Should you teach your child to hit back? How can you teach your child to defend? When can you teach your kid to hit back?
These questions are often asked by the parents of 2-4-year-old kids. At this age, children socialize actively, so they may be involved in conflicts.
Let’s first consider what it means to “hit back” and in what manner it is generally acceptable.
“Hitting back” in our society means to respond the person who has offended you in a similar way. There is even a corresponding phrase that reflects the essence of this mechanism of hitting back – eye for an eye. It means that if you have been insulted verbally, you have to defend yourself in words; if you have been pushed or hit, then you have to strike back; if your toy has been taken away, get the toy back. These are socially acceptable mechanisms of conflict resolution; these are acceptable options for hitting back, which a child can afford.
Why do we speak about a child? Because in our civilized society, it is not acceptable to hit back with fists, even if you have been hurt physically. Smart people avoid fighting.
It turns out that a preschool child must adjust the degree of his/her impact on another child and the degree of hitting back, which he/she can afford in a given situation. I.e. the child should evaluate the behavior of the offender objectively and choose the appropriate form of reaction. Note that there is still such a moment as emotional significance of the event, requiring the child to defend himself and punish the offender.
If a child is said something very, very offensive, it is supposed to hurt very much. Or, for example, a passing kid has pushed or hit your kid, and the latter has dropped his/her most favorite and precious toy or spilled water on his/her drawing that has been drawn for half an hour. This disappointment seems very serious to your child. And in such a situation it is very difficult for a preschooler to act objectively.
First of all, we mean that the child – and many adults, too – finds it very difficult to understand how seriously he/she has been hurt.
Usually it turns out that we respond verbally when we control ourselves, when we are not very much hurt; however, we respond physically when he flies into a temper, when it is the last straw already. It turns out that if a child is severely hurt by words, not even by a physical blow, when something has been done with his/her toys and it offended the kid very much or he/she got upset because of something else, a preschooler will most probably hit back physically.
Should we allow the child to hit back?
Preschoolers have a problem that is called the immaturity of arbitrariness. What is this? Arbitrariness is the ability to regulate one’s activities consciously. This is the ability to analyze your actions, to analyze the reasons for these actions and to control your behavior.
Children’s arbitrariness begins to develop at the age of four. It is only at four that the child can begin to quietly monitor, to think about what his/her specific actions may lead to and whether one should do them or not. The child can only begin to control emotional impulses.
What conclusions does this fact lead us to? It helps us understand that preschoolers are mostly unable to adequately control the situation and decide whether to hit back or not.
Temperament and hitting back
We all know that there are kids who cannot protect themselves. Basically these children are quiet, melancholic, or phlegmatic.
A choleric is more emotional and more hot-tempered. Such a child develops arbitrariness a little later. It is not critical, but still it is also important, whether the child is emotional or not.
It turns out that a very big problem arises when parents teach their preschooler to hit back.
What should you be ready for if you allow your child to hit back?
When you tell your kid that he can hit someone in response and that he may resort to physical violence, it is not certain if the kid will use physical violence in a situation in which you would like him to.
Most often, the child begins to try aggression in practice as a result of such permitted physical aggression.
The child does not know the social norms, he/she tries them in practice and applies physical violence as a way to resolve the conflict in different situations. Of course, kids misinterpret the situation from time to time.
If you allow your child to hit back, be prepared for the fact that there will be conflicts between the children, that there will be fighting, and that you will have to be responsible for this. Besides, your child may cause strong physical damage to another child.
These events can be absolutely unpredictable. After all, even in primary schools children face the situations when somebody uses offensive words, and the insulted kid takes a chair and strikes the offender back.
Therefore, psychologists do not recommend giving the kids actual opportunity to hit back physically. Words, of course, are welcome. But not physical impact. Otherwise, if the child uses too much physical strength, he/she will also be punished. But for him/her, this punishment will seem unfair because the parents say hitting back is normal.
It is necessary to be consistent. It is better either to prohibit hitting back or limit the situations in which you can afford a physical response to the offender. For example, if you get hit, you can hit back, in other situations you should not show your aggression in any way.
Many are concerned that their kids cannot defend themselves. Their toy is taken away, and they start crying.
In such situations, here is another important issue: think how would YOU defend the interests of the child? The child learns to defend his/her interests on the example that his/her parents show him.
So provide your child with some verbal instruction as a way to solve the problem; first, speak to support the child and then the kid will begin to imitate you, to speak in the same manner, and just to defend his/her interests.