If you know young children, you know about explosive anger. There’s lots to be frustrated about when you’re little, and this pent up emotional energy often breaks out physically. Kids hit, kick, cry and yell.
Hitting per se is not bad. It’s the target. “Let Kids Hit and Kick” is the title of a chapter in It’s OK Not to Share. It gives you tips on how to accept the wild emotions and energy while setting firm limits on behavior. ”You’re mad, but I can’t let you hit your brother. If you need to hit, hit the pillow. It can’t get hurt.”
As parents, we rush to protect other living things – brothers, sisters, neighbor kids, the cat, the houseplant – from our child’s rage. But what about our own bodies? It’s quite simple:
Mothers aren’t for hitting. Fathers aren’t for hitting.
This needs to be an absolutely firm line. People aren’t for hitting. And that includes mothers.
I emphasize mothers here, rather than fathers, because it seems moms have a tendency to allow children to hit them. Countless times I’ve seen angry, frustrated young children attempt to hit their mothers. And their mothers let them.
We cannot allow a child to think it’s OK to hit a parent. This crosses a dangerous relationship line. People aren’t for hitting and parents are people. Why any exceptions? If kids are allowed to hit their mothers growing up, they come to believe that hitting some people is OK. A mother now. A future girlfriend or wife or child later.
What a horrible lesson to convey: don’t hit people, but family members are the exception.
Besides, kids want to be stopped. They’re angry, but they don’t want to be allowed to do just anything. They’re out of control and that’s scary. It’s especially frightening for a child to strike a parent. They know it’s wrong. Crossing the line typically terrifies them more than their own anger. They don’t know if they’ll lose their parent’s love.
Setting boundaries is a big part of what life’s all about.
If you’re a parent who lets yourself be hit by a child, take action to stop. Set boundaries for your body. Move fast, be firm, pin your child’s flailing arms if you have to. Say over and over to both yourself and your child: “I won’t let you hit me. People are not for hitting.”
You owe it to yourself, to your child and to the world.
For more tips about how to set effective boundaries on these tricky issues and how to deal with a child who tries to hit a lot, see chapters on emotions, limit setting and hitting and kicking in It’s OK Not to Share: And Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids.
What about you? Do you remember what it felt like to try to hit your mother or father? Have you ever let your child hit you? How does it feel when you see a mother or father letting themselves be hit in public?