A Mother wants to know how to handle her daughter who hits and bites other children in the family all the time. The family members discipline her by beating her and yelling at her but she just doesn’t stop.
Assalam o alaikum wa rahmatullahi wabarakatuhu
This is stressful and embarrassing for the mother of the aggressor (the one who is biting or hitting).
There are reasons why kids bite or hit. It could be anger, frustration, attention-seeking behavior etc. When children don’t know how to express their feelings verbally, they resort to this form of behavior as a means of communication. So, remember these are small children with language limitations. It’s a normal phase of growing and can be stopped with correct intervention.
The immediate reaction of adults when a child bites or hits another child:
- You need to use telegraphic speech, meaning short and clear sentences. For example:
- Sit down to their eye level when you give them such commands instead of standing and towering over them.
- After saying no biting/hitting, place your body between the two of them, turn towards the victim and show your back to the aggressor.
- Pay lot of attention to the victim. Make a big fuss over them. When the aggressor sees that the victim is getting all the attention, hopefully, this will help them change their behaviour in the future. Children want attention to themselves and don’t like it when they’re ignored.
- After fussing over the victim, remove the aggressor from there and take them away to another room. This will make the victim feel safe. It will also calm down the aggressor.
- Talk to them privately after removing them from the place of fighting. “You look angry. It’s okay to be angry, but it’s not okay to bite/hit. It is okay to ask me for help.”
- Don’t show love and affection while correcting bad behavior. Example, hugging. This is just for a few minutes after the bad behavior when you’re disciplining them.
That does NOT mean you can be mean.
Don’t be angry with them the whole day.
Don’t yell or scream at them.
Don’t hit the child.
- Make them sit on the naughty stool – one minute for one year of age. So, if they are two years old, then two minutes. Fix a small stool or chair in the corner just for this purpose. Do not lock the child alone in any room. This is just in the corner of the main room where you and/or the family is present. After the “naughty stool” time is over, you can resume your loving behaviour towards them.
- If the aggressor is older than 2 years, you might want to suggest to them to help comfort the victim. This helps teach empathy and also focuses attention on the victim, but it should only be done if the victim and aggressor are ready for it. Don’t leave them alone at any time.
- Victims aren’t the only ones who need comforting. Parents of the victim (if present at the scene) need reassurance that the aggressor is being dealt with seriously.
- Observe the child when they are playing with others, and find the triggers. Once you know what causes the biting/hitting, you can step in to diffuse the tension.
- Clenching their teeth is a sign that they are about to bite. Move them away to another room to calm them down.
- Praise them when they don’t bite/hit while playing with other children, and pay attention to good behavior. However, don’t make too much of a big deal for good behavior, but acknowledge it.
- Teach them to come to you (or another caretaker) every time they feel angry instead of biting or hitting.
Things NOT to Do
- Don’t bite or hit the child to show how much it hurts!
- Don’t discipline the child much later after the incident. It has to be immediately after the bad behavior.
- Don’t shame the child in front of others by yelling/beating.
(Don’t yell or beat in private either)
When Parents Misbehave
How does the child learn to hit? Usually, it is learnt from either the children or the adults in the family.
Islam prohibits harming others emotionally and physically, yet we parents want to hit our children and hurt them. Only for not offering Salah are we allowed to hit children, and that too, after the age of ten. And hitting should just be a light tap to let them know the seriousness of the issue. Beating is not allowed in Islam, especially the kind which humiliates and hurts both emotionally and physically.
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ never hit kids. He urged us to be kind and loving to them. General rights of Muslims to not harm or hurt them and treat them with respect and kindness apply to kids as well.
Often, adults hit children to discipline them after the children hit others. How can you teach a child not to hit when you yourself are hitting them?! If adults cannot control their anger, how do they expect little children to be able to do that? And they’re confusing the poor children with contradictory words and actions. Practice what you preach as children observe and learn from adults.
It’s a phase and it will pass. This is a part of growing up. Just be consistent with your discipline, and don’t give up! In Sha Allah Khair.
Written by: Aunty Anjum
Edited by: The Editorial Team
© The Islamic Reflections Blog