There are few actions more infuriating and upsetting than your young child hitting you. Maybe he was angry because you said “no” to him, or perhaps he just exploded with rage because he couldn’t fit the block into the shape-sorter.
Whatever the reason, your baby shouldn’t hit you (or anyone else).
Your instinctive reaction might be to spank his hands when he strikes you. After all, you might think, your gentle slap on his hands in retaliation is exactly what he needs. But it’s not that simple.
True, spanking your baby as soon as he hits you may stun him into obedience.
His amazement and shock at your reaction, coupled with the pain and indignity of the slap, could stop him in his tracks… at least for the moment.
Another reason why it may seem like a good solution is that it is immediate – his punishment for hitting you is instant, which can make it more effective than delaying it until later.
Then there’s the fact that spanking can release your frustration at the end of a tiring day when you’ve told him a dozen times already to stop hurting you.
However, consider the potential downsides, as well. For a start, there is something ironic about you smacking your baby in order to get him to behave (you are exerting the very behaviour – hitting – that you want him to stop using).
If you want to discourage your baby from, say, throwing his food on the floor, you wouldn’t follow suit. Instead, you would show him how to eat properly without making a mess.
The same applies to, say, if you wanted to discourage him from picking his nose.
In other words, you typically encourage good behaviour by verbally discouraging bad conduct. At the same time, you set a good example by modelling the desired action.
Yet hitting him in retaliation does the opposite – it sets a bad example. Your baby might think: “If hitting is good enough for Mummy, then it’s good enough for me, as well!”
There are other reasons, too, why spanking your baby when he hits you might not be effective. For instance, smacking can quickly escalate, especially as your patience starts to wear thin.
After a long afternoon of persistent annoying behaviour from your baby, it is all too easy for a quick gentle slap on the hand to be become an overly strong, extremely painful smack.
And what will you do, if he is so angry that he has lost all control and he hits you back because you hit him? Will your smacks go back and forth, on and on?
The decision to spank or not to spank is up to you. Of course, some parents do smack their young children; others take a non-physical approach.
For example, they tell their baby “no” firmly whenever he raises his hands in temper and remind him that he is not allowed to hit anyone. They immediately remove his toys or sweets as a punishment, and they place him in his room until he calms down.
That non-physical approach takes more effort and needs to be applied consistently until he learns to keep his hands to himself. But it teaches a young child that hitting is unacceptable and that he will never benefit from it.