Guest Blog: Jell Jell from 'I'll Sleep When They're Grown"

Sara is kind enough to let me guest blog during her entrance into motherhood.  I go by Jell Jell or variations of that nick name on my blog called "I'll Sleep When They're Grown," which is a mommy (+ other stuff) blog.  I write about my toddler and trying to get pregnant again, and other superawesome stories about my life that I find humorous.

My daughter is 20 months old and I call her EB.  She's amazing and smart and super funny.  But we're having a problem with hitting.

When I pick her up from day care, she runs and hits other nearby kids.  When we're playing and having fun, she'll just turn and bop me or our two dogs.  When we're on a play date, she will hit over toys or snacks.  It's embarrassing and frustrating to have the hitter.  And I didn't like feeling that way about my kid because I know she's not devious or mean - she is learning to talk and express herself and can't quite get her point across.  Of course that's frustrating for her.

So what can we do about it?  I started getting advice from other mothers.  They would tell me to say "soft touch" and "gentle" and "we don't hit our friends."  But that wasn't working.  And I didn't like saying "no" all the time.  She wasn't getting it either.  I needed to figure out the cause of the hitting and not just react to her behavior.

The Hubs and I decided to take this into our own hands and go to a parenting seminar.  If you live in Austin, TX, you should check out Carrie Contey's Toddlerhood classes.  She has a bunch of offerings on various topics.  There were about 20 of us who met in her house and I felt very comfortable asking lots of questions.

I wrote about a couple of topics so far on my blog about:

How do I react if my kid is hitting?

Am I giving my kid too many bottles in the night?

So in this installment, I want to talk about parenting for the boundaries of your household.  It's really hard when I see my EB hitting one of her friends or even her cousin.  The other parent's first reaction is to tell my kid "no" to protect their own child.  That totally makes sense and I don't fault them for that.  But from what I've learned in this class and from what I know in my heart, just saying "no hitting" doesn't keep or from doing it, calm her down, or solve the inherent problem.  If she's hitting because she's overstimulated from playing, it's my job to regulate her emotions and calm her down.  So we could go outside, or take a bath, or sit in another room and read a book.  We can talk about how much I appreciated when she was playing nicely with her friends.  And that's when I can start defining the boundary for her.  I can say "we can hit the couch or our stuffed animals, but we never hit the dog.  But isn't it fun to hit this pillow?"  That way she can see what her options are.  How would you feel if you were upset and overwhelmed and someone just goes of on all the stuff you're doing wrong?  Yelling "no" at you when you really just need a hug?  Think about how you would want someone to react to you.  Kids are people, after all.

If I am only worried about how I feel about what my kid is doing, it is more authentic when I set the boundaries for EB.  If I tell her she can't get on the coffee table because I know other kids don't get on their tables, it's not really a rule set from my comfort zone.  I actually don't mind if she sits on the table.  But I do mind if she stands on it.  And amazingly, she is pretty respectful of this rule.  Every once in a while she makes sure the rule is still in place and we kind of laugh about going through it - "you can sit but please don't stand because I'm afraid of you falling and getting hurt."  She relates to it and believes me.  That doesn't mean she won't try again later because she is just figuring things out.  And it behooves me to be patient and not get mad about this.

So the hitting.  And other people's kids.  That's where it gets tricky.  Because I don't want the other parent to feel any strange emotions towards my child or me.  But that's not solving the problem.  If I step back and analyze the situation sooner, we can eventually learn to avoid the triggers that cause the hitting.  And when I talk to EB to regulate her emotions, it can be because I want her to be calm, not because I don't want the other person to judge us.  She can't relate to those feelings.  She can relate to me saying it hurts me when she hits me.  And it hurts other people, too.

So what you can take home from all of this is the following:

  • Set boundaries from what you need from your child, not what you think is expected.
  • Talk to your child calmly and try to solve the problem instead of punishing
  • Talk to your child like an adult that will understand your feelings (no baby talk).  Kids are smarter than you think.
  • Watch for warning signs early that your kid is about to hit.  Being aware of triggers like food, being tired, being over stimulated, or an upcoming nap time can help you avoid the hitting altogether.
  • Be clear about what you want and not just tell your child what you don't want.  In other words, appreciate them verbally when they're behaving or being sweet or just being a kid and having fun.  Redirect them when the behavior is not what you want to see and reiterate what do you do want to see.

Do you have a hitter?  How did you handle it?  If you are having trouble is other behaviors, ask in the comments.  And thanks for letting me have this guest blog slot!  Good luck with that new baby, Sara!  It goes by so so quickly.

Jell Jell

ABOUT THE BLOGGER... The best way to learn more about Jell Jell is to check out her fantastic blog: I'll Sleep When They're Grown!