When my child hits another child, shouldn't I give all my attention to the one they've hurt?

I've had some really great questions from people who've been using the Cheat Sheet Minimising Meltdowns and Getting Kids to Cooperate.

I was asked a really important question from a mother who wanted to know what's best to do when her child hits or hurts their siblings or other children:

“What about the other child they have hurt? Shouldn’t we be giving them all the attention, not the naughty one?”

The answer is that both need your attention!

Let’s say your child hits his little brother, who is now crying. Here’s what you can do:

Step 1 – Go to the little brother first and make sure he’s safe. Ensure the hitting is all over (restrain big brother if necessary). Comfort the hurt child first.

Step 2 – While holding little brother (if need be), go to the older child and sit with him and talk about it. With gentle body language, state what you see: “You hit Tommy. You were angry. Did you feel angry because he messed up your Lego?” Listen to what he has to say about it.

Step 3Coach him on not hitting and encourage empathy: “It’s never okay to hit someone. You’ve made Tommy very sad – see how he’s crying?” Listen to his thoughts on this.

Step 4 - Talk about some strategies for what to do next time: “When you get angry like that you need to stamp your feet (or other method that’s safe) and then ask me or Dad to help you.” (If the siblings are old enough you can coach him on being assertive eg “Tell him to stop and leave your toy alone.”)

Step 5 – Once the child has totally calmed down, ask him for ideas on how to make the hurt child feel better eg "Can you give Tommy a cuddle or what can you do to make him feel better?" But also ensure the older child’s concern is taken care of “We'll fix your Lego now once you've given Tommy a cuddle.”

In essence, we need to stay connected with the offending child so that they learn from their mistakes and so we can coach them on how to choose a calmer reaction next time. But, yes, we do need to keep the other child close and comfort him at the same time (not always easy, I know!).

Be well,

Suzie xx

PS. Do you want to share the Cheat Sheet with your partner or friends? Here's the link again so you can share it: http://www.feedtheparent.com/blog/kidscooperation