Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The baby is hitting now

We saw a disturbing thing this weekend. Mieka has learnt a behaviour that we do not know where it is coming from. She starts screaming when another baby touches her or her toys. I asked at the crèche, and apparently she is the one who also starts hitting at the other babies when they come too close. She is apparently also the only one exhibiting this behaviour.
Where did she learn to do something like this? She has never seen such behaviour at home. She does not get upset when we play with her toys. There is also no hitting or slapping involved. It must be something that she learnt at the crèche? Some sort of survival thing between the other babies? There are six of them at the crèche. But we are horrified that we have an eleven month old bully in the making. Or is this the result of the woman at the crèche who has been fired for giving a baby a hiding? Maybe she gave Mieka a hiding as well?
How do we unlearn this behaviour? I did not think that she would start with this sort of thing at such an early age.
Or is she a small Joan of Arc in the making, fighting for her rights? Maybe it is only our perspective on the behaviour – a child should be able to fend for herself? Needless to say, we are really worried…
Photo: Mieka on Sunday (taken by her grandfather James)


  1. I found this on the internet, sounds almost exactly like what you described:


    My 11-month-old has started hitting. She hits the children at daycare, the dog and us. I have tried to say, "No, be gentle" or "soft touches" and demonstrate by taking her hand and gently rubbing my face or the dog. She still will hit. I've tried putting her down and walking away, but that elicits a temper tantrum. I've tried holding her hands, but that makes her cry but doesn't stop the behavior. I don't know what else to try. She is apparently the only one at daycare hitting, so I don't know where she got it from.
    Children this age do not have the language skills to express their needs and wants. Often their frustration at not being able to communicate leads to hitting. Your daughter's behavior is not uncommon and you are on the right track in the way you are responding to her. Still, I know it is frustrating when her hitting occurs.

    It may be helpful to try to identify what triggers her frustration. Is she having trouble reaching a toy? Is she hungry? Is she tired? Does she want you to pick her up? Is she over-stimulated? Does she want an item that a friend is playing with? If you can identify the triggers to her frustration, you can help her by verbalizing her feelings and when appropriate distracting her with another fun activity.

    For example, you notice your daughter wants to play with a toy that a friend is using. You verbalize her feelings, "Tracy is playing with the baby doll and you want to play with it now." You distract her with another activity until it is her turn. "Let's play with this cuddly puppy right now and when Tracy is done with her turn, you can take a turn." Your daughter may not understand all of what you are saying, but she will get the jest.

    Hitting does get people's attention. If your daughter wants the toy from her friend and you are not present to intervene, she may go over to her friend and hit her. As a result, she gets the doll. Mission accomplished.

    Even at this young age your daughter is capable of understanding that hitting is not acceptable. She may not understand the concept that hitting hurts, but she knows that when she hits she gets action and attention.

    When she hits, respond immediately. Be calm, but use a firm voice. "We do not hit." If she is playing with a friend and hits, pick her up and remove her from the situation. Do not allow her to continue playing in that area.

    You are right that it is helpful to give your daughter an alternative for the negative behavior. Once you remove her from the situation, continue to model the appropriate behaviors, "soft, gentle touches." Her hitting has become a habit, a natural impulse to her frustration. It may take some time for her to change her behaviors. Continue the approach you are on. Eventually, she will get the idea and as she grows older she will be better able to express her needs and wants verbally.

    Be sure to communicate your concerns to your daughter's daycare workers so they can reinforce the approach you are using at home.

  2. o dear - these are such yukkie dilemas. I had forgotten these things... but I seem to remember that Marielle bit us at around this time. I guess that was also frustration. I think I bit her back once - o how awful when I think back to it now! L K has given a nice perspective - i.o.w. you are not alone in this thing. Good luck - they do grow up into lovely young ladies - and the only thing which will remain - is this blog post - to remind her!

  3. I fully agree with the idea that she is perhaps just struggling to express herself. Some children develop conceptual language faster than they develop language ability and this then poses a problem. I'm sure if you follow the strategies in LK's post you will get results. ALternatively you could try implementing baby sign?

  4. Thanks, Lena and Tasneem, for the great advice! I don't know anything about baby sign. I'll have to read up on it. Definitely worth a try!


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