To Hit or Not to Hit–Sibling Edition

18 Jul

If you have multiple children, you probably remember the first time your (most likely) oldest child hit your new baby (or toddler), and you sat in shock and horror at the sheer brutality of it all. I mean, aren’t we civilized human beings here!?

For our family, it wasn’t 2 days since my husband and I brought our new (preemie, mind you) baby home when our, then, 19 month-old fair-haired beauty took a large board book and hit the new baby on top of the head with it!

Since then, I’ve had one more child, and not a day goes imagesCAOWW37Sby when someone doesn’t get into a physical altercation with someone else. And, to be honest, very few therapy sessions go by in which I don’t get the question from other parents: Do I punish physical fighting at home or just let them work it out?

I’m often too ashamed to tell them that I’ve switched my theory on this multiple times. At one time, we let them duke it out gladiator style on their own. Then, we started punishing the aggressor, but not the victim who hit back. Now, we’ve come up with an entirely different way of doing business: whoever hits first gets punished by Mom or Dad, and you can’t hit back or else you get punished, too; however, you can defend yourself by pushing someone away.

Can you tell it’s complicated?

At the end of the day, though, I usually tell parents this: If you have a culture in your home where siblings hitting each other is acceptable, then you may be implying that it’s O.K. to hit others in the “outside” world. However, if you get involved in every little altercation, you may be too exhausted to make dinner. Then again, if you don’t allow your children to defend themselves, then they may be a victim to bullying in the future.

They usually pick a method and go with it–and, probably, like me, change their minds a lot!


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