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My preschooler expelled for hitting


kiersti June 26, 2008

My 2.5 year old was just expelled from school for hitting. This has been a problem and only seems to be getting worse at the school so I understand why this happened. We are trying to correct the behavior at home, but he hardly ever hits at home. He recently even started biting - totally new behavior. I can't help but take this on as reflection of my parenting and have been feeling guilty and embarrassed. As a result I am having to pull his sister out of the same school which is heartbreaking. Any advice on how to prepare for the new school to make sure this doesn't happen again? Yes - I work full time and the kids are there all day, wish it could be different, but it can't.

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healthy11 June 26, 2008

At age 2.5, it's hard to know exactly why your son is hitting, but I'm wondering if you've spoken to his pediatrician about it? I trust you're modeling good ways to handle himself at home, by not hitting, and trying to tell him to "use words to say explain himself." Is your son's language development lagging behind, such that he finds it easier to use his hands instead of verbally expressing himself? Not to cause you undue concern, but problems with impulse control can also be indicative of things like attentional issues. I wouldn't jump to that conclusion yet, because the term "terrible two's" didn't come out of thin air, but again, it's something to ask your pediatrician about... You might also want to join Greatschool's Preschool Parents Group at


momvic June 26, 2008

This looks like a good article. I wonder if the school used any of these tactics. Just remember, a two year old has a hard time communicating and if they are not getting the attention they want, they will get it any way they can. I have two boys and my youngest always gets his point across- maybe not in the best way- but he does. He is five now, and he and his brother still get into it.

My child is almost two years old. He has started hitting anyone he interacts with. We have tried time-outs, but nothing seems to work. How can we get a child this young to stop hitting?

Your two year old sounds like he is becoming interested in other people. Hitting, pushing and grabbing toys are all ways that toddlers use to try to make contact with others, before they develop other social skills. Your son sounds like he is curious about other people. He has limited language and experience, so rather than walking up to someone and saying, "Excuse me. Can I play with you?," he shows his interest by smacking them. Subsequently, he discovers that he can get a reaction when he hits someone. He may even get two reactions, one from the person he hits and one from you. Even though the reactions probably aren't pleasant, he is intrigued by them.

Toddlers are fascinated with what they can make happen over and over and they are also curious about how people react in different situations. Hitting people satisfies both of these interests. Furthermore, toddlers see the world only from their own point of view and therefore don't understand that other people have different ideas and feelings than they do. "If hitting you is fun for me, I expect that it is fun for you, too." They are often very surprised at first when they hit, bite or push someone and that person cries. Sometime they continue to hit, just to see if they will get the same reaction every time and from different people.

Since they are fascinated with what they can make happen, they will repeat behaviors that cause certain predictable outcomes. These experiences can provide wonderful opportunities to learn. The frustrating thing for parents is that toddlers have to repeat behaviors numerous times before they can fully learn something. Here are some things that you can do to help your child learn positive ways to interact and also help keep other children safe in the meantime.

Model the behavior you want to teach. Often we are so surprised, scared, embarrassed or angry when our children hit that we intercede too roughly. This gives children a mixed message and also serves to make both children feel more tense and upset. Children will better learn from the interaction if you are calm, firm and gentle and use your words.
Give your child information and help interpret the response he is getting. Tell you son, "It hurts when you hit someone. Jessica is crying (pulling away) because she doesn't like to be hit."
Support the victim. Encourage the child who was hurt to speak up, to say, "No," or "Don't hurt me." Also, help your son make things right with the child he hurt. Maybe he can bring the other child some ice or a blanket or something else that will comfort him.
Offer your son an alternative. When your son hits someone, he has a good idea that he is trying to communicate. He may be trying to say, "Let's play," or "Hi!" or "Move over," or "Don't take my toy." If you can figure out what he is trying to say, you can redirect him to another way to say it. "If you want to ask Jessica to play, you can say, 'Let's play,' or you can bring her a toy." "If you want Jessica to move, you can say, 'Move.'"
Supervise him closely when he is in situations where he is likely to hit and prevent any hits you can. If you stay close to your son, you may be able to offer him an alternative before he hits someone. If you see him approaching someone with his hand lifted, you can step in, gently hold his arm and remind him, "If you want to say 'Hi,' you can wave or blow a kiss." If you can reach him before he hits someone he is mad at, you can stop his arm, and say, "I'm going to stop you from hitting Timmy. If you are mad, you can tell him, 'I'm mad!'"
Learn to anticipate his behavior. If you stop a hit, he may be likely to try to hit again, soon. Stay close to ensure his success and to continue to offer him safer options. The more times he uses alternative methods of interacting, the better he learns them.
Choose situations where he is most likely to be successful. You may have observed that his hitting happens more in certain situations or with certain children. He may be sensitive to large groups and would be more able to control himself in a small consistent group of children. He may do better when he is outside than when he is inside. He may do better one-on-one with another child than in a group. He may be more likely to hit if he is tired or hungry. He may be successful with a group of kids for up to two hours, but after that, he begins to lose control. If you spend some time observing him and talking to other people who care for him, you may be able to get some clues about when and where he is most likely to be successful. Then you can try to arrange for him to be in those more successful circumstances.
Choose durable playmates and understanding parents. While your son is working on learning gentleness, it can reduce the stress on everyone if you spend most of your time with easy-going, active kids who don't take being hit too seriously. Spending time with parents who understand young children's clumsy attempts at being social, can help reduce your stress and sense of ostracism about your child's behavior.
You can remove him from a situation if he seems unable to be successful. If he has had several attempts, or hits in a certain situation, it may be that that situation is too difficult for him. If possible, remove him from the situation and/or take him home and let him try again another day.
It can take time. Because there is so much to figure out about people, feelings and appropriate behavior, toddlers don't learn these things fast. It may take a while for him to stop hitting. The exciting thing is that he is not just learning how to stop hitting, he is learning other, more successful ways to relate to and communicate with his peers. With your support, gentle, positive limits and encouragement, he will learn to be a social and compassionate person.

My link would not work, so I cut and pasted the article. :)


Jsillymom June 26, 2008

At 2 and 1/2 he may not be able to express exactly how he feels. He may not even understand how he feels. He may just feel frustrated and it's the way he deals with it. Like other's have said just model the behavior you want and he will get it. Even at two you can sit him down and say. You hit so and so didn't you? How does it make you feel when someone hits you? It doesn't feel good does it? He may not understand at first and you can explain that hitting does hurt and if he doesn't want to be hit he shouldn't hit. It's really hard at his age I remember when my boy's were that young. The main thing is leave that communication open and eventually he will get it.


blueshai June 27, 2008

Your two year old is going through a stage that all kids go through. Considering you aren't around to help him go through it, and understand it, it makes it hard to stop. At that age you have to figure out how to talk to him/her, and him/her understand, which can be complicated. There are books you can buy for this type of behavior. Read it to the child as a bedtime book, and the information will sink in. I feel for you, I spent the first four years as a mother working, unable to control my child's behavior because of it. Now there are more resources. Try these;
No Biting! by Karen Katz
No Biting Louise by Margie Palatini
No Fighting, No Biting (I Can Read Book, An: Level 2)
by Else Holmelund Minarik
These are a good start. I hope you find your answer! Good Luck!


rachelernst June 27, 2008

In WonderTime magazine one answer I liked about this kind of thing is that someone has to be there to help the child in the situations that are his hotbuttons *before* he feels like hitting/biting. By intercepting the behavior before it happens, you intercept him *practicing* the behavior. I believe that children end up repeating things just because that is structural in their nature. In You Are Your Child's First Teacher, the author uses a phrase that has become an internal mantra for me with my 2 and 4 year old: "Help them act right," which is to say that true discipline is leadership and that we as parents/caretakers must help the child learn what to do, rather than focusing on the negative (and I could remember this lesson myself, for today I had a difficult day with my own kids)... that spending more time talking about what he did wrong might just bring his focus there. Talk more about what he CAN do. Focus on the solutions and how he can gain more proficiency at life. What can he do that will gain him respect from others? What are his options in the hotbutton situations? At 2.5, he has almost no forethought, planning, reasoning, logic. He has no internal reasons for why he should share. He will learn social cues and interpersonal relationships, but it's going to take some time. Between now and then, adult modeling is the socializing influence and he only really learns by how we adults treat him.
Also, about your parenting and embarassment. We are all learning. We are all on a path. It is in our nature to worry about what other people are thinking about our parenting--that's what happens in tribal situations and modes of parenting are accepted by the group. But, in our culture, the accepted modes are all different. At this time in history, that's a good thing, because the status quo does need to be challenged. But, it does leave most of us floundering and wondering "What works?" We need to follow the arising consciousness about teaching respect through respecting children, and about finding out what are authentic and compassionate behaviors and ways of teaching children. I highly recommend to you Pam Leo's Connection Parenting book or audiobook on CD. And, after you read that, go for Loving What Is by Byron Katie--it will help you solve all your own problems including parenting problems. If you want, you can see Loving What Is in action in parenting by reading great examples in Raising Our Children Raising Ourselves by Naomi Aldort.
You are looking for answers, which is the first and most important step. Admitting that you "just don't know" is the most freeing moment that allows your mind to open up to new possibilities (answers you didn't see before). Maybe the school itself is not where your kids should be anyway (cause for rejoicing here, that you have found this out now). Maybe there would be another place with more informed and conscious teachers. Maybe you do need a place you can drop them both off. Maybe there's a way to get some consistent care in your own home. Doing deeper investigation with yourself is going to lead you to the next step. Living under the guilt you have expressed is not going to help you or anyone. I urge you to do The Work today. You can find out the whole process for free on the website. It's simple, powerful, but you do have to commit your time to meditate on the questions.


Suomi0304 July 10, 2008

You know why your child hit? Well, ma'am as an educator and one that has worked summer jobs in child care facilities this is why.
When a child does something inappropriate like hit or throw a block or scream in the face of another child, the preschools and daycare facilities are no longer allowed to give them a "timeout" (apparently, it's "emotionally abusive", which is utter nonsense) so they call it a "resting time" or a "cooling down time".
Also, they cannot say "Suzy/Billy, that made me very angry! We do not hit our friends!"
You can't say "angry" (omg doesn't it make you want to laugh?) you have to say "Suzy/Billy that makes me sad."

Well, I'm sorry but "angry" and "sad" are too very different things.
Another issue, is that instead of addressing the situation (even with 5 yr. olds), they just separate the children.

No, wonder children are so ill equipped to handle social situations and become self disciplined.
I'm sure you are a fantastic mom, it isn't you, it's the way facilities are run these days because they are so deathly afraid of pushy parents (not you) and getting sued.
Go to an impoverished school or daycare and it's completely different. Of course, any facility cannot hit a child but in impoverished places I've worked it's called a "timeout" and they teach young children to apologize and make up for what they did. They also are a lot more strict with them, they don't use the cutesy little voices like "Jamie darling, let's find something better to do." as I've heard one too many times in middle/upper class daycares (literally) while little Jamie is hitting. Instead, they say, "Jamie! We do not hit, we ask when we want something! Now, you apologise."

Believe me, it is not YOU, it's the bologne way of how they handle problems these days.


Coffee_at_Dawn July 22, 2008

I do have a 2 y/o boy who goes through the same situation as yours. Often time I blamed myself for his behavior but I learned also (rather than just accusing myself) from others that it's part of their personality development that needs to be addressed/corrected rightly (I see many good advices have already been given). And often time they may learn it from other kids behavior. When they are taught to be corteous and yielding but the other kids being aggresive or greedy, their nature makes them to learn of 'self-defense' (my husband and I saw this situation/tendency when we helped at the nursery several times). Not to accuse anyone here but I do agree with "Suomi0304" that mentions about how they break good rules, they ruined good teachings, it drives our kids frustrated.
So, yes, talking with him is very important to address his issue and most of all (to me) is to help him and letting him know that we - as his parents - are there, ready to help him, to listen and to love him.


lisagator96 July 22, 2008

First of all let me just say that you are not a bad parent! The exact same thing happened to my son when he was 2 and going to a Mother's Day Out program. I am an elementary school teacher so I was beside myself when my son became "the bad kid" of the class. I wondered how I could control a class of 20 second graders but not my own child. Well now that I'm older and a more experienced parent I've come to realize that hitting and/or biting is very common of children this age for all of the reasons the others have stated. In my son's case when he hit they did now have a "time-out" they just called me and told me to pick him up. Well, even a 2 year old can figure out pretty quickly that cause and effect relationship! It didn't take long before he realized "hmm, if I hit I get to go home to mommy." On the third time I was called to pick him up for hitting, I was told he was not welcome any longer at this school. It was very upsetting for myself and my son (who had made friends in his class despite the hitting). I continued to model the appropriate behavior with him when there were altercations with other children (which were far less common outside of his mother's day out) and practice with him the appropriate ways to communicate with others. The next year he went to a different preschool that did have consequences for bad behavior...namely time-out. It was a completely different year for him. He had a few issues here and there but nothing like in the past. His behavior only improved from there.

Now my son is a happy well-adjusted 7 year old. I can't tell you how happy I was when I went to his parent teacher conference this year and his teacher said, "if only I could have a class full of children like your son." I told her, "did I ever tell you about the time he got kicked out of his first preschool.........." She couldn't believe it, and now neither can I.

So I just wanted to give you a little hope and encouragement that things will get better. A lot of it just has to do with his age. Before his new school starts I would find out what sort of discipline system they have in place and talk to your son about it. Let him know that there will be consequences for his behavior and that you will follow up at home. Also I hope for you that they have "time-outs.!" Good luck!


toshiba July 27, 2008

rachelernst is right. Discipline, compassion and forgiveness is needed but how many parents can't even talk to their kids let alone teach them? It is always the teachers fault and parents will never admit that they're the problem and it is always the "other kids" fault. Another step is getting rid of this guilt trip. In almost every post someone is "blaming" themselves. Good grief, let it go. This isn't a religion folks, just work with them. Your child lives in a young community and this is the time to help them so they can live in an adult community when he grows up. I don't feel guilty if my kid messes up. I also tell them to quit whining, grow up, and learn to communicate better because it will only get worse when they're adults if they cannot handle it now. I also tell my kids that, "yes, sometimes you will get in trouble and yes, sometimes it won't be your fault but someone else messing with you; that's life". "Quit trying to find fault and learn to see the bigger picture and how everyone's actions can affect negatively upon others". In do this, they can relate to the old adage, "Don't be quick to judge if you haven't walked in their shoes". I won't tolerate my kids growing up holding the "woe is me" attitude whenever something or someone does something to them. I also teach them that that kid that you hate right now, may be your best friend next year, so watch what you do and say. A lot of kids these days have a lot of baggage to bring to school, so I want my kids to understand this so they learn compassion and forgiveness toward others.


debbie29469 July 27, 2008

Try not to feel guilty about your child's behavior and I know that is difficult and easier said than done and I will pray for your confidence in your parenting skills and your insight into your child's behavior. Remember that as your son grows up he will try many behaviors that are unacceptable if he is to be successful in his various relationships, even into adult hood. So, you are doing what every great parent should do, you are taking this as an opportunity to teach correct behavior and to mold him into a responsible adult.

As far as a 2 1/2 year old hitting, my answer is not a psychological one as are many of the responses you received, but I do believe it is worthy of your consideration. In my experience, many of the things our children do are learned through environment. Your son must be spending time outside of daycare/preschool with other people. Observe the way his peers behave and the way the older children and adults around him behave. He may well be practicing their behavior. And, yes, even if this is the case, he must learn that there are consequences. I am very concerned about the level of anger and the maner in which it is expressed in our society. I believe it is the number one cause of most of the violence our society is experiencing. So, most importantly, continue your good parenting quest to teach appropriate behavior.

My granddaughter is a little over 2 years old. Her father is very much into boxing and wrestling (not to bash those sports!). But, he plays very rough with her and every weekend she spends with him she comes home punching us with her fists - hard! Her father also has a 5-year-old stepdaughter and we see her mimicking that child's behavior, including slapping us in the face. All of us respond to both of these behaviors by holding her hands and saying "no, we do not hit" in a very stern voice. It usually takes about 1 1/2 to 2 days to stop this behavior. Then, we have no problem with it until her next visitation weekend. Your son could even have a child in church nursery who behaves this way. It could be neighborhood playmates...possibly of older children or at the local Chuck E. Cheese where he can observe other children's behavior. And, the negative behavior doesn't have to be hitting, it can be yelling, throwing a temper tamtrum. When I go to the door to "yell" to her brother, my granddaughter "yells" to. If my husband is on nightshift and sleeping during the day and she is too loud, I talk very quietly, even in an exaggerated whisper, and she begins to talk very quietly. If the 6 and 7 year old are running through the house, she runs too. So, I take them all outside and tell them to run to their hearts content and when we come back inside, we use our "inside walk". If negative behavior continues, I have the children go to their rooms to play (similar to a time out). Others have encouraged your continued modeling of behavior, as do I, but I would add that it needs to be one-on-one modeling/teaching, done at the time of the negative behavior as 2 year olds have short memories about such things.

As simplistic as this sounds, it works well for us with the 2 year old, as well as the 6 and 7 year olds.

As far as the new school is concerned, I believe it would be a good idea to interview the principal and the teacher about how they handle this and other behavioral development issues. Then, express to them how you handle things at home and that you believe consistency is the most important part of behavior change. Have regular "chats" after school with his teacher about his day and ask if there is anything you should be aware of so that you can reinforce appropriate behavior teaching at home. Teachers have so few parents who involve themselves in this way that they appreciate very much those who do. Your child will receive better attention and training as a result.

And, reaching out to you a little beyond your question, I realize that it may be absolutely impossible for you to cut back to a part-time job at this time or to change your work situation in any way. So please don't misunderstand my comments and please do not feel that I am being judgmental. My daughter is a single mother who works full time with a 2 year old and a 7 year old. My son's fiance is a single mother who must work fulll- time with a 6 year old. They do not have a choice at this point in time. But, I would very much encourage you and your husband, and all other families, to begin making or planning to make changes that might allow you to do so. I don't know what type of work you do, but, if possible, turn it into a work at home situation. Many employers still practice flex hours and job sharing and telecommuting, so check to see if these are possibilities for you. I also worked full-time during all of my children's growing up years and I look back and know that this is the one thing I would change about our lives...they needed me to be at home more than I was...and I was fortunate to have a great deal of flexibility in my jobs. My son had learning disabilities and loads of homework time that was filled with frustration and boss let me leave at 2:30 to pick him up so that we could have more homework time (my work still got done...I worked through lunch hour and breaks! How great is that! In today's society, it is almost impossible to survive on less than two incomes, but it can be done with some tough changes and it will pay for itself over and over...especially in reducing your guilt about being there with and for them, aka their behavior that might be different "if only" feelings. Reduced guilt and more time equates to better discipline and less stress when dealing with the child's ongoing issues...from homework to carving out fun time to helping with chores to bath time...the list goes on. The three hours in the evening that you have to do all that you have to do and all that the children need to have done are simply not enough! Perhaps a professional could help you develop your goals and a plan to achieve them...I was not able to do this on my own. Again, please do not take this as a criticism, it is definitely not!, or that I presume to know about your life needs, I truly do not. I mention it only if is even a remote possibility.

Our world, our country especially, need more parents like you who invest themselves in training up their children in a right and respectful way!

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