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Amy English, Coppell Family Therapy, Sound Advice column, why does my kid hit me?

Sound Advice: Why Does My Kid Hit?

when saying "stop" doesn't work

DFWChild asked Amy English, MA, LPC, a clinical therapist with Coppell Family Therapy, to answer this burning parenting question: When my child wants my attention, he punches my leg or arm. How can I get him to be less physically aggressive?

“When kids begin to seek your attention in inappropriate ways, using the words ‘stop’ and ‘don’t’ generates negative reinforcement of the behavior. Instead, limit the attention you give your child in that moment by stating your expectation—the behavior you do want from the child—in a neutral tone and with no eye contact.

Of course, it’s best to be proactive with both expectations and consequences—telling them, ‘If we need attention, we wait patiently,’ or, ‘If we use our hands in an unkind way, then we have a tech time-out.’ If a kiddo chooses to continue to hit, ignore them in the moment, then later discuss the expectation and the negative impacts of their behavior, first by asking the child their perspective. ‘How would you feel if a friend punched your leg for attention?’ And implement the previously discussed consequence.  

“If the behavior continues, and it appears to be more impulsive versus noncompliant, parents can work with kiddos on nonverbal cues, such as the parent tugging their own ear or touching their own nose, as a reminder.” 

This article was originally published in October 2021.

Photo courtesy of Amy English