Helping that special child who hits.

A few months ago our daughter Darcy came home from preschool saying that ‘Billy’ had hit her and often hurt her. The hurting had happened quite a few times despite him being told “No” by teachers.


I asked Darcy why she thought Billy might have hit her.


She thought about it a bit, but could not think of a reason. “Is Billy bad?” she asked?


Instinct told me that Darcy was best placed to help Billy learn.


“Billy is NOT bad.” I said. “Maybe he wants you to play with him and does not know how to ask. Some children need to learn how to make friends in preschool. Maybe Billy is hitting because he likes you and he does not know how to show it. Maybe Billy needs a friend.”


I suggested that Darcy could help Billy learn to be a friend. She could show and tell him the sorts of things that friends do.


We did not speak about it again.


Months later we we were doing some gardening and Darcy said, “Billy is my friend now. He doesn’t hurt me anymore.”


“That’s great!” I said and then I remembered our previous conversation. “How did you make friends?”


“I told him be nice, do what I do – play and no hurting,” said Darcy.


I hugged Darcy and told her that she had made me very proud.


Darcy had helped little Billy with a social hurdle, simply and brilliantly and in a way that a grown up never could. Billy now has a friend, a role model and great potential to make more friends. Darcy could have changed his whole school experience.


I’ve heard parents and professionals observing a child who hurts say: “One day another child will hit him back.” But what would being hit back really achieve? The reaction may indeed ‘teach the child a lesson’, but it will be the wrong lesson.


Behaviour is so often a form of communication. We must always look for the roots. We must help our children to understand the roots and become role models.


If a child hits or kicks or knocks over brick towers then they do not need punishments. They need support and clear role models. They need directions and the chance to show they CAN. They need this to happen in the right way before behaviour habits begin to form.


The child who has been hurt may be best placed to turn things around.


Plant the seed. Children learn best from other children.


The conversation I had with Darcy made me very proud and reinforced my belief that children are our best teachers.


Ten hints to handle hitting


Be aware of triggers such as hunger, tiredness, boredom and avoid them.

Be aware of things that create anxiety such as noises, lighting and crowds.

Use visuals to forewarn children of changes to the typical schedule.

Support with small group structures if they are not ready to mingle with the masses.

Take the time to role play and teach play skills, pointing out good role models.

Use social stories to explain expectations in a clear and consistent way.

Use comic strip pictures to clarify why incidents have happened.

Explain the behaviours and promote a helping attitude to avoid social isolation.

Invite parents in. Strengthen and support them with strategies for home.

Use clear praise attached to ‘good’ visuals when the child gets things right.









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