Being a parent is so hard, but when your toddler often hits other children, it can be embarrassing, uncomfortable, and just plain upsetting. So I have a few tips for you parents and providers out there because I’ve been there. My son used to bite other children, and his acting out felt like a humiliation, especially given my field of expertise.
- When a child hurts someone, do not assume their intent was to harm. Most often, the intent of the toddler is to connect or engage in some way.
- Before an encounter with other children, make sure your child is rested, fed, and feeling ready. This will make self-regulating so much easier for your child (thinking good mood=better behavior helps)
- Narrate for your toddler. They are still learning how to recognize and interpret social cues. So when Johnny tries to take a book from Susie, you can say, “Susie, I think Johnny likes that book too, he wants to see the pictures.” Sometimes I feel like I am constantly narrating for the toddlers, but it really helps cut down their frustration, and it helps them recognize social cues as well.
- Practice. Practice. Practice. It might seems exhausting, but putting your child in social settings is the best way to get through this difficult phase when it seems like they have become what you perceive to be “the play date terror”. As parents, it is easy to feel like your child is acting terribly, and to feel bad about it, but practice is good for you too. There will be plenty of times when you will have to navigate these kinds of peer difficulties, so start forming this relationships now, and practice talking it out with others.
- When your child is part of a positive and collaborative moment, recognize and acknowledge it. They need us to send a clear message that the way they acted was helpful, positive, desirable. Reinforce the patterns that help build a socially capable human being early.
- And please be gentle and kind to yourself and your parental peers, no matter what side of the situation you are on. It is tough to see your little one get hit, but it’s also tough to be the mom of that child who hit someone. Try some understanding for the child and the adult, and patience. We are all learning.
- And if another parent says something that feels unwelcome or unkind, try not to let it get to you. I know, that’s crazy, right? But a snide comment and a casual observation can easily be confused when we are feeling stressed, embarrassed and judged. Say to yourself, “if it was just an ordinary day without the hitting, would that comment still bother me?” Chances are it wouldn’t. But in the event that there are truly negative feelings, it’s ok to talk about it with that person. Find a quiet moment without children around, and let that person know how you’re feeling.
I hope this helps, and keep in mind, when you feel like you just can’t take it anymore, your child’s behavior pattern will change. They are constantly learning and growing!