"It Worked For Me!" Real Stories From Real Parents

"We were having some problems dealing with the sudden onset of aggression with our young son.  We consulted a behaviorist for advice. This is the strategy we developed and, so far, so good, lol!

The first thing to (always) do is to try and ascertain the reason or antecedent for the behavior. If unsure, please fill out this 16 part questionnaire for answers. I use this often.

Durand Motivational Assessment Scale

Set up:
My son would approach me laughing and very happy. We would interact for several minutes with great eye contact. Then, he would slap my face - hard! Once, when on the phone, he approached me from behind, laughing constantly and really hit me.

Attention Seeking:
The behaviorist is fairly certain the behavior is attention-seeking. She suggested to immediately sit him away from me (if there is no third person available to do this, do it yourself, very quickly), then walk away but remain within his field of vision. Then ignore him. The point is he *has* to see you are ignoring him.

I realize that when there is only one adult around, this can be tough. An alternative could be (depending on size of your child):
1. putting him in his room with a baby gate
2. strapping him in a high chair, booster seat
3. shutting a door, talk on the phone so that he can hear your voice.

The point is to be near but unavailable. Timing should be in consideration with age of child. i.e. very young children - only 30 seconds or so...

This one works so well for tantrums, I was amazed.

Instead of trying to calm or quiet the child down, totally ignore him (making sure he can't hurt himself first). As soon as he calms down, reinforce (either verbally or otherwise) *that* behavior. In other words, do not reinforce the tantrum by giving him your attention, wait till he is calm before doing that.

If he starts up again, ignore him again, but keep reinforcing (rewarding) the quiet behavior.

Initially, my husband was holding our son from behind (basket hold) to keep him from hitting me. It was suggested that this was what he had been seeking all along. The theory was he was hitting me in order to get the deep pressure hugs. The punishment was the reinforcer.

Solution: use one of the above ideas, and do not reinforce the hitting with something desirable.

It is possible if time outs are used to decrease these behaviors, that the time outs may be reinforcing. The child may want to be alone, and has quickly learned that hitting achieves this end.

As with the above examples, be careful that you are not giving positive reinforcements for these behaviors.

Hope this helps..."