How do I stop my daughter hitting me?

An unhappy and worn out mum recently asked me, How do I stop my daughter hitting me? I offer specialist counselling to parents and carers of children who seem to be unable to control their violent outbursts. We have a belief that we can begin managing violent behaviour using a token economy. Community outreach teams attached to CAMHS visit homes, where, sadly, challenging and aggressive behaviour are a common occurrence and parents are tired and at their wits end. They are supplied with simplistic information that is misleading and dangerous to parents and children alike.

Star Charts and other incarnations of a token economy are not going to work in the long term in a home where parents are managing violent behaviour on a day to day basis. Connecting a violent incident with time off an Ipad, a negative position shift on a Smiley Face Chart or even time on the naughty step (that most horrible of all the recent pop culture fashions around raising children) does not show proper cause and effect to children who are already aroused and confused about how to handle themselves.  

Do you want to condition your child that challenging behaviour will lose them time away from a distraction, or time away from you, when they most need your teaching and input? What happens when the distraction is not there? 

Maybe we should teach our children that shouting and violence does not happen in a family who love and protect each other.

Humans are one of the most vulnerable creatures on the planet during their childhood. Our brains are not fully formed for some cognitive functions until we reach our twenties. Asking a seven year old boy to reflect on his behaviour or to speak about why he committed some act or other is fruitless because his brain has not developed enough to be able to reflect on these things in a coherent way that allows for metacognition, a fundamental component in all behaviour change.

I spoke with a client recently who had been advised to move away from her child when her child kicked her. She was confused when I suggested that she put her arm around her daughter to calm, teach and reassure her when the kicking occurred. “I don’t want to reward her behaviour by giving her hugs” she said. I replied that her hug is a mighty human gift, for it is a show of love, power, teaching, acceptance and understanding.  A hug should not be broken down by conditions like, “I only accept you when you are happy and well behaved.”

If you have been managing challenging behaviour and have found yourself asking, How do I stop my daughter hitting me? Maybe you would like some more information about how you and your family might move forward positively? If so why not get in contact with me, we can talk about counselling and the other options you have available to you and your family.

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