This past weekend we had a normal few days of keeping the boys busy with activities, meeting up with friends and squeezing in some time to relax. Saturday, we went to a local farm for barrel rides, a corn maze, and other kids’ activities. Normally this would be a place I let myself relax a little and give the boys some space to play. But not anymore.
See, there’s something out there that’s been hurting my heart and I know other moms deal with too. My sweet, loving, gentle Beau has a few-months long habit of hitting other kids.
That means, as of last week when we had a big wake-up call, I’m watching his every move, constantly scared he’s going to wind up and give an innocent kid nearby a good hit. So every few seconds when he was jumping on a bouncy pad at a fall festival, I was frantically running from side to side, terrified he was going to give an unexpecting kid a good whack. I was that frantic mom screaming, “nice hands, gentle Beau, GENTLE!”
When we go places and he notices a child around his size or smaller, he may randomly (out of no where) just go up and give them a good push or hit on their back. Sometimes their face. These instances have happened at parks, COSI, friends houses, music classes, pretty much everywhere he goes and gets excited. I have followed the recommended reactions from pediatricians and friends: pull him out of the situations, tell him no, apologize to the parent and child, and not reinforce the behavior with any other type of hitting or reprimand. I have started to stay very close by him and stop the behavior if I see it happening. We don’t do any kind of hitting in our home, including spanking, and he rarely hits Shepard.
It has been exhausting, embarrassing, and frustrating. I feel like we’ve been working on this for several months, and I honestly haven’t seen a big improvement in his behavior. But I think the hardest part as Beau’s mom in dealing with this problem is the lack of empathy from others. Now, some moms get it. Some definitely don’t. Most childcare providers get it. But I’ve witnessed people call his behavior “aggressive,” leave the parks we are at, tell me I’m not giving him enough attention at home, and tell me that their child was distraught by Beau’s behavior. All of these have stuck with me and hurt me deeply. What I want to tell them is that:
- Beau is my gentle boy. He’s much more calm and gentle than Shep ever was. He never gets mad about anything. I haven’t even seen a temper tantrum (yet) from him.
- Beau is learning. He’s slower to talk and I know he’s frustrated he can’t say what’s on his mind. I am working to respond to his requests as soon as he needs something, even if I don’t quite understand. I try to understand.
- He gets lots of attention. We give him so much love and sweet, gentle touches. We rock him. We cuddle him. We give him calming baths. I hold him constantly. He knows what nice touches are like.
- This is normal. Every doctor (friends and our own) have reinforced this is a normal phase. He will eventually learn and grow out of it.
- He is not aggressive. When I have heard this word I’ve wanted to scream. He doesn’t hit out of anger, or wanting a toy, or because another child did something that upset him. The kids he does this to often don’t even see him coming (which I know doesn’t make it any better). It’s his way of orienting himself with others around him.
- He didn’t pick up this behavior somewhere. It started long before he started school. The school he goes to has been a great partner in helping him, and he is getting consistent reinforcement at home and by his teachers.
So friends, who have dealt with this, biting, or another behavior phase that’s just plain tough, I feel your hurt and frustration. With my second child, I don’t have it all figured out. But I do know after dealing with other phases with Shep, it will pass. And I’ll do the same I’ve done before, love my sweet Beau fiercely and unconditionally, regardless of the comments I get in the playground. Here are some articles and things I’m doing to work with my Beau on this:
This book on repeat at bedtime — Hands Are Not for Hitting
This AHA Parenting article
Mommy Shorts (her little Mazzy had a hitting phase): 5 Step Approach to Stop Your Child from Hitting
Most of all – my sweet friends who keep encouraging me we’ll get through this and that Beau is the sweet, kind-hearted boy we know and love!
How do you handle off-hand comments from others about your child’s behavior?
On to the linkup!