Probably one of the most worrying things to witness as a parent is seeing your perfect little angel turn into a mean machine that bites, kicks, and hits playmates. For one, it’s embarrassing – your child’s behavior and character is a reflection of your parenting. Secondly, you don’t want people hating your child for their aggressive behavior. This is why, in most cases, parents react impulsively to correct the behavior, such as scolding or spanking. Big reactions like this, however, do more harm than good. This is why you need to understand the approach to Montessori discipline, and the right way to handle the situation.
Why the Montessori Discipline Discourages Hitting
Your child’s brain is flooded with information on a daily basis. Many of this information triggers emotions. Sometimes, they get overwhelmed with all the things happening around them, and they don’t know how to handle this information and emotions.
The idea of Montessori discipline is to help the child understand what they are feeling and why they reacted in a particular way. The goal is to help them develop a healthy coping mechanism for overwhelming emotions and help them understand what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior, all without making them feel ashamed and embarrassed in front of people.
Montessori-Inspired Phrases to Use Instead of Hitting
Here are some Montessori-inspired phrases you can use when your child shows aggressive and mean behavior.
Let’s take a break
The second you see your child feeling uncomfortable and agitated, take them away from the situation by inviting them to take a break with you. Your goal here is to calm them down. You can talk about what is bothering them. Make sure your child knows you are listening.
Look for a quiet spot and practice deep breaths together or sing a calm and happy song together.
You can also teach your child mindfulness exercises to help develop healthy ways to calm down and control their emotions and behavior in tough situations. Taking ten deep breaths together is a simple and effective mindfulness technique for your child to be calm and be present.
Are you okay?
If you see your child hit or bite another child, check on your child’s victim first.
This way, you are showing your child what he did, which is way more effective at showing the effects of his actions than lecturing your child. There is no need to be overly dramatic though, simply show you care for the other child too. Your child may offer a hug or say sorry.
I cannot let you do that
If you see your child feeling agitated and aggressive while near other kids, make sure you stay near them so you can block and stop them from hitting other kids. If they’re about to hit another child, block their hand and say “I cannot let you do that to him.”
The idea is to be firm, but never angry. Keep calm, but make it clear to your child that you are stopping them from hurting other children.
This is why it’s important to not show big reactions whenever your child exhibits such behavior, or they may repeat the behavior to get that kind of attention from you. Worse, your child may explore other ways to get those big reactions from you.
You look irritated/frustrated/upset
As said earlier, children can easily get overwhelmed by their emotions. Most of the time, they are unable to identify and verbalize what they are feeling. This often results in aggressive behavior. Thus, it helps to help your child identify emotions.
On the other hand, if your child is older and more verbal, you can ask what they are feeling. Discuss this in a calm manner. You can read a book together or draw people feeling different kinds of emotions.
Let’s find something else to hit/bite
Typically, toddlers hit or bite, not because they are angry, but because they are trying to explore a physical impulse. If you notice your child becoming aggressive when angry, offer a different way to express their anger. You can offer a pillow to hit, kick, or punch, or a teether to bite to help satisfy the urge.
Let’s just stay home today
They say prevention is better than cure. In this case, the best way to stop aggressive behavior is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Obviously, you cannot always do this all the time. However, you can use this to observe when your child is showing negative behavior. This way, you can identify the patterns and protect your child from any untoward situations that may set them off.
The idea is to identify the trigger factors that set your child off and recognize when they are having a tough time.
Let’s talk about what happened at the play area today
Depending on the age of your child, you can discuss what feeling triggered an aggressive action or reaction. For instance, you can say “I saw you kick your friend Tommy when he took your ball. I know you don’t like it when others take your toy, but I don’t want you to hit and hurt anyone.”
From here, you can offer an alternative reaction for your child, like asking a grownup for help, or telling your child’s friend your child is not done playing with the toy.
Stay by my side until you are safe
If you notice your child is starting to show aggressive behavior, and you both cannot leave, tell your child to stay by your side until he is safe to play with others. You may have to hold their hand and keep them close.
If your child calms down, give them another chance to play with the other kids. If you find it necessary, stay close so you can prevent them from doing any aggressive actions.
How would you feel if…?
While it is important to discuss your child’s feelings, it is also important to help them understand how others might feel from their aggressive behavior. This is a good way to teach empathy.
Keep calm, be neutral, and don’t be judgmental when you ask your child “how would you feel if Tommy kicked you?”
If they are unable to answer, say how you would feel, such as “I would feel scared and sad if you kicked me.”
It’s time for us to leave
If you’re at the play area and you see your child being too aggressive and mean to others, don’t hesitate to cut the trip short. Obviously, your child may get upset or even mad at you, but this is far better than seeing them hurt other kids. However, make sure you do this in a loving and respectful way. No need to shame your child or do it as a form of punishment.
It is never easy for any parent to see their child being mean to others. However, there are many things you can do to address this behavior. Your child needs your love and support, and these Montessori discipline techniques on hitting can help.