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Sunday, December 16, 2012

How do I react to hitting?

Lately, Janey has been hitting me.  I don't think she hits anyone else, but when she's angry or frustrated or told to wait for something, she's lashing out by pounding on me.  She doesn't hit hard enough to hurt me yet, but obviously I don't want this behavior to continue until she can hurt me.

I did a quick search today for autism and hitting.  I was a little underwhelmed with what I found.  Almost all the "expert" advice I could find seemed to be pretty useless.  Much of it dealt with trying to understand the underlying reasons for the hitting.  I think I know the reasons---it's hard for Janey to talk, she gets easily upset, she sees me as what is standing in the way of her getting exactly what she wants when she wants it, so she hits me.  The advice on how to deal with the hitting all seemed designed to keep parents from hitting back.  I strongly don't believe in hitting back.  I am not about to do that.  It doesn't teach kids not to hit to hit them.  The alternatives they gave were not ones that work---time out, calm voices saying "we don't hit", giving something alternative to hit, ignoring the hitting.  They are safe alternatives, but they don't stop the hitting.

My view is that I need to do something about the hitting that does two things---it stops the hitting in its tracks and  discourages hitting in the future, and it's a natural response---one that I can do every time.  I don't think Janey has the self-awareness or forward planning to be think through not hitting in any kind of complicated way. I need to STOP the hitting, to prevent it from getting worse, to keep it from becoming a habit.

To stop the hitting, I need to do something Janey doesn't like when she hits.  She doesn't like loud, sudden sounds.  So I am trying looking her directly in the eyes and saying very loudly, almost yelling "DON'T HIT ME!"  Then, I walk away.  I don't give her what she wants, or any more attention until she asks me a way that doesn't involve hitting.  Of course, I still need to be watching her, as I always need to be watching her.  This works for me.  It's a deterrent, it's honest, it expresses my feelings, it doesn't involve any hitting back, it doesn't give her what she wants for doing something negative.

I am mixed about making Janey say she is sorry.  It's pretty fake---she isn't sorry, I don't think, except sorry that she didn't get what she wanted.  But on the other hand, we need to learn to say things that society demands.  We teach Janey to say "Hi!"  We all say "How are you?" when we might not care how the person is.  So we can learn to say "sorry" as a word that is used after you do something mean, even if the emotion isn't all there.  I tend to wait a little bit, until we both aren't as angry, and then ask Janey to tell me she's sorry and with a lot of prompting, she usually does.

In this case, I believe in treating Janey much as I treated her brothers.  When something like hitting is involved, it's important to deal with it clearly.  Long talks about why it happened, long calm discussions---they just don't work.  Kids need the clear message that hurting people is not acceptable.  Recent events back that up.  So far, it seems to be working with Janey. We'll see how it all plays out, like with everything else to do with her.

1 comment:

Tea Mommy said...

My daughter hits too. Not often, but when she does I never know quite the best way to react. It's awkward when it happens to relatives because they get really offended. Let me know if you figure that one out!