'My Child just Hit Me! What Do I Do?'

anger in kids lens shift Aug 08, 2022

 Sometimes parents post here saying, “My kid hit me.. what should I do? She hit me so hard that I got a bruise! How do we positive Discipline THAT?!”

And I think what they’re saying is, “I’m feeling attacked by my kid. This is not fair. It doesn’t feel very fair. I’m the parent. I should be respected. How dare she hit me! And now do you see what I’m up against? Please have some sympathy for me!”

I do. Truly.

In fact, I want you to know... I get it. I’ve been there too. The first time my now eldest son hit me, he was maybe 4- I was so taken aback! It was at a friend’s house and without giving away that family’s identity, I’ll say E probably had probable cause to get really really mad and I should’ve read his cues and removed him from the situation but I didn’t.

When he hit me as I was trying to pacify him, I was stunned. I distinctively recall the feelings. I felt... almost violated. Indignant. Angry. Shamed. So many feelings. I quickly gathered my stuff and the kids and rushed out of my friend’s house.

As we drove back home, I struggled to keep my composure. I had, by that time, been pretty familiar with respectful parenting and knew that kids his age do sometimes hit when they’re struggling and that it’s age-appropriate and yet that knowledge didn’t help me in that moment.

I really felt like I had to DO something. Yet all the literature I knew said to let it go. That added to my flood of emotions. How could I let this go? It felt so wrong!

“I didn’t like that you hit me,” I said to E in as neutral a voice as I could.

“He wouldn’t share his toys and you didn’t do anything to help me!” He shot back.

“Right and you still can’t hit me.” I said.

He got quiet then and as we drove home in silence, I was still seething inside and wanting him to apologize to me. He didn’t. That made me even more frustrated... disappointed.. ashamed... a whole new slew of emotions.

But I remember sticking with the plan and letting it go.

That was about four years ago. And maybe he hit me a couple of times after that and I responded the same way. He’s almost 8 now and we have just the most delightful relationship الحمدللہ

Me letting go of his hitting didn’t turn him into some kind of monster. I kept trying my best to model emotional regulation (by walking away or taking deep breaths when I’m angry) and he’s come a long way though he’s a sensitive kid so big feelings are just how he expresses himself (but there’s no hitting at all).

SO! Back to my original point... and knowing what I know now... why did I react so strongly to a 4yo hitting me even when I had the knowledge that it’s age-appropriate and no big deal? Because my brain didn’t know the difference between a child hitting me and an adult hitting me. And neither does yours.

Most of the times, we get SO triggered by our kids’ actions (like when they do something “naughty” and then smile) or when they hit... because our brain projects adult meanings to the kids’ actions. It really has no way to react differently... unless we train it.

So slowly I trained my brain to not overthink and worry about my kids’ hitting. I learnt the science of why kids hit (because of the ‘amygdala hijack’-google it or read the brain science unit) and it helped my brain not react so strongly. Every time it happened, I would tell myself that it’s no big deal and kids can’t help it and don’t hit out of malice like an adult might and I learnt to react with my presence or mine and provide the support the “hitter” needs (who is, these days, one of the twins).

All this to say, I know it’s hard and it’s because your brain isn’t used to the information you’re learning right now. Keep doing what you’re doing and slowly, your patience and reaction times will increase, creating new neural pathways so you can model emotional regulation for your kids instead of being triggered. Oh and I do still totally get triggered by my kids hitting each other sometimes- we’re not seeking perfection here 💗

(Picture: new things are always harder with an upward curve at first:))

Link to Amygdala Hijack (feeling brain takes over) video: https://youtu.be/9u3UvXqArqs