Parents want their children to do the right thing. They certainly do not want their children to become hitters or biters or bullies. What can a parent do to prevent this from happening? Actually, there is a lot. It begins early and last throughout their lives.
Negative behavior not only includes biting, it also includes hitting others or being a bully. Each of these behaviors need to be stopped and prevented from being repeated.
Preventing this kind of behavior begins when your one-year-old bites someone. Your child at this age does not know this is a bad thing to do. That is why it is important to tell her that it is not okay to bite. Use a strong voice. Tell her it is okay to kiss and hug but not to bite. Then after you tell her what is okay, then enforce these rules.
What do we mean enforce? It doesn’t mean spanking or hitting her. It means once again to use a strong voice telling her that this is not okay.
Here are some general rules about enforcing rules on aggressive behavior.
1. Supervise carefully
When you supervise your child, it prevents injuries, damage, and learning bad habits from her behavior with playmates and others. With very young children you will probably be aware when they bite someone or hit them. Don’t ignore this kind of behavior. Let your child know immediately that it is not okay. You can take her away from the ones she is mistreating and let her be by herself.
2. Don’t teach aggressive behavior
When you are aggressive by hitting or spanking your child you are teaching her. Not only are you teaching her, but this method does not work. You are far better off to talk sternly to her to let her know this is not okay what she has done. Again, you can take her from the situation and have her spend time alone. Also, be aware of your own behavior because you are modeling behavior for your child.
3. Teach her what to do
Talk with your child about other ways to handle thing when she is upset. She can say she is not going to play with them anymore or just leave. Even have her practice saying these words so she is familiar with it. Suggest she talk with whoever is in charge so that someone else will handle the problem. Have her talk with you about when this may have happened to her.
4. Point out when things are going well
Tell her how great it was when she took turns shared her toys, or asked for help. Pay close attention so you can talk about her better behavior. We all like to hear what we do right. Parents need to pay special attention to the importance of recognizing correct behavior rather than to only pay attention to poor behavior.
5. Tell her when she is doing wrong
Tell her to “Stop hitting,” and give her a different way to act. Talk with her about leaving the group when she feels like hitting someone. Tell her that hitting hurts!. If she continues to hit others, remove her and tell her why you are doing it.
6. Forget it when it is over
Let it go. It will not help to go over it again and again.
A parent has an important role to play in teaching a child how to play properly. Take the time to solve the problems that arise. You will spend far less time in the long-run. Remember, this is part of being a parent. It is one more skill you need to develop.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. For more information, call 360-681-2250.