5-Year-Old Hits Classmates

Hi, My out of control child is 5 years old. He is defiant, hits out at his classmates, he has poor motor skills (difficulty grasping a pencil so is behind his class mates with writing) It is the hitting that is causing concern… he has no privileges at home for hitting classmates in school. If the behaviour is repeated 3 days commence again, he is now on day 8 of continually repeating the behaviour. He does not appear concerned about the loss of his toys and no children’s programmes on tv and will happily occupy himself with a piece of string, a spoon etc. (During the Christmas holiday we used your method for cheek, for example 'pick up the toys' the reply 'pick it up yourself' and a complete refusal to comply. The method worked well and the cheek has markedly decreased. THANKS.) Now we are just addressing hitting for the past 3 weeks with little effect. Please advise. Many thanks, A.


“Child hitting” is a behavior that moms and dads need to address immediately and consistently. Many parents have written to me asking how to stop youngster from hitting - and about half of these parents have admitted that when their youngster hits them, they hit back to "teach the youngster what it feels like." This may not be the case with you however.

The most important factor in teaching a young kid not to hit is to make sure he doesn't see hitting at home, or is not hit himself. A young kid who hits should be immediately removed from the situation where the hitting occurred. 
If he is in a playground, then pick him up and go home. If he is outside your home playing, then he has to come inside. If he is inside the home, then he should go to the room where he sleeps, which represents a safe place for him.

As you remove him and put him in another place, such as his room, tell him that he needs time by himself to calm down. Don't tell him anything else -- he won't be able to pay attention when he's upset. (If he won't stay in his room, it is important to walk him calmly back to his room.)

Your son needs to understand that he is not being punished, but is experiencing the consequence of his actions. Then, AFTER he has time to compose himself, when he's calmer, you can talk more about your family's "no hitting" rule.

Positive results will not happen overnight, but this method can be very effective if are consistent. Hopefully his teachers will be using the same strategy.

Hitting, by any age person, could be in self-defense, or it could be a way of exerting power (might makes right theory), a way of getting what they want. Hitting might be an effective means of self-defense, or there might be better ways to defend one’s self. 
There are better ways of getting what a person wants, and that is what kids want to find out, I think, is the best way for them to get what they want. Moms and dads – though often quite confused themselves about how to get what they want – can be a youngster's best advisor and helper in figuring out good ways (for everyone involved) to get what each person wants.

I would respond to any youngster of any age by trying to figure out what they want, and doing everything I can to help them get it. If the youngster is angry, I'd keep helping them get what they want. 
Trying to figure out why the youngster is angry might be intrusive and make things worse, I think.... kids often can't answer the questions of ‘why’ that parents/adults pepper them with, not having the words to explain what is in their minds or whatever. We make our best guesses and keep at it.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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