"Please keep your hands to yourself!"
A fitting reminder for children in many cases. But, since
most children use rough hands at times, isn't a more realistic goal to help
them use their hands in more gentle ways?
"So, how would you handle my two-year-old who loves to pull
other people's hair?"
inquired a concerned parent.
"And how about my child who has begun hitting me?"
quizzed another worried parent.
What are the options here?
Scold the child for using rude behavior?
Say emphatically, "We don't pull hair!" or
"We don't hit?"
Send the child to his or her room?
Actually, none of the above.
Here's a very simple but effective way to solve issues with
Arrest the child's hands, if possible, while he
is hitting, pulling hair, or whatever. Do this without showing anger or any
other strong emotion.
While holding the child's hands, look him in
the eyes and firmly say, "Oh, Joey, we use gentle
Immediately follow those words with,
"Show me gentle hands."
Now help the child use gentle hands to softly
touch the offended person's hair or other place where the offence occurred.
Do this exercise the next several times that
child tries an incident of this kind.
As you go through the day, occasionally stop
that child and ask, "What kind of hands?" and look for the quick reply,
Does this technique actually work? A few days after
explaining this procedure to the parent in the opening story, we got an excited
phone call from him.
The report? "The next couple of times our daughter pulled
our hair, we did as you said. I am happy to say that in the last 10 days we
have not had a single incident of hair pulling! Instead, she is touching our
hair with gentle hands."
So, what makes this kind of exercise so effective?
First, the adult is using a positive response and
that alone makes a desirable outcome more likely than negative reactions or
Second, the positive exercise of using gentle hands
helps the child immediately practice appropriate touching.
Third, this approach deals with the
inevitable.children will put their hands on other people. Therefore, one of our
jobs is to help them, not just keep their hands to themselves, but learn how
and when to use gentle hands on others.
If this makes you more aware of your words,
the time was well spent.