Hitting in Toddlers

Dear Dr. Madansky,

My 2 1/2 year old daughter has started to be aggressive with me and my wife and hits us when she does not get her way.  They have no complaints in her child care center.   What do you think is going on?

Dear Parent,

Of  course, I cannot understand the whole picture from your letter….but, in general, hitting is a common way for children to express anger or upset when their language skills are not fully developed.  You can work on both prevention and consequences. Prevention might include:

  • noticing or praising when your daughter uses words or is gentle
  • modeling descriptions of your feelings and hers
  • empathizing even though you are not giving in (“Oh, I know you want ice cream, ice cream is so good….we can’t have any now, but tomorrow after dinner, we can have some.”)
  • spending a little one-on-one time playing and having fun with your daughter every day.

Consequences could include:

  • telling her, “We are not going to hit you, and you are not allowed to hit us.”
  • holding both her hands and saying, “No hitting” when she is about to hit or has hit you
  • giving her a brief time out whenever she hits.

Good luck and best regards,

Deborah Madansky, MD

Posted Aug 17th, 2009 at 11:32 am

Sleep in Infancy

Dear Dr. Madansky,

My 9 month old son was sleeping through the night, but now he started waking up again in the middle of the night.  I wonder if he’s hungry or if he is scared..how should I handle this?

Dear Parent,

All infants awaken in the night briefly, usually after a dreaming period, but we aren’t aware of it because they go back to sleep quietly and by themselves.  Babies of your son’s age begin to protest when they awaken because they have begun to develop “object permanence” – that is, they know that when someone or something is out of sight, it still exists.  So now when your son wakes up, instead of going back to sleep, he thinks, “Wait a minute, where am I, where’s mommy?”  This is part of normal development. The best thing to do is not to feed or play with him…. check to make sure he is OK and then do whatever you did at bedtime to help him back to sleep.  “You’re fine, night night.”

Warm regards,

Deborah Madansky, MD

Posted Aug 12th, 2009 at 9:34 am

Adoption

Dear Dr. Madansky,

We have just adopted our 12 month old daughter.  She was neglected in her birth home and seems very independent and somewhat shy with us.  Do you have any advice?

Dear Parent,

Congratulations on your adoption!  I am glad that your  daughter now has attentive and kind parents.

Ideally, the first year of life is when children learn that they are lovable and important by how they are treated and thus to trust that others will care for them.  Your daughter did not get those messages in her birth home.  She could not rely on her birth parents and had to fend for herself, so it makes sense that she is independent.  She did not learn how to give and receive affection, so she is shy with you. Of course, her temperament also plays a role in her behavior.

Now is the time that you can begin to make up for what she missed.  She will need the kind of care that you would give to a baby – gently approaching her and paying close attention, singing to her, holding her, feeding her, and playing with fingers and toes and letting her know by your words and your actions that she is cherished.

See how it goes and check with your pediatrician, or a specialist s/he recommends, if you feel that you need more help.

Warm regards,

Deborah Madansky, MD

Posted Aug 3rd, 2009 at 10:37 am

Ask Dr. Madansky

To submit a question to Dr. Madansky, please e-mail her at deborah@deborahmadanskymd.com

Posted Aug 1st, 2009 at 7:33 pm