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Hitting and Kicking at Age Two Years plus!

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Dear Dr. Turben: Here is my question. John is my son... he has recently started to hit or kick when he feels frustrated with either his father or me. 

An example yesterday: I explained it would be time for nap in about 5 minutes....After the 5 minutes I asked him if he would prefer to walk up to his room on his own or if he wanted me to carry him. (he said no to both). After a little more coaxing, I picked him up and started up the stairs. He started crying and slugged me good in the head twice. I remained calm and explained that hitting was unacceptable. 

He did it again. I ignored it and got him up to his room. While changing his diaper he started kicking me. Once I got him changed, and laid him in his bed, he proceeded to throw everything he could get his hands on. At this point I just about had enough, so I simply walked out of the room and went downstairs. 

He screamed for what seemed like an eternity. I waited about 10 minutes and then went back upstairs. He had calmed down and asked for his blanket, puppy, baby back in his bed with him. He then laid down and went fast asleep.

Did I handle this correctly? How can we teach him that hitting Mom or Dad (or anyone else for that matter) is unacceptable? Time outs?

Let me know...all the books I've got only address hitting other kids in play time situations over sharing toys etc.

Thank, Missy


Dear Missy:

Good for you, you kept calm and you are congratulated because while you carried him up stairs you ignored his tantrum. You didn't give him the attention he wanted, so you handled the situation just great!  It is attention that drives the screaming and as long as you can keep your cool AND follow through on your family rule that it is nap time, you are going to get the whole thing over with in a shorter amount of time. Give him attention for being good and ignore the antics when he lashes out and has a fit! TIME OUTS DO NOT WORK ON KIDS THIS AGE.  Pure repetition and consistency are the tools to use.... and in a few weeks, it will be more routine and peaceful in the house while he sleeps and you collect yourself. Almost  all three-year-old toddlers are bossy and touchy, because they think they are more competent than they really are!

Toddlers are testing their boundaries, and they need to try all kinds of attention-getting in order to develop a positive, healthy self image. Love, not war! You, as parents, stick to the rules, impose discipline by being in charge, and repeating the same routine without interruption every day at the same time!  It is exactly the same in any really good day care facility! The staff is in charge, there is plenty of talking and explaining what comes next in the day in a routine repetitive way....They do not react with shouting, yelling, hitting or isolating!  The teaching and administrative staff, including cooks and aides set the tone, forgive and forget, and give plenty of hugs and kisses all around! You are doing great it seems to me! 

Thanks for writing to me! You know where to find me! 
Dr. Susan Turben..

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