Lately, my 6-year-old daughter has been physically violent. She is hitting, scratching and kicking me when I give her an instruction that she does not like. She actually punched me in the chest when I took a book away from her because it was bedtime. I was so shocked that I just left her in her room crying, but not until I lost my cool and raised my voice.
When she calmed down, I spoke with her about her behavior. She apologized and seemed genuinely confused about why she acted that way. She wants to stop, and I want to help her. It seems that I am the only recipient of her physical lashing out.
Anger is a normal emotion that we all have. Your daughter is now at the age when she must learn some calming techniques to help her manage her anger in a more appropriate manner.
In a neutral time when she is not upset and there are not any negative behaviors occurring, talk to her about anger. Tell her that we all feel it and that we can recognize the feeling by what happens to our bodies when we are mad.
Sometimes our voice gets louder or we clench our teeth or fists. Some people even hit or throw things. These are not good choices because people can get hurt. But there are things we can do to manage our anger that are safe and OK.
Ask her to come up with a few options when she feels herself getting angry. She could hug her favorite blanket or stuffed toy until the anger goes away. She could say, “Mommy, I am mad,” and you could suggest a calming technique for her.
She could also “blow out her birthday candles.” To do this, she holds up as many fingers as she is old. Then, one by one she can blow out her “candles,” folding each finger down as she blows it out. She could also count to 20.
Be creative. If one method does not work, try another. Write them down and post them on the refrigerator. Have her star the ones that work the best. She can refer to this list when she is angry.
Practice them and praise her when she practices. Also, reinforce her with praise when she effectively utilizes one of the calming techniques.
When situations become tense, remember to FIRST manage yourself and your emotions. THEN manage the environment to make sure everyone is safe. FINALLY, manage the situation or the behavior by teaching a more socially acceptable alternative. One of the most powerful tools is modeling. When your daughter sees how you handle yourself when you are angry, she will likewise do the same.
My 11-year-old daughter hit her friend in the face over something as ridiculous as a card game. This is the first time this has happened, but I am very upset. I don’t believe in physical violence. Rarely have I spanked her. I never have in the last three years.
We encourage you to first have her apologize to her friend and promise that this will never happen again. That is the first step in mending the friendship. Then you must concentrate your energy on teaching her what she can do the next time she gets frustrated or angry with a friend.
Ask her to think of a better way to handle it. If her suggestion is acceptable, go with it. If not, make a suggestion yourself. Provide her with a good reason for doing this (to help her make and keep friends). Then help her practice the skill.
Pretend to be her friend who is doing something upsetting. Have her use her new skill to resolve the situation that before would have made her want to physically lash out. Reinforce her attempts at practicing by praising her efforts. If she needs more practice, provide that opportunity.
Remember that our children’s misbehaviors provide us with teaching moments. If that is our focus, we are less likely to get overly upset ourselves.