A response to “When Your Child Hits Your Other Child”

A response to “When Your Child Hits Your Other Child”

I have a few questions about this approach.

Can you please provide some peer-reviewed evidence that this approach works long term? Short term? Is it a technique that will give you adorable teenagers but will necessitate you spending most afternoons with your child between the ages of 2 and 7 years old screaming in your arms?

What do you do when you don’t have an entire afternoon to spend helping your child regulate their emotions?

What do you do when your child’s perfectly understandable emotional reactions are distressing everybody around her and going home isn’t an option?

How do you keep your own emotions in check for long enough to deal with your child in this exhaustive manner? How long does it take to become perfect? Is it possible to be a perfectly emotionally controlled mother as well as study or work full-time? Is it possible to be a perfectly emotionally controlled mother and work three jobs to make ends meet? Is it possible to be a perfectly emotionally controlled mother and NOT work full time? Is is possible to maintain this kind of control all day, every day?

How do you cope when more than one child is going through a meltdown at once and you have to cook tea for everyone, or get everyone out the door to go to Nana’s house?

When you tell your child that you will never love anyone more than you love them, are you allowed to exclude your husband? (Given that evidence is increasingly showing that a healthy marital relationship is more important for your child’s well-being than great parenting techniques.)

What do you do when your children get so sick of you trying to talk about their feelings all the time that as soon as you start they shut down and just agree with everything you say, or reply “I dunno”, in the hopes that you’ll shut up and stop nagging them?

You’ll have spotted my agenda here. I have three children aged between 5 and 10 years old. I am studying for a Masters in Psychology. I have given my children time-outs, removed privileges, and other varying forms of discipline, as well as talking with them about their feelings and frequently letting them know how much I love them. My youngest, my daughter, sometimes tells me that when I send her into time out, or yell at her, that I hurt her feelings. I usually respond something along the lines of, “I’m sure I did. You made me angry when you did (x). It’s not very nice for either of us, is it?” All three of them are happy, intelligent and creative, have friends, do well at school, and mostly behave in socially acceptable ways. None of them thinks they are the centre of the universe – or even the centre of my universe, because they aren’t and they shouldn’t be. But they know themselves well and like themselves. And me. And that’s good enough for me.

I think the method of – well, not discipline… I don’t know what you’d call it! – that you’ve outlined here is unrealistic and unnecessary. I think it’s setting up a kind of ideal of a super-mother that most mothers will fail against, and goodness knows, we don’t need any more of those. I suggest that if you publish this comment, and anyone reading it agrees with me, that they go and look up Nigel Latta at goldfishwisdom.org for some real-life ideas.

Blessings, and good luck with your own kids.

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8 thoughts on “A response to “When Your Child Hits Your Other Child”

  1. I started reading the ladies article, but stopped around point 6. Some of it was making sense – but then it seemed like the approach is asking for too much emotional intelligence on the part of the three year old. And dumping adult understandings of emotion and reasoning on a 3 year old’s brain. All these big conversations trying to get to the root of the emotion with a kid that age are unnecessary. All these WORDS at a kid that age are unnecessary. Words words words words words. Too many words.
    Sometimes (actually – usually, in a family like say the one you’ve described. Which is most families in the Western world) – sometimes, a quick resolution is a good one. Tell the 3 year old to move to the side while you comfort the 1 year old. Then you can deal with the 3 year old. This kid is at the stage of learning boundaries about acceptable behaviour – NOT needing to process emotions in such a complex fashion. Some processing, sure – but nothing as complex or long as this lady is suggesting.
    I would never actually comment on this lady’s page directly. Having no kids=you have no clue and your comment has no validity.
    It’s an attitude from parents that’s starting to drive me mad. Anyway, that’s a topic for another day!
    x

    • You made a very good point that I missed. Kids just aren’t up to that kind of level of analysis and expression, and trying to teach it to them too soon is a recipe for frustration on both parts. Kids learn by doing – and they learn the morals behind behaviours AFTER they’ve learnt to perform behaviours by rote or behavioural modification.

      Another example: I’ve always taught my kids to say “sorry” and “that’s all right” even if they don’t mean it, so that when they eventually gain the ability to morally justify their actions, the actions for remorse and forgiveness will already be in place. Does that make sense?

      Miss 5 is just getting to the point now where she really doesn’t want to say “that’s all right” because it ISN’T all right. I’m going to have to talk about the true nature of forgiveness soon – things AREN’T all right, but I’m not going to keep punishing you for what you did. It’s in the past now.

      That’s a biggie.

  2. Your response is very close to mine when I just read it! Who hasn’t been completely confounded by a 3-yr-old’s alien ways? In public, no less? Pft. Forget about other moms not being able to meet your standard. You do what’s best for your child in each unique situation and you can’t go wrong, So hard to compile a step-by-step that is fool proof (there isn’t one). And no one is without opinion on the matter, as you can see.

    Having four, and NOW understanding quite well the 3-yr-old’s emotional dilemma, I can assert that this approach — in general — does work. What it fosters is (later) an 8-yr-old who is better adept at checking her own emotions when a sibling is rubbing her wrong. I’m not saying that she doesn’t always not hit, but rather has a process for realizing when she’s being baited — and then choosing NOT to take the bait and become aggressive toward her. I see this as a milestone for a child since life gives many opportunities to “have a fit” over dealing with a problem, rather than dealing with it in a clearly defined matter.

    They never get too old to be held, rocked, and mothered when out-of-control. (I work to curb my own anger and frustration and vent to my spouse later.) I still resort to this tactic with my 11-yr-old boy when his sister goads him, but never in public. We have a wholly different approach to dealing with such situations in the grocery, but we alwsys revisit the blowup one-on-one later so he can see where it all fell apart and what to do about it next time that doesn’t involve hitting.

    Tricky business, this parenting. We are working to train our kids to have skills with functioning in a very crazy world with even crazier people. I remind myself of this every time I wonder if I’m doing it right. I really do want them to move out of my house one day!

    • I really like your point about the difference between dealing with public situations on the spot, and revisiting them later.

      Heh. Miss 5 started the discussion (just as I’d said “lights out time”, of course) about how she doesn’t like to be without me and Daddy. I said something about when she’s grown up and moves out of home… no no! HER plan is that Daddy and I move upstairs (to where my mum and dad live now) and she gets the two downstairs floors. Mm-hmm. We’ll see.

  3. I’ve been reading this kind of parenting advice for a while now (a gentle parenting framework that encourages parents to honour child emotions and let them happen), and have mostly found it useful. Especially as my daughter gets older and has more words in her arsenal to articulate feelings. But Kirsty makes a really good point about Laura Markham – she uses too many WORDS! And her solutions are lengthy. I can’t be bothered reading her stuff because it’s so bloody laborious to get through. Let alone trying it out on your kid when everyone’s trying to process their own rage (myself included).

    I have enjoyed reading Janet Landsbury’s parenting information – similar approach to Markham, but frankly she writes better and it feels simpler.

    On the whole, I like the principal of empathising with your child and helping them to express emotions. I’ve found it works well with my girl and it’s also good for me. The other thing that keeps me sane is just knowing my role is to be the frontal cortex for my child, since hers is still in progress, so she needs me to intervene, place boundaries and teach her to regulate herself in age-appropriate ways.

    So far, at age 2, we have a conscientious, empathy-filled, independent-minded girl but I’m not sure how much is to do with her basic nature and how much is in response to parenting approaches… Maybe year 3 will throw this all out the window?
    🙂

    • Hi Amber, nice to hear from you! I’m assuming you’re the Amber I know… 🙂

      I like what you said: “my role is to be the frontal cortex for my child.” That’s a very nice way of putting it!

      I would answer the question in your final paragraph with: a bit of both. Plus, perhaps, the fact that she’s your first and doesn’t yet have a sibling to hit…

      I think a key to this approach which Nigel Latta highlights is that you can’t really get into the deep discussions of whys and morals until the rage has subsided – on both parts. That’s why time-outs are so useful at times. For example, the time my then-four-year-old punched me in the pregnant stomach … or the time he was screaming back at me all the things that I’d ever said in the past that contradicted in any fashion what I was telling him to do right now… for the safety of both of us, we needed to be separate. In the second instance, I put him outside (this was after the punching incident so I wasn’t going to try and deal with him up close), locked the door, called a neighbour to come and babysit the other one and then drove in to town to pick my husband up from work so he could help. That son is now ten and is capable of recognising, controlling and defusing his own rages. But if I had tried to empathise with him while he was still in that state, it would have been impossible and possibly unsafe. He needed to calm down alone before he was able to hear me.

      By the way, he has never hit me again. That time, once he’d calmed down, I went into the room where I’d sent him for time out, sat down beside him, and cried. I don’t often let myself cry around the kids because it distresses them, and it’s not their job to help me deal with my problems. But in this case he really needed to see how serious his actions were. We talked, empathised with each other, hugged, and it was over. He’s a very sensitive and empathetic kid at times (which means he can deliberately play on his mother’s feelings when he wants to…) and he’s going to be a lovely man.

      • I am indeed the Amber you know 🙂
        Hi! I’m enjoying reading your blog thoughts, Anna.

        Yes – totally agree on the emotional processing being left till after everyone has calmed down. I can’t function when I’m angry.
        We’re only just starting to experience the irrational toddler tantrums now (looks something like a thrashing fish out of water accompanied by zombie wails… I’m sure you remember). I like to think of it as an immediate cry for help and so normally just try to restore some kind of order quickly and deal with the fall-out later. We have number 2 on the way (due spring) so I’m getting ready for the situations you guys all described above 🙂 It won’t be long before she has a sibling to hit… woohoo.
        I like your solution to the 4yr old interactions – time out from one another and getting backup!

        This parenting lark is full on though, isn’t it?!
        When my girl was about 4-6 months old, I went through this particularly angry phase – it was quite scary and I ended up talking to a counselor about how to manage the rage. In retrospect I think it was a bit of postnatal depression. Very useful to talk to someone about it though. I never thought I’d end up having to re-parent myself to some degree. (I didn’t grow up with the best role models for anger management…)

        Nigel Latta is brilliant too. I’ve read one of his books and Dan in particular relates to his practical advice.

        And from memory your kids are quite glorious and definitely will be lovely adults 🙂

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