Vicki: With this particular topic we are going to assume we are talking about younger children. If there is an issue going on with an older child hitting you or a teenager, we need to take a whole different approach and your safety is most important. If we have young children, sometimes physical aggression is just kind of part of the developmental growth of this child.

Paul: I think that's important to acknowledge because expecting kids to behave like an adult is an unrealistic expectation. So that's something you can adjust.

Vicki: Now, just because it's part of their typical development, it doesn't mean that it's okay and we are just going to ignore it.

Paul: We got to do something it.

Vicki: What are we going to do about it?

Paul: Because it's not good for your child to be hitting you or anyone else for that matter. In fact, we've got three rules that we used in our family and that we use in our coaching groups with positive parents. And that is to respect yourself and others. That's rule number 1. Don't have to go to the other 2 rules for this particular topic because that's the rule we are talking about. But there's also respect property and to respect authority.

Vicki: Right.

Paul: So, let's go to the respect rule for a minute. How are they going to learn that and unless you teach it to them? Obviously, your example is probably the most powerful teacher or teaching tool that you have. So, let's start with the basic principle that you get to stay in control of your emotions.

Vicki: It's tricky to stay calm. But you really need to stay calm even in the moment of slap or whatever.

Paul: It's hard because in the moment, you are going to feel an impulse to react. Maybe in the same way that your child just treated you. You want to hit them back. Please don't do this. Not only is it against the law in most countries. This is something that will teach your child the wrong responses. Remaining emotionally calm is important. And even if they're hitting you. This is easier with little kids, obviously.

Can I just jump in because we acknowledge at the beginning that we're going to talk mostly about little kids.

When older, bigger kids or teenagers are doing this, it's important to focus on what you control. Now, this is important for the little kids, too. Focus on what you control. Sometimes the only thing that you really control is your own reaction to this thing. Especially if you can't stop them from hitting you in the first place and they actually connect. Then you have a moment of time where you get to choose your reaction to that. So, we are encouraging you to stay calm in that moment. And we will give you some tools to follow up on that. But that is an important starting place.

Vicki: When working with a young child, one of the most important things you control is the proximity. Obviously, if they hit you, they're close. Sometimes, you just have to physically stop the behavior.

Paul: Wait, it's okay to restrain a child?

Vicki: Yeah. For these young kids on level 1, go ahead and restrain them. The consequence can sometimes be wait for a minute. You've got to get the behavior and control right away, especially true if they are hurting another child.

Paul:-This becomes part of the consequence. But you are making an important point here, Vicki. Some consequences can wait. And it is more important to do what is right than to do what you feel impelled to do. You don't want to follow your impulses here. You want to follow your good judgement as a parent. The restraining needs to done in a way that keeps the child safe, obviously, but physically stops them from hitting. And then you can implement other consequences later based on their stage of moral development. As we are dealing with this particular behavior, I think it's important, Vicki that we acknowledge here, this is the kind of thing that you have to intervene and you have to do it in a timely manner. And it's okay for you as a parent to be stern. It is o.k. to be assertive. I'm not advocating for you to be mean or to yell. Change your voice in a way that gets the attention of your child. And it can be very stern and assertive.

Vicki: But it could be a sharp “No,” and you get a very serious stern look on your face. Your kids might accuse you of yelling because your voice just changed. But you are under control. It's stern, it's assertive and it's clear.

Paul: Then you are going to label the behavior, not the child, the behavior that was out of compliance that was not acceptable. You are not calling the child bad, don’t personalize this. Label the behavior, not the child, be stern and be clear.

Vicki: One of the things I love about labeling this behavior and then saying, “That is not allowed,” is that helps the child see that hurting you, the person is not allowed. Nor is hurting themselves. I had a little girl who was involved with self-harm. Every time she did that we said, “No. Nobody is allowed to hurt ____,” and we said her name. We let them know that THAT behavior is what we are curbing. It had no judgement about her. 

Paul: And you had another important point, “I won't let you hurt me or your brother.”

Vicki: Or yourself. Clear communication is going to help with the discipline. “That's not appropriate. I won't let you hit me. I won't let you hurt your sister.” Then we can tie it to some appropriate consequence.

Paul: An appropriate consequence typically for young children has to do with isolation, typically in a time out setting. You have to be able to enforce that. Time out is probably the best default consequence you can give to a child. But let's say that your child is getting a little older and still hasn't curbed the problem yet. I remember I was working with a 10-year old, now, by 10, they should be mastering the ability to keep those three rules, respect yourself and others, respect property, cooperate and obey. He was still really struggling with it, and he was hurting his mom and his sister by hitting them. So, we imposed a fine. And it was a heavy fine. We charged him 50 US dollars for hitting his sister.

Vicki: Wow.

Paul: Okay, now did that seem like a lot?

Vicki: Yes, It's big.

Paul: For a 10-year old, that's a fortune, but we wanted to send a very clear message. He got to work the fine off over the next week or so. It has to carry enough weight that they are going to feel it. Now, I'm not suggesting that you should charge them 50 bucks. What I am saying is let's open up our thinking a little bit and be creative and consult with your coach or with other parents. Let's come up with some ideas of things that send a clear message. $50 is not that much when you consider that he could within the next few years be sent to juvenile detention facility.

Vicki: For physical assault.

Paul: Okay. What would I rather do? Enforce a 50 dollar fine right now with my child or wait and let the state do that in a couple of years? You want them to learn it now. It's cheaper now.

Vicki: You have the opportunity to introduce empathy. When a child does hit you, we can kind of help them start to understand how it makes somebody else feel. It is important for kids to learn how my actions affect somebody else.

Paul: Helping them gain some empathy for the other person in the interaction is one way to help them get to the point where they are ready for an apology of their own volition. This also moves them along in their moral development because empathy is part of the stage three level of development. We are inviting them to come up from that lower stage where they were hitting.

Obviously, there is lots to track as parents. That is why we are creating resources for you here at Live On Purpose. We have help in our coaching groups and the programs that we are offering. If you want to learn more about that, go to That will get you in touch with one of our certified coaches. They can tell you all about the resources that are available to you.