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What do you recommend for hitting? My 15 month old daughter has been hitting my husband, who has been home more than usual due to a work-related injury. It's 100% not malicious, but I think she wants his attention and that's the way she is getting his attention, but my husband is upset by it. I tell her to be nice and show her how to "pet" me or to "pet" his head gently. I will say that I think part of the problem is that he is distracted playing on his phone around her instead of playing with her. I feel like if he was paying attention to her that she wouldn't have to beg for his attention, but I still don't want her hitting so I want to nip this in the bud before it turns into a habit and she starts doing it to others.
A mom and wife who needs advice for both her toddler and her big toddler - er, husband
Dear Mom and wife who needs advice for both her toddler and her big toddler - er, husband,
I do believe that there are two issues going on here:
1) a toddler who is excited that Daddy is home more than usual and wants to play with him and has learned a sure way to get his attention and
2) A Daddy who enjoys technology and may need some help balancing his technology use around his toddler.
Let's focus first on the hitting issue with your toddler. This definitely sounds like attention-seeking behavior to me and I love that you are telling her to be nice AND modeling gentle behaviors such as petting, however my guess is that these gentle behaviors are not grabbing the attention of your husband which is why she has progressed to a more drastic behavior - in this case hitting. My guess is that when she would try to gain his attention in a gentle way he continued to gaze at his phone, but when she hit him his attention was caught quickly. Sure, this was most likely a negative reaction from him, but to your 15-month old it was attention and at that very moment she realized that if she hit Daddy she would get his attention. In her brain, mission accomplished! So, how do you reverse this thought process? By actively ignoring the undesired behavior! You may be thinking that ignoring the undesired behavior makes your toddler feel that she got away with the behavior, but if she is seeking attention and the attention is not received then the behavior will cease.
With that being said, Daddy also needs to reward your daughter when she does NOT hit him while he is on his phone. When she goes up to him and sits nicely or gently touches him or says his name, he should put his phone down (even if for only a couple of minutes) and give her that attention that she seeks. She will begin to notice that when she hits Daddy he ignores her, but when she appropriately grabs his attentions he gives it to her.
So what happens when she starts smacking him and hitting him more viciously as you try to break this new behavior - because I am telling you that this is very likely to occur! No matter how much she hits and smacks, your husband MUST ignore her. You may intervene if need be because it is not your attention that you are seeking, so your attention on her will not be seen as a reward in her eyes, plus you will not be chipper when intervening. You will sternly tell her that we use gentle touches, pick her up or take her by the hand and move her to a new location and redirect her with an activity such as a book or puzzle. With consistency, I am sure that you will see this behavior cease.
Now to tackle your husband's phone usage around your daughter. Honestly, I am not going to spend a lot of time on this as I am not a marriage expert nor an expert on adult behaviors, however I did not want you thinking I forgot about it. My two cents on this is that a conversation between the two of you needs to happen to discuss your feelings about his phone usage around your daughter and that the two of you need to come up with a plan that works for everyone. Perhaps he can spend time on the phone in another room while you entertain your daughter, but that when he is spending time with her his phone is away? Or perhaps he spends time on his phone for ten minutes and then puts it away for twenty? Again, this is not my area of expertise, but I feel a conversation between the two of you may help, because he may not even realize that it is something that is bothering you and he may not realize that you have connected the hitting behavior to his lack of attention to your daughter.