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It sounds like your time out plan is a good one. It sounds like it's very important not to be cross with him when he hits, but when you dole out a time out, give him a very flat reaction. No hitting. Time out. Enforce 3 minutes in the time out spot and then quickly require an apology to you (or the caregiver in charge) and an apology (FWIW) to the hittee. Simultaneously, he must be praised (over the top) for ALL appropriate non-hitting behaviors. It's definitely a phase, but he needs to have the skills to get out of it quickly. Teach him that he can get the right response for doing the right thing by focusing grandly on the positive and simply removing him (QUICKLY and without fanfare) from a negative situation. Also, if you can become aware of anything that precedes a hit (is it sharing? is the caregiver not paying him attention?), you can attempt to thwart it during this phase. Good Luck!
ps. besides being a parent, I'm an Early Intervention (0-3) Special Instructor in the US. this is what I would recommend to the families that I serve. :)

He teachers at my kids' preschool occasionally have kids who hit or bite for attention and they have dealt with it by actually not reacting AT ALL at first to the child who does it, but instead swooping in to lavish attention on the hurt child. And once the hurt child is better, calmly and emotionlessly telling the hitter / biter to sit out of activities for a short whole. This way the hitter / biter is not getting the attention they want but there are consequences of NO attention.

Anyway. Don't know if this will work but thought I'd offer it. Good luck!

My son has ADHD and went through a hitting phase. We bought a book called Hands Are Not For Hitting and we read it to him daily. It is a cute book and he really got into repeating it back after we read it so many times. It helped. Another tactic is everyday he goes to school and does not hit he gets a sticker. After 14 stickers he gets a big treat of some sort. Time with you alone doing something fun or something. Make a big deal out of the days he gets stickers. Talk about the stickers often. Kids at this age do great with repetition.

Hope you find some ways to deal with his handsy ways. Good Luck

Hands are not for Hitting worked very well for us too, as did a sticker book - we called ours "Itai's Be Nice Book". It was definitely more about the reinforcement, I don't remember that he got anything beyond recognition (via stickers) and lots of praise for kind, gentle behavior for it.

Hang in there, this is definitely a shitty phase for the parents, but with lots of positive reinforcement, alternative suggestions for things to hit (i.e. pillows = okay, friends = NOT okay), and some time and patience he'll grow out of it soon enough.

I was a nanny for three years to a family that forbade physical punishments. I used quiet times, time outs (one minute per year of age), loss of privileges, etc to take care of bad behaviors.

Unfortunately when the youngest child (Ava) turned 4 all of that stopped working. She was hitting people- kids in her class, her sister, me, her parents & teachers- every single day. After about 2 weeks her parents gave up on regular punishments & told Ava if she hit someone that person had permission to hit back just as hard. It was not fun at all to enforce, but she stopped hitting after about 3 days of the new rule.

I'd recommend you try that only if the time outs & other punishments don't work.

If he's hitting for attention, that might tell you something. I know that you're very driven and busy, and maybe he feels that he isn't getting a large enough share of your attention and love. Have you tried giving him extra one on one time? Maybe like you did with Kate and Adam, a day or just an afternoon all for him and you, and maybe one with him and Marko. You have a big busy family, and I can see how he might feel lost in the shuffle, even if he really isn't.

I had my eldest bite me when she was little and I gave it back to her. She never did it again. I agree with KL

Your plan is a good one - hitting=boring time with no attention. There is a kid at my youngests pre-school who has just joined - and is a 'hitter' and with him it's simply a learning curve for being social. He just needs social skills. In his case - he is trying to be kind and get another kids attention to get them to play with him, but instead of saying "Hi, would you like to play with me and this aeroplane?" he just walks up to a kid and whacks them in the face with the aeroplane. Social skills. Methinks that as the youngest sibling (in your kids case) it's a question of having to compete with two older siblings that brings out his colouful side ;) Don't sweat it - us moms of the hittee's know that's worse for you moms of the hitters, so more often than not - we're ok with it (providing it's never malicious and continuing at this age). So yep - good luck!

I agree with the time out strategy and also encourage praise and positive-reinforcement when he is doing something he should. He is craving attention, and negative attention is still attention.

Same problem with my sweet Sarah. She has been hitting at school for no aparent reason. Time out does not work. The teacher and I have talked about and decided that she is allowed to smack Sarah once if it happens again. She NEVER smacks the children, but we have decided that it is the only way forward. since we came to this decision and told Sarah that this is what will happen, she has not hit anyone.

our pediatrician recommended a drop of hot sauce on the teeth for our 3 year old biter. I was horrified by the thought, but I told my husband and my husband told our son if he bit anyone again, he would get hot sauce on his teeth. I didn't know my husband had warned my son until my son bit my daughter and broke the skin! As she was crying and I was tending to her and ignoring my son in his time out, my daughter told me Dad had warned him. So I had to follow through. My son was crying, I was trying not to cry, my daughter even hid because she didn't want my son to have a burning mouth and she couldn't watch. I could barely get it on his teeth- really only got the one drop from my finger onto his lips, but he still HATED it. He has not bit another person since (for 6 months). And now, whenever he is naughty all I have to do is ask if he remembers when he bit his sister and got the hot sauce and he straightens right up. Lots of restaurants have hot sauce on the tables so it works to show the bottle to the kids! We now have great behavior in restaurants! I hated the idea, but our pediatrician has been practicing since before I was born and her idea worked like a charm. I think it probably works best for biting/spitting/offenses of the mouth. Hitting I am not sure, but might be worth a try!

You mentioned that Adam and Kate yell at him and chase him when he hits them -- this is a large part of the reason why he thinks it is okay and a game. You absolutely must get them to cooperate with whatever strategy you decide to use. He will pay more attention to and respond quicker to them than to anyone else!

We had this problem for about 4 months. My daughter's daycare had a fabulous system. First, they put her on shadow watch - meaning an adult by her side all day. Intense, but necessary. Sometimes that meant she couldn't do what she wanted because she would have to stick with her shadow. So she might be in the kitchen area while her shadow prepared lunch, for instance. Next, if she did bite or hit, attention was lavished on the injured party and she would be involved in the care. Fetching an ice pack, bringing them a toy. And finally, they created "Lilly's quiet place." sort of like timeout, but the idea was to do it in advance of the hitting/biting. If she looked like she was going to bite or hit, they'd block her and say gently, "It looks like you need some space right now. Come and sit quietly and read or play till you can play safely again." It was sort of like timeout... but not a punishment. It took longer than I'd have liked, but on the upside, I think it really enforced compassion and empathy in her for the other kids. And it also strengthened her relationship with the teachers because she wasn't afraid of them. After a month, we noticed her spontaneously going to her quiet place. She'd think of hitting... and then go to her quiet corner. It took a good 4 months before the trouble went away completely. But we started seeing signs of it sinking in much sooner. Just like Max, she wasn't malicious. Either frustrated because the other kids had something she wanted.. or not sure how to join in their game.

After our daughter became a hitter, in addition to some of the ideas in you other comments, one of the strategies we used was to make sure her victim got our attention before she did. For example, when she would hit someone, I would rush over to the victim and ask if she was ok, and attend to her before I would give any attention to my daughter.

Tertia -

This is rather out of the box for me, but sometimes out of the box is a good thing! I have been reading your blog since you were pregnant with the twins. In fact, I think I mark my aging by THEIR aging, haha! That being said, I am a PCOSer who, following many years of infertility, has come to terms with the fact that children just may never be a part of my life. That being said, my life is now the business my husband and I are growing. (No, this is not a sales gimmick).

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Long, long, LONG time blog follower,


I had a biter and our teacher asked if she cld sput soap in his mouth... She did it twice and he hasnt bitten since...

We are very blessed to have an amazing teacher who is both empathetic and firm and our little guy has responded exceptionally well to her. Not that he has morphed into an angel overnight but the tough love approach seems to have worked.

Sorry to hear you are going through this. Our daughter went through a hitting phase at this age and it became a pattern. So what we did was knowing that in the evening she still remembered what she did wrong earlier that day, we told her she could not sleep with her teddy bear if she hit someone that day. Basically, it was the first time she was "grounded", LOL. She was three years old and she started to become a repeat hitter and other things were not reminding her that hitting was bad. Time outs were not being effective anymore. So she still had a time out at school, but the school knew we were following up at home when we got the "ouch report" that day that the teddy bear would be taken away from the evening. I think we only had to do that once, it was so effective. She loves her teddy bear even now at the age of 11 years. Although now if she's grounded, it's something more in tune to her personality today, like TV and video games (both) no subsituting one for the other. Life can be boring if she gets in trouble.

That said we figure out what does motivate her. I think if you sit back you can think of some motivating things for Max. If attention helps him, praise him and spend some extra time with him when he is doing well maybe. Every kid is just not one size fits all. That's why this parenting thing didn't come with a manual, LOL!

We also had a serial hitter at daycare. The usual timeout strategies that the daycare provider used were not effective, so we had to implement some additional follow-up at home.

Each day when we picked him up, we asked for a report. If he had hit at all, we confiscated one of his toys when we got home. We made sure it was one of his favorites. We put them all in a place that was highly visible but inaccessible so he could see them but not reach or play with them. He was VERY sad about this. After several days of confiscating toys, he got it together and had a no hitting day. Then he got to retrieve a toy of his choice out of "jail."

After he had gotten all of his toys out of jail we went on with the positive sticker reinforcement and incentives as Jo-Ann describes above.

We also worked on social skills for talking through things (asking how to play with something instead of snatching/hitting) alongside this.

Good luck!

Hi Tertia,

I agree with some of the comenters when they talked about the function of the behavior. Here are some of my thoughts (Disclamer: YMMV: YOU are the expert on your child, YOU (and Marko) must decide what is the best course of action for your entire family, so take what I am going to say in light of your knowledge and your family's culture and enviroment)
Watch Max and see if you can figure out *why* the behavior is happening. All behavior (negative or othewise) functions as a means to communicate or to get access to a desired obejct or event, area etc.. If he displays incorrect behavior (such as hitting) try to figure out what happened right before he hit; ie: what was he looking to achive/recieve with the hitting? If he's hitting for attention, then no attention, if he's hitting to get access to an object, area, or event, then no item or event. He only gets what he wants when he displays correct (you decide what correct means) behavior occurs. When the correct behavior occurs, reinforce it as quickly as possible with whatever you have decided is appropriate. Could be the thing/event/attention he was asking for or could be something else. I would also structure and schedule your day as much as possible, to give him and your older kids as much predictablity as you can. A visual schedule may be helpful for everyone, as well as a visual remnder of what happens when you hit, and what happens when you (do correct behavior) Google FIrst/Then charts, and visual schedule. Here is the most important part : You MUST STICK WITH WHAT YOU DECIDE TO DO FOR A WHILE. It will make the behavior worse if you try an idea only once or twice before stopping. You need to decide what you are going to do and then do it. (my rule of thumb is two weeks, but YMMV) It's a lot of work, a ton, but think of it as eating an elephant: when you look at the whole thing, it's overwhelming, but when you take each step as one single instance of behavior modification it's not as hard as taking on the WHOLE thing at once. Whew, really long reply but I hope some of what I've said can be of use to you. (Disclaimer: I am a special needs teacher working with nonverbal children on the autism spectrum disorder, so I do this for a living :-D) Any questions, feel free to ask, hope this helps, ta!

Amelia (4) has been knocking Harrison (1) over every now and then ever since he could stand. We asked her not to, reasoned with her, timed-outed her etc etc. Nothing worked. Last night, when she did it again, I said that I didn't think that a little person being knocked over by a big person was ok, but she obviously did. I said that if she chose to do it again, I would do the same to her. WELL . . . it just happened again, a few minutes ago. Over he went onto his face, screamed like a banshee and she standing behind him with the pillow used to knock him down still in her hand. So, I dumped HER on the floor. Everyone was shaken, including me. It did not feel good at all. BUT, she started saying that it was unfair that she was knocked over, because I was bigger, and I asked her then how come it is ok for her to knock Harri over? Silence. But the penny dropped. It was very plainly evident that she FINALLY got it. So now Katie (Harrison's Mum) and I, plus Dad (who is very reluctant to get involved have all said the same thing will happen again if she changes her mind and says that it is ok for a little person to get knocked down by a big person. I don't think that it is ideal, in fact I HATED doing it, but she is head and shoulders taller than kids her own age at pre-school - she can't do that kind of stuff and get away with it. Yes, there may be resentment about all the attention he gets as the baby etc, but tough. It is not ok behaviour. I think it has worked, and don't see myself having to do it again in a hurry (fingers crossed).

When my boy was 4 and in second year of Montessori school, we started having problems. His first year was fine, no bad behaviors and here he is a year older and he was sitting in the director's office most afternoons. I truly had no idea what could be causing the issue. He wasn't hitting or biting, just being so disruptive to the class that he had to be removed. I scheduled a day to observe the class. I quickly realized he had a teacher he could push around. It was her first year teaching. When the disruptive behavior started, she would suggest he needed to sit on the time out carpet until he was ready to be a part of the group. Well, he's roll around on the carpet and have a good time until he decided to rejoin the group and disrupt again, repeat the same thing until he would finally get sent out of the classroom and I would get a call. So we had a meeting with the teacher and it was decided if the behaviors continued, a note would be sent home and he would loose privileges at home for infractions at school. It completely blew his mind that this was even possible. Of course he had to test it, lost a privilege at home and the school behaviors improved drastically. I thought of this story because I agree with JeanettIca above talked about the interactions he has with Adam and Kate, and I agree, things will have to be consistent between home and school. He really is one adorable boy! Good Luck!

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