When Children Hit Their Parents

What happens when children hit their parents? It's important to understand this in order to address the situation as soon as possible.
When Children Hit Their Parents

Last update: 22 October, 2021

Too many young children physically or verbally assault their parents when they’re angry. This doesn’t have to happen only in families that are unstructured or occur in children who’ve suffered abuse. It’s increasingly common for children to hit their parents in our society.

Despite common assumptions, childhood aggression doesn’t always have to do with some disorder or with the cultural level or purchasing power of their family. So why do children insult or hit their parents?

When children hit their parents

At some time or another, you may have seen a boy or girl who, in the middle of a tantrum, tried to push or hit their parents. Or perhaps you’ve witnessed a scene where a child spewed out insults at their mom and dad. Or maybe you yourself have been the receiver of such violence.

A child holding up his fist angrily.

These are situations that cause an impact and can make you feel tense. It’s difficult to don’t know how to react to these offenses and we may even end up responding with even more violence.

This problem always tends to occur due to a host of factors that we must take into account in order to understand why the child has such a great lack of emotional management. They lack sufficient skills to control the intense emotions they’re experiencing at any given moment.

And it can also happen because, in the family nucleus, there’s a lack of rules and limits. Or, on the contrary, there may be too many. Therefore, education that’s too permissive or too authoritarian makes children have a low tolerance for frustration, be more impulsive, and lack empathy. All this can lead to aggressive behavior in children.

Age is also an important point to keep in mind. We need to consider the age of the child. It’s one thing for a 15-month-old child to hit someone who’s taken a toy from them, and it’s another thing for a 6-year-old child to push someone in a moment of frustration. Likewise, it’s very different when a teenager attacks their sibling every time they get angry.

So, below, we’re going to see why children may hit their parents according to age. We’ll also talk about what you can do to solve the problem in the event that your child hits you. This way, you’ll better understand their behavior and you’ll know how to approach the matter.

Children who hit their parents: 3 or 4 years old

Children who hit their parents at this age may have selfish and aggressive behaviors when they have a tantrum. However, after 3 years of age, this behavior must be eliminated and, in this way, children should show good behavior in the face of frustration or intense emotion.

They are normal reactions to frustration at these ages that, in reality, have no real intention of causing harm. It’s simply their intense emotional response to uncontrolled explosive anger at not being able to get what they want at any given time.

It’s the perfect age to begin teaching young children emotional coping strategies to deal with conflicts or negative feelings they may have.

5 or 6 years of age

At this age, children may feel that aggression is the only way to get the attention of their parents. They realize that when they have an outburst of anger, their parents listen to them. Negative reinforcement occurs that enhances this inappropriate behavior in their development.

In this case, it’s essential that you observe your own behavior in the face of aggressive behavior in your child. Notice if there’s something in your behavior that they may imitate in any way. You also have to take into account if there’s something in your behavior that may make your little one explode.

Analyze when your son or daughter is calm and demands your attention or help. What do they do when you don’t listen carefully or don’t tend to their needs because you’re busy doing other things? What happens when you don’t show empathy or availability to their demands.

Children need to feel heard and understood

Children need to feel heard and understood. If you don’t normally listen to your child, they’ll prefer to have an emotional explosion and thus receive your attention instead of feeling ignored. If they do things violently and this helps them get what they want, they’ll keep doing it. Therefore, your reaction is very important in these types of circumstances.

You don’t have to give your children everything they want. And on many occasions, you have to teach them, through empathy and affection, to wait and gain tolerance for frustration. But, even if you don’t give them everything they ask for, pay attention to them and focus your interest on them along with good understanding. This way, you can teach them to better handle frustration and the most intense emotions.

You can teach them that they can get the things they want in another way, for example, by behaving better without hitting or having aggressive behavior.

A child hitting her mom with a toy during a therapy session.

You’re the example your children follow: What can you do?

Remember that you’re their best example, and therefore, your reaction is essential. Don’t lose your cool, don’t yell, don’t get angry, and never, ever hit. Because if you do, it’s more than likely that your child will also do the same when they get angry.

On the other hand, if your child has hit you, it’s best to remove yourself from the situation to take a deep breath. This way, you can think about how to approach it in a positive way. As soon as you’ve regained composure, you can say something like: “I don’t like being hit, so I’m going away, and when you calm down, we can talk and find a solution to what’s going on.”

Follow through on what you say and show your child that you’ll pay attention to them only when they’ve calmed down. This way, they’ll receive two important messages: That their needs and feelings are important to you, and that if someone doesn’t treat us well, we must set limits.

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  • Álvarez Sadonís, M, P. (2010) Enseñando a expresar la ira: ¿Es una emoción positiva en la evolución de nuestros hijos? Editorial: Pirámide.