What do you do when your kid hits you? Listen in to learn more about how to handle your kids when they hit you.
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Doug: One of the more common questions that we get asked is what do I do with my children who hit? Yep. We get the one obviously about siblings, but more and more we get questions about what do we do about my kids that hit? Well, that’s the question that we get to ask Dr. Leman today for you.
Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.
Andrea: And I’m Andrea.
Doug: And that was like a low energy, weird kind of beginning. I don’t know what was wrong with it, but I guess who wants to be happy about anybody hitting mom? That’s weird. So, okay. But glad you’re here with us today. I want to let you know that if this is your first time with us, this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raise any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help. Well, Dr. Leman, this is not a ask Dr. Leman question, but it really is because the number of moms that are asking us increases to say, “What do I do when my child hits me?” So we’re going to do this in two parts. The first question I’m going to ask you is if I have a three year old who hits mom, what does mom do and what does dad do with the three year old?
Dr. Leman: Okay, well, number one, I appreciate you guys tackling this because kids are creatures of habit. And kids, during the developmental years, once they hit about 16 or 18 months, a kid can get very powerful. They’re acutely aware of the relationship between them doing something and you as a parent reacting or responding in kind. What happens is a kid will … They don’t haul off and slug mommy at age three usually, but it happens. And a mom can read that as, isn’t he adorable? Isn’t he cute? No, there’s nothing cute about a youngster hitting their parent, especially a young boy hitting his mommy or young girl hitting her daddy. Those are the key relationships in families. Keep that in mind. So through trial and error, a kid learns that that’s okay. Well, why do they learn it’s okay? Because the parent didn’t handle it the first time right.
Dr. Leman: So for all you young mommies who have little infants, they’re not crawling yet even, keep this in mind. The first time that kid ever hits you, you need to get a look on your face that looks like angry mama bear who just got her foot caught in a trap. You got to do everything and snarl as you say it with a humongous no. And with young kids, what you do with any kind of hitting, because parents don’t know what to do, they always tell me that. What do you mean you don’t know what to do? You’re five foot four and your child is 24 inches tall. What do you mean you don’t know what to do? Put your arms around the kid in such a way that they can’t hit you. That’s lesson number one.
Dr. Leman: Lesson number two is when you’ve done that and secured them so you know they’re not going to continue that behavior, you put them someplace. If it’s a playpen, and by the way, I hope all you young moms have little playpens of sorts. I know they call them different things, pack and play and everything else, but you know the point. Pick up the child, isolate them, put them in there with a stern no. Okay? That’s giving your kid vitamin n, which we approve of here on our podcast. If it’s appropriate, put a child in their room, close the door, hold the door if you have to. Let that kid have an immediate timeout. I hate that word, but you’re isolating the kid. You’re removing the kid from the scene. The scene is the kid creates a situation that is hitting mom or hitting dad, they need to be isolated immediately. So that’s how you physically handle it, but you also have to use words.
Dr. Leman: Now again, when you talk to a two year old, there’s not a lot of reason in a two year old. But something very similar like, “Mommy doesn’t like that. That hurts mommy’s feelings. That makes mommy feel sad inside.” Kids can understand that. So keep it simple. Someone said keep it simple, stupid. Well, I don’t want to call you stupid, but I’m telling you this isn’t rocket science, what we’re talking about right now, especially with a little three year old. Now again, I’ll give you that kids come with a bent, a disposition. It seems like some kids have an attitude when they come out of the womb. But nevertheless, you cannot allow the behavior to continue. Okay. So again, for you adults, keep in mind you’re training up a child and you’re representing all of womanhood to this young girl or young boy. And I underscore boy because it’s really important that a man, young man, learns to respect his mom.
Andrea: So this is great for mamas who have young children who haven’t yet hit them. Now I’m a listening mom and my three year old has developed a habit of hitting me. Do you have any advice for me?
Dr. Leman: Well again, habits only continue because they’re rewarded. And that’s where parents fail to see. This is operate conditioning at its best. And that’s why I say the first time a kid does something, you have to nip it in the bud so to speak. Because again, habits don’t continue. I don’t care. People tell me their kid whines and he’s nine years old. Give me a break. What have you done, parent, to nip that whining at age three? You didn’t do anything or you did inappropriate things and that’s why they continue to whine at age nine. So behavior only changes in your kids when you change whose behavior? Yours. And I’m the guy that wrote Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours. You don’t make children mind, but you set up situations where a kid figures out I might need to fall in line and do what expected of me.
Doug: So Andrea, you have your three year old, your cute little bundle, in your arms, maybe a two year old. And they turn around and they start just patting your cheeks and then she or he slaps it hard. Could you go full on mama bear or snarl, no, isolate them?
Andrea: Well, first of all, I think you’re painting a different picture. That sounded like they were being playful and they didn’t realize they were really … I think it’s more of a situation where the child is actually angry at me because I took away their toy, I’m making them go take a bath, they don’t want to, and they lash out. Now in a situation like that, it’s a lot easier to rise up and become mama bear because I realize I’m not going to let them treat me this way.
Doug: Dr. Leman, does it matter if it’s the kids angry or the kids playing? Does it matter at all?
Dr. Leman: Well, let me point out, though, that the scenario that the lovely Andrea just painted where a kid doesn’t realize they’re hitting is more along the two year old line. Three year olds know what they’re doing. So there’s a big huge learning gap between a two year old and a three year old. But she makes the point that, again, there are kids who innocently will slap at mom or … But nevertheless, you still give that innocence a big no and a growl because that kid has to understand that. And you still hold the kid’s arms in so they can’t do that. Again, this is important. Abuse in our country is rampant. And with all the knowledge we have about abuse and all the high profile cases we’ve seen where people have been jailed and the reputation’s ruined, you would think that people would pay more attention.
Dr. Leman: Look at the professional athletes who’ve lost millions of dollars through contracts because of spousal abuse. And again, remember abuse comes with the tone and the words. The little kid who you won’t get something for, a treat or whatever, he says, “I hate you.” Really? He hates you. Okay. So the very next time that child asks for anything, you tell him no. “Mommy, can I have a glass of milk?” “No honey, you can’t.” You’ve thrown the kid a curve ball. He’s thinking, “What’s wrong with her?” Let him figure it out. Even a three year old will figure it out sooner or later. You slip him the commercial announcement that says, “I don’t like the way you talk to me. Mommy never wants to do anything for you when you talk to me like that.” So again, all you’re doing is, they have this invisible fence with dogs. You ever seen those things?
Dr. Leman: They work and they’ll keep a dog in the yard. It’s an invisible fence. And I think every parent needs an invisible fence where their little son or daughter knows that you don’t cross the line there. If you do, you’re going to get zapped emotionally by mama bear or daddy bear depending upon the situation. But again, I’m so glad we’re tackling this today because I’ll ask the question for you. Hey Dr. Leman, what if the kid’s 10 or 12?
Doug: That was my-
Dr. Leman: Whoa. Yeah, you got a huge problem there. And you also have a track record of being permissive, now catch this, or way authoritarian with this kid. If you’ve physically been hitting this kid since he was two years old because you thought that was a cool idea, age 10 he’s hitting you back, or 12. Well, who taught him to hit to begin with?
Dr. Leman: So again, these things just don’t come out of thin air. There’s reasons why kids hit. A kid who’s striking out at those people that are supposed to love him the most is saying by the behavior, “I feel hurt by life. Therefore, I have a right to strike out at life.” Well, who and what is life for a 12 year old? It’s their brother, their sister, their parents. The old song You Always Hurt The Ones You Love is profound title because that’s what happens to people in life. So you need some real help if you’ve got a 12 year old that’s hitting you. And just ask yourself, ladies, if that’s your son, “What kind of a husband is she going to make someday?” If that’s your daughter, “What kind of a wife and mom is she going to be someday?” So these are serious things that I think, and rarely do I say you need outside help, but if you got a hitter at that age, you need some outside help to help you get through this.
Doug: So again, I recommend … The reason we’re doing this podcast is because you want a roadmap, you want the confidence to know what to do. Moms, you want to know what a difference you make? Go get the book between now and the end of February of 2020 for $2.99. Okay,
Andrea. So to your question, what were you going to ask?
Andrea: Yeah. I’m wondering, now I’m a mom who’s got a 10 year old or a 12 year old that is hitting me. Is there any hope?
Dr. Leman: Well yeah, there’s always hope. But I’m just telling you, this is major. This is where you give the kid the bread and water treatment, where this kid gets no privilege, he doesn’t get much of anything. The bread and water means you feed him, he’s got shelter. But, “Mom, would you drive me here?” No. “Can I have this? Could I have $20?” No. You need $20, find a way to earn it. There’s all kinds of neighbors that need yard work done or snow shoveled or you name it. Start showing the kids that they have reason to be grateful. Kids today are not grateful. They’re not grateful for anything. And we make it way too easy on them. And so, if we see the errors that we’ve made have created a situation that’s not good for our kid, the last thing your kid needs at that point is a permissive parent who’s driven by guilt to do more giving to a kid. No, you need to stand this kid up on his own two feet, hold them accountable, let them know that you’ve made some mistakes, but they’re going to see a new parent before their very eyes. That’s what turns kids around. And that’s why I say there is hope.
Andrea: And now they’ll associate the hitting with the bread and water treatment.
Dr. Leman: Absolutely. A simple statement, people aren’t for hitting, they’re for loving. I mean, what kind of a family do you want? Back to Thanksgiving, people always ask you, “Well, how was your Thanksgiving?” And I decided this year to tell some people and say, “Tell you the truth, it was marvelous because there were just 10 of us around the table this year. Usually we have a few strays, but we had no strays this year. It was just family. And spontaneously, one of us started. They stood up and they said, ‘I just want to tell each of you why I’m thankful for you.’ And it was Mrs. Uppington this year that started it and she went around the table. And then the next one proceeded. All 10 of us did that. An hour and 10 minutes later we got to number 10. And our eyes were all swollen, our faces were red because we were all crying.” That’s a great Thanksgiving. Not to mention the great dinner Mrs. Uppington put on the table.
Dr. Leman: But you know what? We do have a lot to be thankful for. And those of you who have grandmas and grandpas in your life, I got news for you. They’re not going to be there forever. Take the time to use the words to affirm to those you love. There is a great Thanksgiving message I think. Valentine’s day is upon us. How about that for a time to say, “Hey listen, you know what? I need to tell you how much you mean to me.” Don’t miss those opportunities, parents.
Doug: And that’s why we’re doing this. So you can solve these things so you can have those kinds of conversations with your kids. That’s really why we’re doing it. And Dr. Leman, I want to go back to something you just said real briefly before the break was that you would actually encourage this mom to go seek outside help. In what form would you say? Or dad, what form would you say that should take?
Dr. Leman: Well, again, I always tell people, “If you’re going to go find outside help, find someone who is directive, who will call a spade a spade with you. Look for someone who wants to get rid of you.” By that, I mean someone who specializes in short term therapy. Remember therapy is just a reeducation. You’ve learned to be the parent you are. They’ve learned to be the kid they are. But we need to relearn some things. If you need a book to reinforce that, pick up a copy of Have A New You By Friday. I thought it’d be sort of neat to write a book where people could sort of shrink themselves. And people love that book. All those Friday books are good. But if you’re in this trying to change some behavior, you can’t miss with Have A New You By Friday. It gets you into who you are and shows you how to change mentally. The decisions you make in your mind are the decisions that will eventually show behavioral change in your life. So you can think your way to behavioral change. That’s an interesting concept. But find somebody. Because sometimes you need an outside opinion just to help guide you through it.
Doug: Yeah. One last question. Andrea and I help out at a nonprofit that helps men and women who either of their own accord ended up in a bad spot or sometimes it’s ladies who ended up with abuse from their husband that just had to flee to get back on their feet. But one of the things that, in hearing their stories, there’s men and women there. When talking to the men, it’s interesting how many of them were kind of angry and at 10 year olds, they were this kind of violent. When does a parent need to throw in the towel and say, “I can’t deal with this kid. Somehow I’ve lost control and I just got to move on.” At what age or when do you know you’re done?
Dr. Leman: Well, usually that happens out of desperation and it usually happened around age 18 when a kid is literally can be on their own because the parents have tried about everything. Because see these kids have stole things from the parent they lie at will, they’ve gotten into trouble at school, maybe with the police. I mean, you get to a point where you just say, “You know something? Prodigal son or daughter, you need to go and live life the way you want. We’re holding you back.” And that’s a tough thing for a parent. That’s tough love with a capital T L. But I think sometimes it comes to that. And I think sometimes you have a very kind of conversation with your kid that goes like this. “We love you, but you know what? We really can’t live with you. It’s just, it’s not working for you. It’s not working for us. You need to be gone.”
Dr. Leman: And for some kids they’ll go, some kids will go in the service. And the Master Sergeant can be a pretty good teacher to a young private. Some kids don’t cut it in the military either. They get dishonorably discharged. But if you look at people who’ve had a trouble life, very few who have adult troubled lives had wonderful childhoods. They had terrible, for lack of a better term, childhoods. They had poor relationships. They had no one that they could really trust and talk to. So it all goes back to the parent. When you see a kid that’s off center, you can usually look back at mom and dad and see that there’s a fair share of responsibility that belongs clearly on their shoulders, many times because they were too authoritarian. But these days, many times because they’re too what? Permissive. They breach contempt.
Doug: And now I kind of regret my question because it was taking us down a different path because you’re right, when I think about those stories, they grew up with really bad parents and there was abuse in the family, which is what caused them to continue that lifestyle. So yeah.
Dr. Leman: But see, someone like Doug or Andrea Terpening who volunteers there, you can be a difference maker because you can plant the seed. Do you think that life could be different for you? And see, when you give that vitamin E that says, “I really believe life could be different for you, but I think it’s going to be really difficult.” So you’re not blue smoking them, you’re not saying, “Oh, this is easy. Here, read this book and you’ll be a new person in five days like Dr. Leman said.” It’s not that easy for people who that entrenched in a negative lifestyle. They need some successes, but they need some cheerleaders on the side.
Dr. Leman: I’ll tell you a very personal thing. And I’m just telling you this because it’s who I am. But a friend of mine has a grandchild who was a heroin addict, okay? He served time. He’s in his late twenties. And I heard about how he has kicked heroin and he doesn’t have a car yet, to give you an idea. He was living out behind some retail stores in the desert of Tucson, Arizona. But now he’s working at a fast food place, has to wear a tie to work because he’s now in management, and he’s really turned his life around. What I heard that, I told my wife, I said, “I’m going to go out and see if I can find that kid.” Now he doesn’t know me from Adam. And so I walk in, stupid me, I walk in at the lunch hour, they’re very busy. I asked for that kid and they said, “Well, he’s over there but he’s busy right now.” And I said, “Well, when he gets a second, just have him pop over here. I only need a minute with him.”
Dr. Leman: So I patiently waited. He comes over and looks at me like, who’s this old guy? I said, “Hey listen, I just want you to know I heard your story. That’s an inspirational story. You are an inspiration to me and I want to wish you the very best.” And I stuck out my hand and I shook his hand. Now inside that hand was a hundred dollar bill just for fun. But see, that’s who I am. I love inspirational stories. I love to see if maybe something I could say or something I could do could help that young adult on the right path of life. See, I think we all can be Johnny Appleseeds along that line. Look for places where you can invest in people, even in a 30 second conversation.
Dr. Leman: Do you think that guy is ever going to forget this old guy that came up and slipped him a hundred dollar bill and said, “Hey, good job. I’m so happy to know that you’re on the right track in life.” And what it cost me, it cost me the time to go out there and it cost me a hundred dollar bill. But that’s vitamin E in the flesh. I think that’s how we should live our lives. But again, I’m not sharing that story to say, “Look at me.” Trust me. Well, we’ve done this our entire life and Sandy and I have done it when we didn’t have two nickels to rub together. So it’s not a matter of somebody saying, “Oh, Dr. Leman, that’s easy for you because you can afford this.” No, we did it when we couldn’t afford Jack or diddly.
Doug: Well, Andrea for years has said that we should be serving more. You say that we should serve more. And now that we’ve gotten more involved in this nonprofit of helping them and serving down there, it just fills us up. And the impact, especially on our younger kids, has been way more positive than I ever would have dreamed of. And I know we started this off talking about what do I do when my kid hits mom? But man, getting your kids to go serve others is like, man, there’s nothing bad about that. But we should save that for another time.
Andrea: Yeah, that’s another podcast itself.
Doug: Andrea has given me the wrap-up sign. Good job, Andrea. We’ve got to wrap it up. Will do. Thank you, Andrea. So quick reminder, get the book What A Difference A Mom Makes between now and February 29th of 2020. Ebook, $2.99. And mama bear, don’t be afraid to say no the first time it happens and isolate them and you’ll be thankful years down the road. So thanks for hanging out with us and we hope this adds to your parenting toolbox and we look forward to the next time we get to be with you.
Andrea: Enjoy those kiddos.
Doug: Take care.