Saturday, January 18, 2014

Not My Finest Moment

It's not a secret, Theo is a hitter.

He hits all the time. Sometimes it's because he gets upset or frustrated, sometimes it's just to hit. It is quite possibly the biggest thing that challenges me as a parent.

I've read just about every article out there on how to stop this. I've put him in time out, and when I do that, we make eye contact and I made sure to tell him that he was in time out because he hit. Very straight forward, very to the point and sometimes, I add in how it makes me feel: sad or upset, frustrated etc. Sometimes he says sorry right away. Sometimes he just stares. Sometimes he just cracks this smile at me that makes my blood boil.

I repeat myself over and over saying that hitting hurts, that it's not nice, that people won't want to play with you. I've purchased children's books about not hitting. I've pretended to cry when he hits me, I mean, this list just goes on and on. I've done everything. When time outs stopped working because he started laughing in my face, I started to hold him tight so he can't move. He actually hates that, but he hasn't stopped hitting yet.

I've tried bribery, it worked for one day. I've even tried spanking, but I don't like that. When I do spank, I don't say "Don't hit" it's like the biggest contradiction out there. Instead, I will spank and say something like, "Didn't that hurt? See? Doesn't hitting hurt? You hurt other people when you hit". I always apologize for hitting him too in hopes that he will do the same. I always make him apologize for hitting and he has to say, "I am sorry for hitting you in/on the ______". But lately, he's just been on a hitting spree.

After days of Theo attacking everyone, mostly his brother, I witnessed Theo trying to push Henrik out of a chair that Henrik was in minding his own business. Theo came from the front, but backed up into him and just started this shoving thing. Henrik was worried about falling backwards so he started to push Theo off. He used his words properly, he then started using his hands to defend himself from the hitting whirlwind that was happening. Theo was getting more physical so I told Henrik to hit Theo.

Henrik looked at me like I was crazy. Actually, I can't believe I said it. But, again I said, "hit him. Right on the arm" just as calm and clear as day.  Theo continued to push and hit, and Henrik got this twinkle in his eyes. I could tell Hank wasn't sure if he'd get yelled at after he hit his brother, but then he gave me a little smirk and smacked Theo right on the cheek. Not what I expected, but Henrik was so proud of himself, I could tell this was something he wanted to do for a long time, but he knew that hitting wasn't allowed.

Theo instantly cried. Actually, he wailed. He screamed for a long time and through snot and tears he asked me to kiss it, to hold him and kept saying, "Buh Buh hit me!" I looked at him seriously and said, "Theo, I will not hold you. I will not kiss it. Henrik hit you because you have been a bully too long. Hitting is NOT OK. It hurts our bodies and our feelings. You may not hit." He looked at me in shock and kept crying. Henrik wasn't sure what to do. He was proud of himself but also was sure that when I walked into the other room and called his name to follow, that he was free from trouble.

I sat Henrik down. "How did that feel?" I asked. Henrik shrugged. "Hanky, I know I told you to hit your brother, but is it nice to hit?" "No" he replied. "Look, I don't want you to start hitting, and you may not hit anyone. However, IF your brother keeps hitting after you ask him to stop, and you do loud and clear, and he keeps hitting, then you can hit him, one time, on the arm."

Theo walked in the room as I was telling Henrik this, "No! Don't hit me Hanky!" he yelled and started to cry again. I picked up Theo and placed him on my lap. Henrik was still there. "Look Theo, you cannot hit. If you continue to hit your brother, he will hit you. It will hurt. You will be sad and your body will hurt. But that's what it's like when you hit him. You have to understand that." He just looked at me. I know, he's not even two yet. But this hitting thing is getting out of control. Today he walked up to two of his friends and a random kid and just out of the blue hit them. It would be age appropriate if he did it once or twice, but all day long?  Even after we tell him to stop? Even when we remove him, take away toys or even spank, he still is a hitter.

I don't really know how I feel about this incident. I guess that's why I'm writing about it. It's not the finest parenting moment I've ever had, and I never thought in a million years these words would come out of my mouth, but I had to do something. And I especially had to do something for Henrik who has been bullied and hit by his brother day in and day out all day long. Henrik uses his words and continues to be hit with train tracks, hands or have toys thrown at his face. I had to stand up for him too, right? And I don't want him to be submissive and just take a beating. I want him to defend himself, but I don't want him to throw the first punch.

I am not sure what to do, but today, for the first time EVER, I saw my oldest son stand up for himself with pride and gave me a look where he understood that I was actually on his side. I saw my youngest son in shock that his brother would actually hit back. Most kids don't. For once, Theo got a taste of his own medicine, and guess what? He didn't like it.

Writing this makes me tear up. I have one kid who deserves better and one kid who is causing a lot of problems in this terrible two stage. I can't let Theodor be the "baby" any more and let up on his punishments, or even ignore it. He's almost two. And I can't let Henrik think that I don't care about him or that using your words is always going to work, when obviously it doesn't. Clearly, I can't let a punchfest happen every time my boys disagree, but for now, at least while Theo is in shock over his brother fighting back, maybe it will change the way he acts. Maybe it's just shocking enough to make a difference.

If you have any advice on what to do, please comment.


  1. First of all, good job coming up with new tricks to parent this tricky situation. Now one idea I have is to find a book where a character is hitting other kids, or a TV show where that's the case. We have sharing issues in our house and it helps when I say "You're being just like Edward The Boy Who Wouldn't Share!" I'll ask my librarian the next time I'm there.

  2. I, too, applaud the out-of-the-box strategy. Of course it will cause mixed feelings, but hopefully it will serve two purposes: For Theo to learn to stop hitting, but also for Hank to stand up for himself (without losing control). It is not too soon to learn this, in fact this is an excellent age to learn these things. As I know you've tried everything else, it is better to know you're not continuing to do things that you've proven aren't working and that you're still looking for answers. At the same time, it is also good to have doubts. You're breaking your own rules, and it is hard for a good parent to do when you'll worry about the message in your role-modeling.
    In short, I like the idea. If you hadn't done it, and he had hit another random kid, what if they hit back hard and really hurt something? That'd be an even harder conversation, I think.