Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Don't Claw My Face!

One of my worst behavioral fears has come true - I have a hitter. Well, she is more of a clawer than a hitter.

As of late M has developed a nasty habit of clawing at my face. It seems to be when she is over tired, and frustrated, that she decides to lash out at me for doing something (or in most cases nothing.) It starts with a very high pitched yelp and then the swatting at whatever is closest to her, be it me, toys, or this morning the poor pooch. And if you happen to pick her up to get her to stop, watch out - she'll claw your face off - or at least try to.

She was all smiles yesterday after we got home from running errands, but earlier in the day I had to wake her up after only an hour and a half of nap as I had to go to a doctor's appointment. I knew at some point she was going to break and "grow horns" as my mom says. We were playing nicely in the playroom, she takes a poop, I pick her up to take her upstairs to change her diaper...we walk halfway up the stairs quietly and then all of the sudden "yeaaaaahhhhh!!" and she claws at my face (feeling like she drew blood). I stopped looked at her and said NO! BE GENTLE! and pinned her arm down. She then did the same thing with her other hand. I said NO HITTING and pinned that arm down. And you know what she did next?

She headbutted me.

That's right. Who needs arms? I will just slam my head into yours!!

And I looked at her, with this devilish smile on her face, and I had no idea what to do. Who is this child? What crazy demonic spirit entered her body and took over control of her limbs? Where is my sweet baby girl?

After this I laid her down on the changing table and the legs started flying and she was still trying to smack me. So I just backed away and let her do her thing. I tried not to make eye contact and not acknowledge this crazy behavior. Eventually she calmed down and looked up at me and said "Hi Mom. I sorry." Oh yeah - she calls me Mom now!!! WTF?

What am I supposed to do in cases like this? She doesn't seem to understand no at all! And yesterday she even swatted at a friend of hers, when we were at HIS house, playing with HIS toys and he tried to play with her. I almost died. I apologized over and over (it was one of my good friends so she of course understood) and I was so embarrassed. I don't want my child to be a hitter!

I know it is just her expressing her frustration, but it is totally unacceptable. When I took the iPad away from her this morning (she was tired and cranky but we had to leave to go to class) she scooted down on the bed so that her feet reached the dog and she kicked her!! Lightly of course, but enough for the pooch to look up and be like "do I have to put up with this? You know I can bite her face off if you want."

How do I nip this behavior in the bud?


  1. How old is she? If she is over 2 years old then I think you can institute Toddler Magic 1-2-3. It is easier to use for "stop" behaviors ("start behaviors" - teeth brushing, shoe gathering, etc. are harder). I'm even thinking of starting it with my crazy 15 month old. By the way, my son Ned has called me mom after mama, no "mommy". I prefer "mommy" but oh, well. Where do they learn this stuff anyway? They don't watch shows where someone says "mom" and they only hang out with preschooler set.

  2. My 16 month old is totally doing the headbutting/hitting thing when he's tired or frustrated. With the hitting I take hold of his hand and tell him "It's not okay to hit" until he stops. Which works until he starts headbutting. I haven't figured out how to control that one yet...

  3. I have heard good things about this series of behavior books:

    Good luck!!

  4. How to stop this? Swift and strong consequences.

    A quick swat to the bottom seems appropriate to me, but you could also immediately transport the child to her crib if you prefer not to spank.

    Child discipline can be complicated, but such a direct and active defiance is the perfect case for simple classical conditioning. Show your child that hitting is like touching a hot stove: it has an immediate and extremely unpleasant effect.

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