What can I do?
Make sure whānau is setting a good example.
- Do you, or anyone else in your house hit or smack? If you do, kids quickly learn it’s OK to use force to get what they want
- Make sure everyone at home is showing by example how to deal with frustration without lashing out.
- Help older siblings understand younger ones are still learning to use gentle hands. Explain that their brother or sister is ‘just learning,’ like they had to when they were that age. If you can, share a funny story about when they were little.
Encourage the behaviour you want to see.
- Remind your kids regularly to use gentle hands, especially in situations where they might be getting frustrated and more likely to hit.
- Encourage them to use their words rather than their hands to solve squabbles.
- Give them specific praise when they do well eg Kapai! I like the way you asked for that toy instead of grabbing it off your sister – well done!
Focus on the person who has been hurt.
Avoid giving your child attention after they’ve hit someone. Instead show immediate concern for the person who has been hit. Say something like “It’s not fun when someone hurts you is it?” This helps. your child realise how their behaviour has affected other people and made them feel sad.
Have reasonable and related consequence for hitting.
Clearly explain what will happen if they hit – eg “if you hit your sister, you will need to play on your own for a while” You might need to remove them physically to stop them hitting – try to do this firmly and calmly - not roughly. By calmly removing the hitter and making them play on their own, you’re giving them a logical consequence for the unwanted behaviour.
Suggest a change of scene.
A change of scene might help calm things down faster for everyone. Physical activity is a great way to use up adrenaline our bodies produce in response to stress. Ask them “Do we need to go outside and do some running and jumping? Singing and dancing?”
Have a 'gentle hands' rule.
- If the same rule applies to everyone in the family, your child will be more likely to stick to it.
- Draw a picture together as a reminder and stick it on the fridge, add your family rule – ‘We always use gentle hands in our house’
- Help older brothers and sisters understand their younger sibling’s still learning - just like they did when they were little. Share a funny story about what they did when they were little.
- A calm corner can be a warm and inviting space, maybe with some pillows, books and toys.
- Time in the calm corner is not about punishment – it offers a new ‘space’ to help everyone feel better.
- Everyone can join in the calm corner - it’s a space for thinking and feeling good, not exclusion.
Try time out.
- If the unwanted behaviour continues, a ‘Time Out’ space might be needed
- Time out’ can work sometimes – for specific unwanted behaviours.
- If you do decide to use Time out, be consistent and focus only on one behaviour at a time to avoid confusing your child.
- Talk with your kids beforehand about the type of behaviour that will result in Time Out. Maybe even write/draw a poster for the fridge as a direct reminder.
Try other time out alternatives.
- ‘Time in’ is where you remove your child from the situation but stay with them until they calm down.
- This might be a gentler option than time out, especially for younger children - when kids feel better they usually behave better
- Sometimes if a toy is causing arguments, you could try putting the toy in ‘time out’ – instead.
Try sticker charts.
- Sticker charts can work for specific behaviour you’re trying to tackle.
- With young kids’ short attention spans it’s best to give out a sticker regularly
- “I saw you using gentle hands, you deserve a sticker”
- Gradually stretch out the time between giving stickers as the behaviour improves.
- Make sure you give them lots of praise for using gentle hands.
- You could make the reward at the end special time with you, rather than sweets or TV.
And what about you?
Over it? Use your phone timer to set a time limit for a play activity – your full attention for five minutes is better than half pai for longer.
Had enough? You may feel like you need alcohol or drugs to relax – but they often make the situation worse, especially when you have to deal with kids. Who could help you cut down or cut it out?