Training a child not to hit

A lesson in humanistic parenting


My 4 year old boy keeps hitting, pushing and knocking down his peers at his preschool. He is everyone's favorite but The behavior is escalating and he doesn't seem to listen to me. He grins after seeing someone get hurt. What can I do to prevent this?


You can't. Not alone anyway.  Trying to reason with a 4 year old hours after the fact that something they did - wasn't ok - isn't an effective way to change behavior. 

You need to have a conversation with the teachers and find out what they do when it happens. If they don't immediately remove him from play so that he can't hurt others, they need to start. After a short break, he can return to the group activities.  This isn't punishment, it's a natural consequence. They cannot allow him to play with others if he is going to hurt them. When he plays nice, he is allowed to play. When he doesn't play nice, he isn't. They need to be consistent every time it happens.

They also need to tell you how he did every day. You - with him at home, tell him what the rules are. Every day he doesn't shove or hit someone - you do something nice for him. Every day he does something he shouldn't have - he doesn't get that special whatever from you. These should not be big things - but maybe - a Popsicle or something.  Something small and ordinary that he likes. When he gets a good report - he gets a treat. When he doesn't, he doesn't. Again, this is not about punishment, it's about rewarding the behavior you want - which is a child who doesn't hit his playmates. 

If this sounds a like training a puppy, it is. This is a behavioral problem, it has to be handled in a behavioral way.  It shouldn't take him too long (perhaps 2 or 3 weeks) to change his behavior.  There is a possibility he could get worse for a while - that's expected, it's part of the behavior extinction dynamic. Just stick with the plan until he gets with the program.

First appeared on quora.

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