A Moody Preteen and a Toddler Hitter

By Catherine Pearlman

June 17, 2017 4 min read

Dear Family Coach: My daughter is almost 11, and she's a good kid. She's polite, responsible and generally good-natured. But I can see her becoming more moody, and sometimes she can become a bit disrespectful when she's grumpy. I'm trying to figure out what to let pass and what to address. I find it especially hard to ignore when we're in public because it's embarrassing. So far, I've kept my comments brief, saying "I don't like that tone of voice," and then speaking to her a bit when we're not in the moment. Is that enough? — New to Being Teen Mom

Dear Teen Mom: I think you answered your own question. You mentioned that you already have a polite and responsible child. Being a bit moody doesn't negate that. But her mood swings do indicate that she is developing and changing, and your parenting approach must change accordingly.

I don't know about you, but when I'm grumpy, I don't want to be hassled. It's usually best to give me some space so I can work through the issue. Unfortunately, we don't give children the same grace period. We expect them to snap out of it immediately because we say so. Also, instead of children cheering up, they tend to get more disrespectful and obnoxious. To help reduce the unpleasant behavior, if possible, try to back off when you see your daughter's mood shifting.

When your daughter says something disrespectful, let her know through your behavior that you will not respond to her when she is rude. Just ignore it. I know it's embarrassing. But you can't bully her to be kind and respectful. It doesn't work. If she wants something from you, she will learn to use a different tone or tactic. I bet she mostly wants to get under your skin. Don't let her and she will stop trying.

Dear Family Coach: My 17-month-old son started hitting. It generally happens when he doesn't get his way. I try to calmly say "no hitting" and redirect him. But it doesn't seem to be working. What else can I do to get him to stop? — Jim's Mom

Dear Mom: You son is frustrated and angry. At barely 1 1/2 years old, he is without the tools to manage those feelings. So far, the only way he has learned to express himself is to hit. And, as an additional benefit, he may hurt you by hitting you. This doesn't mean you are raising a vindictive sociopath. It just means that your son is angry and frustrated with you , and he wants to make sure you feel as badly as he does.

Unfortunately, discipline techniques, such as timeouts and punishment, aren't really effective until after a child's second birthday. However, there are some ways to minimize the hitting and help him calm down.

You are doing the right thing by simply stating that hitting is not OK. But it might help to add on a few words about his feelings. Say "I see how angry you are, but hitting is not OK" or "I know it's frustrating to have to take a nap, but hitting doesn't help." After that comment, withdraw your attention for just a moment. Let him disconnect from you so you aren't entering into a battle of wills. As soon as he stops hitting, you can redirect him. When the behavior ceases to have a benefit, your son will stop it. Make sure not to overreact or give too much attention to hitting. He will get the message eventually.

Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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