When you’re faced with the issue of “my kid keeps hitting other kids at daycare,” it’s essential to address the situation. Young children’s aggressive behavior is common but unacceptable, and in this article, we explain how to collaborate with daycare teachers to find effective strategies for helping your child through this challenging phase.
I believe that one of the most terrifying things that can happen to a parent is to receive a phone call from their child’s school informing them that their child has hurt another child. It is unsettling no matter what form it takes, whether it be biting or any variety of kicking, hitting or throwing objects.
Some children are indeed more likely to express themselves physically aggressively than others; however, this does not imply that there is something wrong with those children or that they are “bad” children. Because of their temperaments and the way their brains are wired, children tend to act more physically active than adults do.
Even though aggressive behavior of a physical nature in young children is perfectly normal, this does not mean that it should be tolerated. It can take time, a lot of repetition, and a group of adults who are all on the same page to help young children learn positive behaviors to override negative impulses.
Make Sure to Communicate Clearly
When communicating with young children, the most important things to keep in mind are being clear, keeping things as simple as possible, and being consistent. My son, who was in kindergarten at the time, had some trouble listening in class, and his teacher would say, “let’s work on first-time listening!” My wife and I would say the same thing at home. You should coordinate with the teachers at his daycare to find out how they are dealing with his hitting behaviors so that you can use the same approach in your own home.
You are also the one who knows your child the best, which means that you are in the best position to provide feedback to the other person if you believe that their approach is an inappropriate fit for the way your kid typically responds to being redirected. It’s possible that the two of you working together can come up with a message that is more persuasive. Maintain open communication regarding the apparent effectiveness of this messaging so that any necessary adjustments can be made.
Prepare a Plan for Your Behavior
When children hit one another, there should be natural consequences, such as the unwillingness of other children to play with the offender. This information may not always be processed by the highly impulsive brain of a young child who has not yet developed the capacity for insight or a good grasp of cause and effect. Despite the common misconception that discipline means only using negative methods like punishment, positive reinforcement is actually a powerful tool for disciplining children of all ages.
Praise and incentives are the “anchors” of positive reinforcement, and they need to be used in the setting where problem behavior is occurring, which is the school. The gap in time is much too large for a child who is still in daycare for any activity that takes place at home to have any bearing on the events that took place during the school day. It is hoped that the teachers will be proficient in child care because that is their area of expertise following their training. However, it is important for you to be aware of the things that they are and are not doing as a reaction to the hitting behaviors.
It is a lot more difficult to “catch” a child in the act of not engaging in a problematic behavior than it is to notice that the child is engaging in the problematic behavior. Explicitly praising a child who is having difficulty with hitting when they demonstrate positive social behaviors such as sharing a toy with another child, offering comfort to another child, or noticing that someone else needs help and helping them can go a long way toward reducing the child’s hitting. Children naturally crave attention from their caregivers, regardless of the quality of that attention; therefore, there are times when simply redirecting their attention from undesirable behaviors to desirable behaviors can cause them to forget the undesirable ways they used to get attention.
I am a believer in the use of rewards, based on both my professional and personal experiences, despite the fact that I am aware that there is a fair amount of debate regarding the use of rewards among parenting experts. If you want to change a behavior, using rewards as temporary external motivators can help. The “temporary” part of the strategy refers to the fact that if it is executed correctly, the need for the reward will decrease over time as the desired behavior will eventually become ingrained in the individual.
You also need to select the appropriate magnitude of the reward; for example, you shouldn’t give a huge, pricey prize for a brief behavior. I frequently encourage people to focus on accumulating experiences rather than material rewards. When my own son had trouble staying quiet during nap time at preschool, the teachers offered him the reward of helping to set the tables for the afternoon snack as a way to motivate him. Because of the possibility of being a “helper,” he chose to remain in his cot throughout the first portion of the nap.
The teachers could offer the reward of being a helper to your child if they can sit or play for this period of time without hitting each other. If your child has a prime time for hitting, such as circle time or outside playtime, the teachers could offer this reward. Once more, this reframes the conversation to center on attention and positive behaviors.
Investigate Whether There Is An Underlying Issue
When the aforementioned strategies of clear and consistent messaging combined with shifting attention to the positive are just not effective, look deeper into the situation. For some people, particularly children who are still in the early stages of language development, aggression can serve as a form of communication. Look for a pattern in the child’s hitting behavior, such as whether it occurs in the same kinds of situations, such as when they want a toy. Or when they are defeated in a match? Or is it possible that other children are making fun of them?
If the issue continues or even worsens, it is highly recommended that you discuss it with your child’s pediatrician. Whether or not your son has any areas of concern, such as lagging language development, can be determined with the help of a standard developmental questionnaire. You and the other teachers might be doing everything exactly right, but if what he truly requires are early intervention speech services, you won’t see as much change no matter how hard you try. Consider and pay attention to your son’s behavior, as it is likely that the hitting is just one of several other concerning signs that he exhibits.
The Heart of the Matter
At the same time that hitting at daycare is a problem, it is also a behavior that falls right in the middle of the continuum between normal and expected. You and his teachers are fortunate in that resources are available to assist you in getting him to stop, even if it will require some trial and error to determine what strategies are most effective for him. It’s all a part of putting together the never-ending jigsaw puzzle of figuring out how your child functions and how to assist him in moving past this phase of his life. You can never be sure of what lies ahead, but perhaps, just perhaps, going through this procedure now will help you be more ready for whatever the future may bring.