When I was a young mom, I was standing in the foyer of the church building talking with an experienced mom, who had raised several great kids. In the middle of our conversation her youngest son (who was the age of my oldest son) come to talk to her. I don’t remember why he was not happy but it appeared he was feeling like he was not getting the attention he needed. He kicked his mom in the shin. I remember thinking what a spoiled little boy he was and that I would never let my child kick me and get away with it. She looked down at him with a sad expression and said nicely, “Please don’t kick me, that hurts and it’s not kind”. Her response perplexed me and the experience stayed in my mind for years.
What should you do when your child kicks, or slaps or bites you? Instinct makes me want to lash out and hit them back.
Or, I use to wonder if I should do the same thing back, like bite, so he would know how it felt.
Now that I’m older I realize that adults should not imitate kids poor behavior, instead they should Model correct behavior. Rather than do the same thing back to them to show how it felt, kindly tell them what they did was not kind or acceptable. Express how it made you feel and what the consequences of doing it again will be.
The situation could go something like this:
Young child is stroking your cheek and suddenly slaps you.
Make a sad face and say,
“Ouch, that hurt me. It makes me sad when you hit. Let’s just love each other like this” stroke their face, or give a hug or kiss.
If they change their actions and are kind for a little while but then repeat the same negative behavior (often they will to test you to see what you’ll do the next time) tell them again that you’re sad when they hurt you and that if they choose to hurt you, they will need to be away from you (put them down if you are holding them, put some space between you and them etc). Tell them,
“I like it better when you act sweet so we can be close to each other”.
I don’t believe any learning happens when you scream at your noisy children, “Be quiet”. Or when you say, “Stop hitting each other” as you spank your child. That type of behavior is sending mixed messages. It’s like the old adage, “What you’re doing is yelling so loud I can’t hear what you’re saying”.
I know it’s hard to keep your cool when your child hits you, or kicks you or spits on you. But when it happens, say over and over in your mind, “I love this little person, I love this little person… Be kind… “ and try to remember to Model appropriate behavior.