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Intentionally hits and hurts people (or animals):

Children who are abused or who experience
domestic violence learn this behavior from adults who take it to the extreme.
Parents who think it is acceptable to spank and slap their children are
modeling the same behavior in a milder form. They teach their children, by
example, hitting and hurting are acceptable if one does not hit too hard or
hurt too much. It is the same unacceptable lesson for their child, though. Be
sure you are not teaching this behavior to your child through hitting and
hurting him.

If you observe the sign in your child, develop a
strategy to stop your child from hitting and hurting without your becoming
aggressive with him. Your intervention should follow this progression:

First, ask him to stop.

Next, insist he stops.

If necessary, restrain him from the
behavior if this can be comfortably done without a struggle or physical

Whenever possible, avoid trying to
physically stop your child’s unacceptable behavior while it is happening.

As with other behavior problems, your setting a
good example for him is essential; and insist everyone in your family does the
same. This will likely require your teaching others to back off when he gets
upset and angry. No, this does not mean he gets his way. It only means everyone
agrees not to push when he cannot control himself. Your youngster will calm
down after a while. In the interim, everyone should try to stay out of his
angry space.

As a parallel process, try giving him small
rewards for good days, days when he does not hit or hurt. A treat, special
privilege, or something he wants all help. The key is to use negative reactions
very sparingly. The payoff for your child needs to be for appropriate behavior,
for not hitting and hurting.

Take extra care to be sure you do not omit this
additional step. Always make a point to talk to your child after he has behavior
difficulty. The approach is to sit quietly with him while he calms down. You
can then talk about his angry feelings and how he managed them. He needs to
learn to pick up on the clues he is about to lose control.

Say, “Once you get angry, stopping is very
hard. You can learn to stop; but it’s tough. It’s easier to stop if you catch
it before you lose control. If you can figure out when you first start to get
upset, that’s the place to control it, the best time to manage your anger
better and come up with another way to express it. When did it first start
getting to you?”

Your goal is for your child to spot situations
and people that set him off. The best time for him to get control and to learn
emotional management is while he still has control. As he learns to anticipate
situations, his control will get better.

If your initial efforts are not successful (or
exceed your capacity) and if your child’s behavior is not improving, getting
specialized help is essential.

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