My 3-year-old daughter is loving, energetic, funny, sensitive — and she hits me. My husband is the only other person who knows what she does, and how bad it can get. I’ve told a few other people that she hits — a coworker, her preschool teachers — but they don’t know the details. She hits with her fists. She’ll pinch, push, and bite. I’ve been kicked in the face or the chest while trying to put her in her carseat or change her diaper. She’s put her mouth next to my ear and screamed as loud as she could. There have been times when she’s placed both hands around my neck and squeezed. And even though she’s only 3, it’s scary.
I’m embarrassed to write this.
I want to delete the words I’ve just written and write about something else. While articles have been written on this topic in the parenting books, no one really talks about it. I don’t tell people, because I don’t want them to judge my daughter. She’s 99 percent Dr. Jekyll and only 1 percent Mr. Hyde, and I don’t want that tiny piece of her to be what people see when they look at her. She has really BIG emotions, and because she’s 3, she’s not yet capable of managing the tough ones. And so she’ll rage at me — the one who will never leave her. Who loves her no matter what.
We’ve found a few resources to help manage strong emotions:
When the main character, Katie, gets really mad, she loses herself and becomes Bombaloo, using her feet and fists instead of her words. With some alone time and some love from her parents, Katie is able to become Katie again.
In this book, we see Sophie get angry over a conflict with her sibling and her mother’s subsequent judgement. We also see what Sophie does to deal with her anger, and to regain her sense of calm.
There’s a great episode called “Daniel Gets Mad,” and the learning song goes like this: “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath, and count to four.” Whenever we see our daughter getting mad, my husband and I sing this song, and model the behavior. We sang it at a birthday party this weekend, in fact, and some other parents joined in.
There are also some actions that we try to take. We do our best to anticipate when our daughter is about to hit, and catch her hand gently and say “I can’t let you hit me.” We encourage her to take a break, or a rest, when we see she is feeling angry and needs to calm down. I offer positive reinforcement if I see that she’s chosen to deal with her feelings in a way that doesn’t involve hitting.
I don’t expect things to change overnight, and I know progress will be slow. She’s only 3, after all, and there are adults out there who still don’t know how to control their emotions and their bodies. Most importantly, I’m always ready with a hug and a kiss; I know she’s hurting, too.