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Helping Kids Who Express Anger Through Hitting

expressing anger through hitting
Having A Conversation About Parenting… Again!

I was hanging out with my dear friend Amy this weekend
and we were having a discussion about kids.
You can’t really spend more than 5 minutes with me
without that topic coming up!

She asked me how I would suggest dealing
with a 2 year old boy who has begun hitting.

Expressing Frustration and Anger Through Hitting

It is her nephew whom she loves dearly.
Lately he has taken to hitting when he is frustrated.
She wants to help him through this so that he
no longer takes out his frustration in this physical way.

Sometimes he hits her on the arm or leg
and it really hurts.

She was thinking that it makes sense to express this
Pain to him and show him some sort of authentic reaction
So that he knows the effects of what he’s doing.

Choose An Approach That Achieves The Highest Results

I do understand the idea behind this approach,
The problem is it won’t actually achieve the result that she wants.
The best outcome would be that
he learns discernment
and develops empathy
so that he feels the right and wrong forms of hitting.

I have never been a fan of the phrase
“Hands are not for hitting.”
Because in fact that is one of their primary purposes.

There Are Appropriate Times To Hit

There are many positive and enjoyable times to hit things.
For example in every form of martial arts
We learn to hit each other.
This is done in a consensual and extremely enjoyable manner.

There are many powerful benefits to the martial arts.
We learn self-control, discipline, a sense of empowerment
And one of the main things that is taught
Is the responsible and intelligent use of power.

My Daughter Learned To Hit In A Positive Way

I taught my daughter martial arts literally from the day she was born.
And I use the word literally literally!

She has learned to hit extremely effectively.
her ability to defend herself is significant.
(you really don’t want to get hit by her!)

When we practice martial arts we have often hit each other
even to the point of giving each other bruises.

We both love these experiences.
In fact we treasure them and they bring us closer together.
We laugh about these times for days and days.

And yet our relationship is one of
deep affection and gentle respect.
She is a very kind, compassionate and patient person.

There Is Positive Hitting In Sports As Well

Another positive expression of hitting is in sports.
In baseball we use a bat to hit a ball
In football we tackle each other
In hockey there is checking

All of these are different forms of hitting
and are part of these enjoyable games.

Self-defence or Protecting Someone Else

There are also moments when hitting might be necessary
for self-defence or to protect someone else.

As a martial arts and self-defence teacher
it is part of my responsibility to teach the discernment necessary
to know when this might be appropriate.

In 99 cases out of 100,
or perhaps 999 cases out of a 1000
it is possible and preferable to deal with
potentially dangerous situations
using verbal diffusion and emotional connection.

Being aware of one’s surroundings and environment
and avoiding dangerous situations all together
is much better than ever having to use violence.

Being Prepared For That One Time Is Intelligent

But there may come a time when one must physically defend oneself
or use physical violence to protect someone else.
In that moment it is good if one is prepared and able
to do what is necessary to preserve life.

Once again we see the importance of discernment.

Uncommon Acceptance Opens Doors

So then Amy asked me
“What do I do in the moment when he actually hits me?”

I said that the important thing is to connect with him
and make him feel accepted.
Making him feel bad won’t inspire him to
be open to your guidance.

My tendency in that moment would be to say
“Wow that was a really good hit.
You are so good at hitting.
Hit me one more time.”

I know this seems like, from the traditional mindset
that we are rewarding bad behaviour.

Connecting With Where He Is In The Moment

In fact what is happening is that
we are connecting with this young person
so they can feel loved and safe enough with us
that they can hear our guidance
without being made to feel bad about themselves.

When this little two year old expresses his frustration
through the natural impulse of hitting
He’s not being bad.
He is acting on instinct.

That moment of connecting with him will open a door
and make it easier for him to allow Amy into his heart.

From The Place of Connection and Acceptance
We Can Teach and Guide

Once she is in she can then begin the process of
teaching him the discernment and understanding
necessary to choose when and what it is appropriate to hit.

Offering Alternatives

At that point she is also able to offer him
alternative ways to express his perfectly natural feelings.
This is where true guidance and education happen.

He would not be as open to looking at different approaches
if he is feeling judged and less worthy of love.

Negative Reinforcement is Teaching Through Fear

I know someone who taught his infant daughter to not pull hair
by pulling her hair and causing her pain every time she pulled his hair.
He somehow had convinced himself that he was teaching her empathy.
instead of inspiring fear in his daughter.

Teaching kids through negative reinforcement
is a surface level and shallow way
to approach something so deep.

Taking an approach based on
connection, acceptance,
communication and reasoning
is always more powerful than attempting to
control and modify behaviour from the outside in.

Amy Resonates With The Idea

Amy seemed very touched with these ideas.
I love her!
She’s so open and loving.

She deeply wants to take the most
loving and effective approach.

I know that her nephew is blessed
to have her as a guide in his life.

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