Kids That Hit and Why It Happens

You may have gotten the call from the school about your child hitting other students. Or, you may be embarrassed because your child seems more aggressive than others at play-dates. Let the mom-guilt go because there are biological reasons that your child could be hitting. Yep, there are reasons that do not include poor parenting skills! Let’s talk about those first, and then we can talk about how to fix aggression.

  1. Communication

Each child develops on a similar, but very personalized timeline.  When children do not have the words to communicate what they feel, often the result is a physical response in order to attempt to communicate. This means that they may push, pull, hit, pinch or grab in order to make their desires known.

  1. Emotion Control

Just as children develop on an individual communication timeline, they also develop emotional control skills individually as well. Some children have less of a “brake” on their brains, and this means that they may go from calm to extremely upset very quickly.

  1. Brain Processing

Did you know that our brains actually continue to develop until age 25? Yep! So, think about how much growing a child’s brain is doing.  Sometimes the brain has trouble sorting out all of the information it is receiving from the sensory and motor systems. When this happens, you may see aggressive behavior because the brain simply has too much to process, and the child feels overwhelmed.

 

What is the secret to stopping the aggression? To start let’s examine what all three of these reasons have in common. They all affect brain processing. So, the answer to decreasing aggression is to build a better brain!

 We spend so much time trying to change behaviors, improve communication, and give enough sensory input-however so often we overlook the reason for all of these challenges, and that answer lies in the building blocks of the brain. 

 

To understand how we can build a better brain we first need to understand what makes up the building blocks of the brain. The brain receives information from the sensory and motor systems. When the brain struggles to process all of this information at once, you may see negative behaviors because the brain is overloaded.

 Very often hitting and pushing is related to visual processing and understanding personal space boundaries. To understand this a little bit further, let’s talk about what this looks like.

Visual Processing

 When you put your arms out to the side and look straight ahead, you may see your fingers. However, some children are still developing their visual field and visual processing skills. So those children may only be able to see a smaller range.

   Think of it as a horse with blinders on. You may be able to see straight ahead, and you can feel and hear what is going on next to you, but you can’t see it. This may result in a child pushing, hitting, or even trying to walk behind everyone or slower so that he or she can see more.

  In addition, a child can also struggle with depth perception. This is when it is hard for a child to know how close or how far away something is to them.

Please understand that visual processing and depth perception are NOT the same as their vision test. These are both related to the ability of the eye muscle control.

 

Depth Perception

When a child struggles with depth perception, they may push or hit things that get close to them because they are not sure how close they really are. Remember the “objects in mirror may be closer than they appear”? This is exactly how many children feel as their brain works to develop these skills. Sometimes a child standing in line does push or hit those around him because the child feels as if they are too close. 

Overstimulation

Another cause for pushing and hitting can be brain overstimulation. Some children have immature neurological processing. This means that their brain pathways and connections are not as strong as they could be. When the brain is struggling to process all of the motor and sensory information it may become overloaded and you will see disruptive behaviors. The best way to change these behaviors is by using brain work.

 

What to Do

Three things you can do if you have a child that is hitting or pushing is to work that part of the brain. In the Movement Matters® program we have specific movements that address this, and we will share a few ideas here. 

  1. Wall Push: have your child stand approximately six inches away from the wall. Have them put their arms straight out and push on the wall (making sure to use the bottom part of their palm). They can bend elbows to cushion the fall and push on and off the all again.
  2. Manage transitions: Some children with visual processing or depth perception issues can quickly become overwhelmed during transitions. This is because many children may be rushing to line up, or sit at circle time, etc.. A way to avoid this overload is to have that child line up first, or have a job where they are away from the group (such as turning off lights), or call students individually so that there is not so much movement in the room.
  3. Build Grey Matter: In the brain, the grey matter is very important to development. This is where the brain communication takes place. To reduce impulse control, use movement, meditation, and breathing techniques. All of these have been shown in various studies to improve the brain including improving self-control and decreasing impulsive behaviors.

Visit MovementMatters.com to learn more about how you can change behavior by building a better brain!

 

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