Helping Older Children Who Hit

My 7-year-old, who never hit, now hits out of anger. No one in our house hits, but all of the sudden she hits in a rage, and it hurts! If you have any ideas on how to address this behavior peacefully without punishment I would love to read them. Thank you!

We want to approach our older children in the same gentle way as our younger children (see this article here), while also using more age-appropriate collaborative conversations.

It’s important to invite her to talk about what’s going on and work with her on what you two can do together to help her work through her feelings of overwhelm and express herself without hitting. So, sometime when you’re both calm, cuddled up and connected you might have a conversation that sounds something like this…

“Sienna, I’ve noticed you’ve been having some big emotions, and sometimes it seems you feel overwhelmed. It’s important that each of us feel safe in our home, both physically safe and emotionally. I thought you and I could talk how you can let me know you’re having big feelings in ways that are safe, maybe we can have a special word or hand signal, kind of like when we high-five when the kitchen is clean. Do you have any ideas?”
Then it’s important to listen to your daughter without interupting, correcting or attempting to “fix.” Hear what she says, and when she has an idea for how to tell you she’s struggling, try to figure out how to make it work. If she struggles to come up with an idea after several minutes, then you might suggest something like this and practice it with her:
“Mom, I’m having a tough time, can you sit with me.”
Hand signal: lightly tapping her head.
Write a note or draw a picture.
Sometimes children act in these aggravated ways when they’re experiencing a developmental change. And while this could be the case for your daughter, it sounds like something else may be going on with her causing her to feel overwhelmed and unsure how to ask for help. So it’s also important to asking yourself some questions:
    1. Have there been any changes at home?



  • Have there been any changes in the family?



  • Have there been any changes in her community (school, friends, etc.)?


Changes can come in the form of life, death, moving, sickness, a new bed, etc. And if she’s reacting to change you’ll want to center your conversation with her around those changes…

“Sienna, I know it’s a big change to move to a new bedroom. I’m wondering how you’re feeling about it?” (Listen to her, empathize, and allow her to feel/think these things without trying to fix anything) “Is there something we can do to help you feel better or less overwhelmed?” (Try to implement her ideas if at all possible no matter how improbable they may seem to you. Listen to her, empathize, and allow her to feel these things without trying to fix anything).

Also, I can never emphasize enough the importance of connection. When our children feel disconnected from us they often show us through their behavior. And, of course, the best way to connect with them is to play with them. I wrote an article about play here, and you can get lots of creative play ideas at Play At Home Mom (our sister blog/site) and other online child-centered creative play sites. The important thing to remember is to have uninterrupted time with just her, even if it’s only for 30 minutes a day where you do what she wants to do without a cell phone, computer, or other distractions. One woman told me that she used bath time to focus on her child, play, and connect. Use whatever time you can!


Finally, it’s important to pay attention to the environment of your home, the rhythm and scheduling in your family, and the amount of adult media your daughter may be exposed to. You can learn more about the effects these factors have on children’s emotions and behaviors on the Simplicity Parenting website, or in Kim John Payne’s book, Simplicity Parenting.


Here are some book recommendations for working with children:





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