
When a parent shifts the approach
It opens up possibility and solutions that didn’t exist
In the anger, the resentment, the frustration.
Cultivating awareness and inner peace
Is at the core of parenting
To create that peace in the family
In any moment or circumstance
Because only then will a child feel heard.
Children don’t need more punishments or consequences
To shift a behavior
They need a new solution
So they don’t need to use the behavior
And sometimes the solution is simply to be accepted and heard
To be met with empathy instead of anger.
Did this resonate with you?
Want to learn more about power struggles, behavior
And why you feel like you’re giving in to your child
When you’re not in control?
Awareness begins with understanding.
I can tell you to breathe through these feelings all day
But without the understanding
The shift in perspective
Your thoughts remain the same
and if feels like your child’s getting away with something
if you don’t punish the behavior.
Ready to see your child and parenting from a different lens? Grab parenting support here!
Irene is a certified parenting coach who is passionate about creating peace in parenting and opening parents hearts to what is possible in their family. She works with clients 1-1 and offers support through her digital course, The Peaceful Parent Playbook. She is host of the private Facebook Community, The Moms Hive. She is inspired to help moms let go of the doing that leads to the overwhelm and more “bee-ing” in peace, joy and a love for parenting.