Hitting, biting, pushing, etc.

A blogger who may not wish to be named writes about her 2-year-old:

"[Kid] is hitting. When disciplined, she laughs. And then hits again. I'veslapped her hand (now for the third time, something I'm not proud of) instinctively (why does being hit make you want to hit back?), which she also thinks is very, very funny.

Today, she picked up her toy computer and, full force, smacked the dog in the head with it and when we tried a time out (I know you don't like them, but I don't know what else to do) she laughed. She reacts, a bit, to our anger--meaning she stops what she's doing for a second and then starts to run away--while continuing the action.


I'm at wits fucking end here. We do 1-2-3 magic with most things and that has been working really, really well. But not with the hitting. Help?"

Man, I hate that reflexive hitting. I've done it, too, and it just seems to happen before I know what I've done. It makes me feel like a big old jerk, although apparently it's acceptable <eyeroll>, at least according to the people who make those V8 commercials in which the wife sees that the husband isn't eating any vegetables and smacks him on the forehead. Srsly, why they wanna play us like that? We don't have enough problems with 1) eating vegetables, 2) relating to our spouses, and 3) expressing anger appropriately already? They need to make that stupid commercial with the tired old gag from the 70s?

I think the not instinctively hitting back is just something else we can work on, and I'm guessing eventually the instinct just goes away. People who never reflexively hit and have never had the urge to: Were you hit as a kid? Because it's my suspicion that the reflexive hitting happens because it happened to us when we were small.

But anyway, on to the problem. It sounds like she's frustrated or angry. It's certainly the right age for it. And it's a problem that a lot of kids that age have. Some manifest it by hitting, or biting, or scratching, or kicking, or whatever.

I've talked about this a couple of times in the past, but the important thing to keep in mind in this phase is that it's totally OK for your kid to feel frustrated and/or angry. It's not OK for your kid to hurt people or animals. You don't want to try to make your kid suppress their rage or act "good" or anything that teaches them that what they're feeling is wrong or doesn't matter. The end result of that is that they go underground and start hiding from you.

But you do want to teach the kids that there are things they just never do. And hurting animals is one of them. One way to do this is to give them a designated alternate thing to hit. Some people have gotten a little pillow that they carry around, and whenever the kid starts to hit they reinforce that they can't hit mommy or the dog or whatever, so they should hit the pillow instead. Help the kid hit the pillow, and while it's happening help the kid verbalize the feelings. ("You're angry!") Here's a post from the wayback machine about how I used this idea to get my older one to stop biting people when he was this age.

Giving them a substitute allows them to feel and express their anger when they're still too young to verbalize it well, while also teaching them that there are always ways you can express anger that don't hurt other people.

Anyone else? Did you do things that you thought worked well when your kid went through a phase like this? And how did you deal with the reflexive hitting if you've felt the urge?