Hello, I am sad to be writing this however I am out of ideas. My 16 month old son has hit a not so attractive streak (mostly when he's tired) and I have no clue how to curb his behavior. He pulls dogs/cats legs, tails, and hair, he hits with his hands or toys, and he pulls my hair. As I am writing this the side of my head hurts from him pulling. Here's the story from today that has led me here;
CB and I went to the store to pick up a few things (15min tops). He refuses to wear shoes so I carried him into the store knowing we were only going to be a few minutes. In this 15 minute time frame he slapped me in the side of the head repeatedly and as I struggled to put my basket down and chorale his hands he grabbed a fist full of my hair and began yanking at it and laughing. I sat him down and said "CB...NO HIT! NO PULL! THAT HURTS MOMMY!" In a stern voice, and reattached what was left of my ponytail..all while he stood there laughing at me...right before he darted down the isle as I called for him to come back. I caught him and picked him up and said "CB...you need to stay with mommy, thats not safe!" as we walked two more isles up he repeated the hitting and hair pulling all while laughing again...and a third time before we left the store. I wanted to cry! Then, upon arriving home the neighbor was out with her small dogs. CB walked up, said "nice..nice..." pretended to pet then WHAM...smacked one of the dogs, and shoved it from it's behind. I grabbed his hand and said "CB...NO HIT! THAT'S NOT NICE!" then took his hand and showed him to be nice by petting gently saying "See...this is nice". He smiled at me...then went after the other dog the same way. I again said "CB...NO HIT! THAT'S NOT NICE!"...took his hand and showed him nice. He left them alone for a minute...then ran up and kicked the poor thing! (For fear of sounding like a broken record) I again said "CB...NO KICK! THAT'S NOT NICE!" and he laughed at me and did it twice more before I could get a hold of him. I grabbed his hand and said "If you can't be nice we can't play!" and went to walk away as he yanked his hand from mine and took off running to play. As the neighbor was getting ready to leave he again approached the puppies, but this time pet very nicely...then as he was ready to walk away pinched the dog and pulled it's hair...then kicked. I am so ashamed...but...I lightly tapped his diaper in hopes it would get his attention (I am not a spanker!!!!) he again laughed at me...then went after our dog who is medium sized to play fetch. As I thought it was over, he leaped onto the dog and began pulling his hair laughing hysterically!! I repeated the same, (I am big on consistency) and it quit. He was great for about an hour after that. We were then sitting down having some toast before bed time and he lashed out at me again, smacking the side of my head. When I grabbed his hands and said my usual in a stern voice, he then grabbed my hair and began yanking it again...again...I said the same in my stern voice. He laughed at me, and grabbed my glasses of my face and hit me with them. It was at this point I felt so defeated. Not defeated as to give up...just defeated that I cannot do this on my own. I have two associates degrees for early childhood education and have taken many behavioral classes and NO WHERE does it discuss this. I have tried asking parents/grandparents/friends and they all say to do it back to him, spank him, or do something drastic to get his attention so he KNOWS it hurts. (Mind you he doesn't test my husband like this...but my husband is always gone working). I am at my wits end and am looking for any ideas as to what may be causing this. I've read that it's a way for them to express themselves...but...he isn't seeming to do it aggressively...it's like he thinks its playing (and it usually only happens when he's tired like he's over stimulated and trying to wind out all of his excessive energy) He is also very active, we don't go for longer car rides than half an hour because he screams, throws his blanket and paci, and fights the straps regardless of my trying conversation, songs, music, etc. and he refuses to sit in carts at the store (He hates being confined in any way) Any advice would be greatly appreciated, and thank you in advance!
You have a lot going on. I would suggest a class with a focus on parenting toddlers, it would probably be very helpful.
In the meantime, limit outings while you work on the behavior. He is getting an Awesome reaction from you when he does something bed. Instead of raising your voice try this instead:
As you come into a situation remind him how to behave and what the consequence will be if he doesn't (CB, remember to use gentle hand. If you are mean we have to be all done). When he does test you (and he will - lots) say in a very calm, low tone, and disappointed voice "Oh, your forgot to use gentle hands. We are all done" (or similar for the given situation) Then pick him up and carry him to his crib (I assume he can't crawl out yet) as you put him in the crib tell him "We need to remember to use gentle hands." Then leave him in it for 2 minute - no matter how hard he cries or screams. Then come back and calmly say "You need to remember to use gentle hands." and remove him from the crib. He then can have a hug or similar to sooth him.
This is why you need to stay at home for a while, so you can easily remove him from the situation, and not give him any attention during the time he is removed from the situation. The most important things to remember are:
1. Remind him before the situation how to behave (if you see him coming near you, remind him "use gentle hands" that way he has been warned prior to hitting you or pulling your hair.
2. Stay calm, use a calm voice and calm body movements, it will be very hard but the less reaction he gets from you the less of a reason he will have to act out.
3. Act immediately, don't give him a second warning. Just remind him what he was supposed to do as you carry him to his crib.
4. When crib time is over, remind him of how he is supposed to act.
This should help to curb a lot of it over time, it will take a lot of work on your part and you will be exhausted. But after a week or two or so (I hope it will start working that quickly) you should see a decrease in behavior. Do note, you will probably see an increase in behavior at first as your son tests you to see if you will stay consistent.
And most importantly, when he is doing something positive - even just playing with a toy correctly, praise him a lot with a description "You are rolling the car on the floor" you are having so much fun!" This will help him to learn he can get attention for positive actions.
There may be more to it than attention seeking and getting a reaction out of you, so I do hope you will look into a local parenting class that can give you a large variety of techniques to use. I agree to stay away from spanking, research out there shows it does no good long term and can even be harmful.
And, you mentioned that some of the time he does it when he is tired or over stimulated. Start to become more aware of these times so you can do something about it, like find a calming activity or move to a more calming place until he can recenter himself and keep himself calm. Even though this reply focuses on a punishment model, the best way to help curb behaviors are to find positive outlets and alternatives and to set up the environment so the behavior doesn't occur in the first place. Again, a parenting class can teach you are variety of ways to positively interact with your child.
Here are more suggestions on positive interactions you can have with your child that should help with preventing behaviors. Look for the Newmom! Posts.
I know I wrote a lot, I hope you find it helpful.
State Certified Early Childhood Special Education Teacher
New Mom as of March 2009!
If it happens when he is tired then make sure he is well rested. Most humans get cranky and fussy when they are tired, it is natural. The only difference is that children aren't aware that it happens, most of the time they aren't even aware they are tired.
This is what I read... my son grabs me, so I grab him back; he hits me, so I spank (hit) him back. If you don't want your son to grab you then don't grab him, the same goes for hitting.
If he thinks it is playing (and it could be how expresses his need to play because it is the only way he knows) then redirect him to a more appropriate way to play. If he hits you then say something like "ouch that hurts, if you want to play all you have to do is ask. Would you like to play?" Then play and chase him. In a short time we will start asking to play. Or be proactive and make sure you are playing with him a lot so he doesn't get to the over-tired lack of play emotional state that leads to the behavior.