QUESTION (by one of our readers about how to handle a child who hits):
If a student continually hits other students when he doesn’t get his way, can you allow the other child being hit to give the hitter a taste if his own medicine?
You cannot control the momentary reaction of another student. If they hit the “hitter,” which is a logical consequence, there may be nothing you could have done to stop it, and the “hitter” may not hit that child again.
However, I do not feel it is right in any setting, but particularly a school setting to purposely allow any child to hit. Allowing them to defend themselves by blocking or moving away would be more acceptable. We need to get to the core of why the child is hitting?
If a child can’t get out of a particularly dangerous situation, and hitting/kicking is the only option, obviously that would be an exception to the rule.
Likely this student does not have the appropriate mechanisms or skills to express their feelings or they think hitting is the only way they can be heard. They may also struggle to understand another’s perspective and how their behavior impacts situations.
Working with the child on coping skills such how to identify their frustration, how to assertively express frustration, and how to cope when others do not get or validate their feelings is crucial to seeing improvement.
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If the child stops hitting because they are afraid of getting hit by the other students, then the negative behavior will probably manifest in another way.
We need to figure out the purpose of the behavior and address that at its core. We don’t want this child who hits to become an adult who hits so we need to find a way to work with the child and possibly the child’s family to improve the behavior before it gets worse.
Is the school counselor involved?
It sounds like you need an action plan to keep the other children safe as well, such as seating the child away from anyone they might hit, having an area for the child to safely calm down, and having regular discussions when the child is calm about appropriate coping skills. Other children should know that they are allowed to block themselves and/or move away.
What do you think about “How to Handle a Child Who Hits?” Let us know your thoughts.
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Rachel Wise is a certified school psychologist and licensed behavior specialist with a Master’s Degree in Education. She is also the head author and CEO at educationandbehavior.com, a site for parents, caregivers, educators, counselors, and therapists to find effective, research-based strategies that work for children. Rachel has been working with individuals with academic and behavioral needs for over 20 years and has a passion for making a positive difference in the lives of children and the adults who support them. For Rachel’s top behavioral strategies all in one place, check out her book, Building Confidence and Improving Behavior in Children, a Guide for Parents and Teachers. If you want Rachel to write for your business, offer behavioral or academic consultation, or speak at your facility about research-based strategies that support children, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.