Does Your Child Hit You?

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In this episode, Emily and Kevin discuss tips for dealing with children that hit. You can have a better relationship with your child.

October 19, 2013

A: “Divorce Talk Radio” does not give therapeutic advice. The topics
discussed are for informational purposes only. If you are in need of
therapy or counseling, please consult a licensed professional in your own
state.

[Pause]

Emily: Thank you for joining us on “Divorce Talk Radio.” This is
“Moving Forward.” I am your host Emily McGrath with my co-host Kevin
McCarthy. Hi, Kevin, how are you?

Kevin: Emily, good Sunday evening. Thank you for having me here again.

Emily: Thank you for being here. And thanks to our listeners as well
for joining us. And today, on our show, we are talking about kids that hit
us. When our children hit us and what to do.

I’ve been dealing with this quite a bit lately with my son. And I
just kind of didn’t know what to do, where to go. Because you don’t want
your children to learn violence and that is a good tactic to get what they
want. Because it’s not good. And then, it just leads to something even
worse.

And it becomes a habit and we need to break that. I’ve noticed a lot
when there’s a transition from Dad’s house to our house, there’s anxiety
and there is dealings that I don’t think he understands. And so, he acts
and lashes out at me because that’s all he knows how to do.

And recently, I don’t if you’ve heard of Dr. Laura Markham. She is a
parent expert and specialist. Have you heard of her, Kevin?

Kevin: No, I haven’t. How many kids does Laura have?

Emily: I’m not sure. But I just know, I just signed up for her
newsletter. I read an article of hers and it resonated with me so well
because it hit right on this.

Kevin: This is good for you.

Emily: Right on this topic. And I wanted to bring it up to our
listeners because as a parent, I’m sure I’m not the only one that deals
with this, with the violence.

Kevin: It has to be so out there, Emily. Fortunately, during my
divorce, I didn’t have to deal with that because my children were older,
they were in their 20’s.

But I know of a number of friends of mine who have younger kids and
they’re teens now. But you go back a number of years. When they were going
through a divorce, these kids are 5, 6, 7, 8, even up through the early
teens. Where there still has to be that discipline at home and how do you
deal with it when your ex might treat them great. Then, all of a sudden,
now they’re in your jurisdiction. You’re in charge of them. And they get
out of hand.

Emily: Sometimes, it just comes out from nothing. Like, an example,
when I got my son back after being with his dad for a week and a half,
that’s a huge transition to just go from one to the other. And he lashed
out with no warning at all. I didn’t tell him “No” with anything.

He was kicking me in the ankle. I don’t know if you’ve ever been
kicked in the ankle. That’s a very sensitive bone.

Kevin: It is. Especially with this little boy. I mean, there’s some
power behind this kid.

Emily: Yeah. Especially when you’re barefoot and he has shoes on. It
was not a pleasant feeling. And I don’t know about you, but when you are
hurt, you almost get sent to the moon and it’s not that you don’t have
control over your emotions or how you’re feeling. You just are overwhelmed
with this pain and you just are like “Oh, my gosh.”

Kevin: Especially when it comes unexpectedly.

Emily: Unexpectedly, it’s even worse. So, I wanted to touch a little
bit on this today because I don’t think it’s discussed very often. If it
is, I haven’t heard anything about it. And I wanted to give this to our
listeners as a resource. But I wanted to give Dr. Laura Markham…

Kevin: Give her some credit on this. This is good.

Emily: I want to give her the credit because I’ve never seen anyone
bring this up. Because I’ve been having issues and it’s like “Okay, what do
you do”? So, a couple of things that I want to say is that children need to
learn about their emotions. Which I have been working with my son and it
has worked a bit.

But they don’t have an understanding of what those feelings are until
you talk with them about it. And so, children learn to regulate their
strong emotions when we first accept all feelings. Which is, I believe, a
huge thing.

Secondly, set firm, clear limits on actions. And lastly, regulate our
own emotions so that we can act with respect. Which I think is huge.

Kevin: Now, do you want to break those down for us? Before you do so,
Emily, I know with different ages of children, all of this could change.

Emily: Exactly. It does.

Kevin: So, with your son, what ages were we talking when you first
discovered he became a little violent at you?

Emily: He was probably about two, so it’s been a while.

Kevin: Oh, is that young.

Emily: But it’s gotten worse over the years. At two, you can kind of
talk him through it in a way that they understand. And you can, I don’t
want to say this in a bad way, but if you can control them easier in the
hitting and the kicking and it doesn’t hurt as much, so it’s not as bad.

But now, with him being five, he has a temper on him. And it hurts
when he hits and he kicks. And like I said earlier, you don’t want to get
in the habit of having that be something that he does or she does, your
child.

And you also don’t want to run away from the child. Because then,
they feel like it’s a game. And you don’t want to make violence a game.
Because it’s not funny. You need to stop it.

Kevin: You need to actually stop it and control the kid.

Emily: Exactly. So, the first one, accepting all feelings. You want to
make sure that you get down on your child’s level and accept the feelings
that they have.

Kevin: You have to understand where he’s coming from or see where he’s
coming from, of course.

Emily: Understand their feelings, yes. And check in with them and make
sure that you have their right feelings. Because once they feel validated
and that those feelings are okay to feel, it’s almost like a sense of
relief for them. Because then, they know what that feeling is.

And then, they can put a word to that feeling and talk about it. So,
that’s very important and I learned from this article about that. And once
they can put a word to that feeling, how freeing that is for them. Because
they don’t know what that feeling is.

They’re still so young at 5, 6, 7. And even to recognize that is like
“Oh, my gosh. You understand me.”

Kevin: Or they’re just going on by their day to day.

Emily: Exactly.

Kevin: What they’re feeling at that moment.

Emily: Right. And I feel that if we talk with our kids and understand
and help them understand their feelings, you can have a better relationship
with them and better communication with them.

Kevin: I might be getting slightly off-topic of maybe what you wanted
to mention about Dr. Laura. But what would you do if your son, all of a
sudden, just starts to kick you. Or just starts to push you. Maybe both of
you are sitting on the couch. Maybe give an instance or something that
happened and how you corrected it.

Emily: Absolutely. This happened last week actually a couple of times.
And I was so taken back by the response that I got from him. Because
normally, it’s not a good response. He just doesn’t stop. I try and leave
the room, he follows me.

There was a situation last week. We started school last week. So,
he’s tired and he’s going through a transition, big transition himself, not
having maps.

And he’s so funny. Because he has this little evil side to him where
he likes doing things that are not necessarily good to do. And we have a
hose with a nozzle on it where you can spray it.

And so, we were getting ready in the morning. I had already showered,
he had eaten, so he’s outside playing. And it was quiet. And I’m like
“Okay, what’s going on”? The dog was outside with my son. And I see the dog
is soaking wet.

I’m like “Oh, no. Poor dog.” So, I call Darren trying to talk to my
son without getting wet. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I was soaking wet. He
got me wet and he got the dog wet.

And so, I had to actually unscrew the nozzle of the hose and I gave
him a warning. I gave him three warnings, I said “To the count of three,
you have to get inside because you’re not going to be outside any longer. I
cannot trust you to be out here with the hose.” He loves water.

So, finally, he goes inside. After not listening to him, he loves
chocolate milk, as all kids do and I had bought him some little chocolate
milk containers for lunch. And he helped me pack his lunch for that day.

And so, I said “You know what, you weren’t listening to me, so your
chocolate milk is getting taken out of your lunch for today.” And he saw me
take it out of his lunch, I did that on purpose so that he could see that.

And he went through the roof. He was not happy, he was mad.

Kevin: Did he yowl, scream, kick?

Emily: He came flying at me hitting and kicking and what I did, I
remembered the article that I read that Dr. Markham had written. And I got
down to his level and made sure I was further than arm’s length, so he
couldn’t just whack me.

And I said “I understand you’re mad.” And he’s like “Yes, I’m mad at
you.” And I said “Why are you mad at me”? “Because you took my chocolate
milk away.” And I said “Why did I take your chocolate milk away”? “Because
I wasn’t listening and I was being bad.”

And I don’t like him thinking he’s bad. That’s something I don’t let
him think. Because it’s not him, it’s the action. So, I said “You weren’t
bad, you weren’t listening.” He’s like “Okay. I’ll promise I’ll be good to
get my chocolate milk back.” And I said “Nope, you can’t get your chocolate
milk back. You can work to get it back for tomorrow to have it in your
lunch.”

And he’s like “Okay,” and I actually got a hug.

Kevin: He said “Okay,” gave you a hug. So, he understood?

Emily: He understood.

Kevin: He did wrong, he needed to correct it, he’s not going to get
his milk for the day. But next time, he will if he follows the basic
instructions I guess [inaudible at 00:12:15].

Emily: Yes. And he moved on, he moved forward.

Kevin: And that was it? You guys got dressed again, did whatever you
needed to do and out the house?

Emily: Right. We were late, but yes.

Kevin: You come out of a shower just to take another one. And the dog
got one that doesn’t like them. That was an excellent example.

That’s what I was looking for. I was like “Okay, how do you do this,
Em”? And you came through for me.

Emily: And I did it a second time and it got the same reaction from
him. And I actually thought he was mad. But he was sad with the second time
that I used this.

So, I said “I understand you’re mad.” “No, mom. I’m sad.” “Okay, well
we’re putting words to the feelings. That’s awesome.” I mean, this is only
the second time I’m using it with him. And every time you use this, it gets
easier.

Kevin: And you’re discussing while you’re said, it’s because you did
this or didn’t do this. And you found this to be getting easier now?

Emily: Yes. Because he’s understanding what those feelings are and
what resulted with the action that happened. So, getting down to their
level and talking about their feelings that they’re having really helps
because you’re talking about that. You’re validating those feelings.

You’re telling them “It is okay to have these feelings.” Because I
think that’s important to do that. Once they know that, then they feel so
much freer to express those feelings. And children need to know that they
have that freedom. If they stuff that in, that’s not going to be good for
them either.

Kevin: You know, Emily, I like this approach. Because, as you know me,
I’m just a common sense guy. What’s right and what’s wrong and there’s
really little gray area.

But I think this, Dr. Markham?

Emily: Dr. Laura Markham.

Kevin: This is almost the best of both. Because you’re discussing with
the kid, yet you’re correcting what the kid did wrong. And there’s no major
punishment here, meaning no hitting or slapping or anything.

Emily: Right. Because you don’t want to instill that in our kids.

Kevin: [inaudible at 00:14:29]

Emily: That’s the last thing that we want to do. I don’t like
spanking. But I will spank if it’s necessary. But this a good way to
discuss, like you said, the action that they did wrong and their feelings.
And you don’t use violence.

You’re talking about it. You’re using communication to work through
this with your child. And I noticed since I’ve been using this, I used it
twice like I said, last week. I have noticed a different relationship with
him.

Kevin: Wow. Instead of just saying “Knock it off, stop it. What are
you doing”? You went this route with this advice and you’re getting
success. And that’s very important. You want the success.

Emily: That’s part of what I want for the show is to share with our
listeners, the common difficulties with life, with our children. And
sharing with them, the successes that we have with the solutions. Because
it doesn’t have to be hard.

And with the situation that I’m in and probably, a lot of our
listeners are, I don’t have anyone backing me up.

Kevin: No, it’s just you and your son.

Emily: It’s me and my son.

Kevin: That’s it. There is no mom around, grandma, grandfather, maybe
your sister. No, this is just you two one on one. And these problems occur
when you need to correct them. Hopefully, they will suffice and go away and
temper down a bit.

Emily: Right. And the children need to know that violence is not a way
to get things that you want. So, we need to snuff that out, per se, and
find other ways and other resources, tools to help bring that relationship
with your child to a different level. So you can be a loving parent and
parent the best way that you can.

Kevin: And that’s great. Because you love your child.

Emily: Right.

Kevin: On the flip side, I think maybe part of the problem that some
parents might encounter and just to calm the kid down, is “Well, just give
Johnny and Janie this. Just gave Johnny and Janie that.” It might work
once, it might work twice. But guess what? You just [inaudible at 00:16:50]
Johnny and Janie any tantrum, anything that bothers them to quiet them
down, you’re going to give them this toy, this treat, this trip, whatever
it is. And that is a wrong thing to do.

Emily: Exactly. Because you’re setting a precedence. You’re creating a
monster. Because whenever they are wanting something and you say “No” and
they have a tantrum and then you back away and give them what they want,
that is negative reinforcement. And you don’t want to do that.

Because that just reinforces “Okay. Even though mom or dad says no, I
can throw a tantrum and then I’m going to get what I want.” That is not
good. Oh, my gosh.

Kevin: Some of my friends that get married, some already have kids or
some that even have kids yet throughout the years and they knew I went from
this single guy into being a dad of two lovely daughters five and six years
old.

“Kevin, what you can tell me. There are these kids.” Well, my advice
was, which backs up what the doctor is saying, what backs up you’re saying,
too. And many times, my thing was “Let the child know that the word is
‘no.’ When you say ‘no,’ you mean it. You don’t give in on it. A no is a
no.”

And yeah, they’re going to be upset. They’re going to be down and out
about it. But this is maybe where your advice and the doctor’s advice would
come in and discuss with it. But you have to stick with that word ‘no.’
You’re not there to be their buddy or pal. You’re their parent.

Emily: Right. And another thing. After, let’s say the child hit or
scratched or kicked you, you need to take a moment just to regroup. I
wouldn’t set the child off from yourself. Because then, that sets a bad
precedence as well saying “Oh, you need to go away.” But just to regroup,
because you don’t want to yell at the child because that doesn’t go
anywhere either.

But regrouping just so that you are on a higher level instead of in
that pain which you know, sometimes, you could take a lower-level. You want
to be a higher-level parent and not yell and hit back. Because that’s not
helpful, either.

Let your child see you do that. Because then, it’s like “Oh, they’re
taking a moment for themselves.” Then come back and get down on their
level, if you need to. Just because you don’t want to lash out back because
that’s just another child would do. You don’t want to get to that level and
show the child that that’s an okay way to solve solutions. Because it’s
not.

Kevin: And if there is more than one kid in the family, then of
course, the same applies to another child. Whether it be a him or a her, it
doesn’t matter here. It has to stay the same. The favoritism can’t be there
because what then that will do is create more problems between the two
kids, not to mention with you, and so forth.

Emily: Well, and then, there’s also the other, as the child gets
older, the hitting and the kicking also gets harder.

Kevin: Oh, sure it does. Kid’s getting better. He’s growing like a
weed.

Emily: And then, you have a situation where you can’t control your
children. And you don’t want to be in that situation. I know my child is
small right now, but he’s mighty. Oh, my goodness. He hits and kicks and it
hurts.

And I can’t imagine not getting under control now. And then, having
more of an issue when he’s older.

Kevin: He starts to become a teenager. Then, he’s hanging around some
friends and maybe he’s hanging around the bad crowd. It’s only going to go
up. So, what you want to do is stop this now and control the kid now.

Emily: Right. So, I love this tool. Parents out there, if you’re
having issues with your children being violent with you, to try this.
Because I have had success with it twice in one week. And I am amazed of
how well my relationship, just after this week, has gone.

We’re closer, we are talking more. And it’s just a way to communicate
and have those open lines of communication with your child. And it shows
that you care about your children. That you care what they’re feeling.

And I know not all families talk about their feelings. But I feel it
is a good idea to do with your children. Because then, they’ll come back to
you later in life when there’s difficult situations. And talk with you
about those issues which you want to have.

Instead of possibly getting, like you said, in the wrong crowd or
heaven forbid, getting into drugs or alcohol. Anything that they could
result to. But it just really opens the lines of communication, which is
huge. Especially with the younger kids, because they don’t know what those
feelings are.

Kevin: I guess what has to be done, too, now, in your case and in many
cases, unfortunately. What’s taking place in this world we live in is that
you practice this in your home. Now, does your ex practice this in his
home?

Emily: I would assume not.

Kevin: See, that would be something, maybe a discussion between, if
there can be, through the spouses or through the ex-spouses. “Hey if you
have a problem, try it this way.” Rather than John, Jane and Jack, they’re
on the same wavelength. That they go to daddy’s house, they go to mommy’s
house. It’s all the same.

Emily: Right. And the other thing is, if the other parent will admit
to having issues. You know, usually, a child is not different from one
house to another for such an extreme situation, which would be another
topic.

Kevin: That could be a few topics. Another or a few different shows on
that one. How things can change from one spouse’s residence to the other.

Emily: Right, yes. It would be a good idea to bring up to that other
spouse if they’re open to it. That’s the other thing, if they’re open to
it.

Not every other parent is open to what you have to say,
unfortunately. Even though you have your child’s best interests at hand.

Kevin: That other parent might think “No. You’re doing the wrong
thing, I’m doing the right thing.” Well, all you can do then is just do
what you can at home, see what works for you and go about it that way. It’s
not going to be perfect because the parents are split.

Emily: Well, that’s just it. Right, exactly. That might be some of
where this anger and frustration is coming from. So, another reason to
discuss it with your child and discuss why the anger and frustration is
coming up. And maybe you can get some clarity for your child and help them
move through it.

Because you’re going through the divorce and the pain and so are your
children. So, it might stem a lot from that. And that might help them get
clear on what the issues are. And then, again, have a better relationship
with your child.

Kevin: Emily, I admire you for mentioning this other doctor’s name?
Merken? I’m sorry.

Emily: Markham.

Kevin: Markham. Because you, yourself, are a professional. You’re a
professional coach when it comes to divorce. And yet, I know sometimes we
all have to look at other avenues what you yourself can become better.

Yet at the same time, the purpose of this show here on
divorcetalkradio.net is to educate those who have been through certain
things that we’ve been through. But this is fantastic.

What were those three points? Do you know if you could recall those
three points which I thought really hit home.

Emily: Right. The first one is “Accept all feelings.”

Kevin: Accept all feelings.

Emily: Make sure that you’re not discounting your child’s feelings.
Because they are important to them. And that’s why they’re lashing out. I
found that out the hard way.

Another reason for this show is to not reinvent the wheel, so to say.
So, when I learn something, I want to bring it here to our listeners. So
that they don’t have to go through searching and trying to find resources.

I’m going to bring it to our listeners because I feel that’s
important to share that. So, that’s why I wanted to do this show. So, thank
you for bringing these up again. So, accept all feelings.

The second one is “Set firm, clear limits on actions.” So, obviously,
we want to limit the hitting and the kicking and use our words instead of
using the violence.

Kevin: The back of the hand, right.

Emily: Yes. Because you’re going to get further. And depending on the
age of the child, bring this up to the child. You can get further with your
words versus your hand or your foot or scratching.

And we come to a resolution quicker and not have so many hurt
feelings and really talking about what’s going on. And then you can come
to, like I said, a better conclusion and solution. And then to regulate our
own feelings and emotions so that we can act with respect with our
children.

Because if we have our emotions in check, we can help our children
better.

Kevin: You have a clear mind, you have a path and you know what you
want to do.

Emily: Exactly.

Kevin: If any of those are gone, then you’re not going to handle the
situation right with your child.

Emily: Right. And like I said earlier, you want to take the high road
of parenting versus the low road. And think more of your child and yourself
and your relationship. Because then, that’s going to blossom.

I’ve seen that already in this past week. Because we have been
struggling with this. When there’s this, all of a sudden, irrational anger
or frustration, talking about it is going to help your relationship. And
it’s amazing how your children respond to this different way of dealing
with emotions and talking about it.

It’s just amazing. And I really would like to hear some feedback from
our listeners if they choose to use this tool. I just think it’s wonderful.
And you can do that at e.mcgrath@freedomfromheartache.com. Or you can
contact me on my website at freedomfromheartache.com.

And there’s also the divorcetalkradio.net. You can also go there as
well for podcasts or other resources. But I do want to hear some feedback.
Because I think this is an important show and session. And just to help
with the children. Because I think it’s important.

Kevin: And this goes with all our podcasts that we have on here. Let
us hear back from you. Emily, give us your e-mail address one more time on
how they can reach you.

Emily: Sure. My e-mail is e.mcgrath@freedomfromheartache.com. All
right, well, thank you, Kevin and thanks to our listeners for being here
with this great show. And I just feel blessed that they’re listening to us.

Kevin: Yes. And this was a wonderful topic, so, please, let us hear
from you folks. And thank you for listening.

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