The older Cam gets, the more he busts out with cute little antics that he no doubt learned from watching me. He talks on his toy cars, saying "hiyee" just like me and proceeds with unintelligible blabber punctuated with giggles. My favorite thing of all is when he bends into a Down Dog in the most random places--the aisle of a jetplane or under a desk at the office.
His latest stunt is not so endearing. It started with a plastic golf club at my dad's last week while playing with my 3-year-old half brother. Cam whacked Ty with the golf club, then a toy car, and then his hand. The 3 incidents landed him in time out, and that extinguished the problem...until we returned home.
This week Cam has been liberally hitting the dogs, Daddy, me, and his friends in gym childcare. One afternoon we did 6 time outs in a row to no avail. I'm embarrased to admit that he probably picked up the habit from watching me. My husband has a horrible routine of poking and prodding and generally pressing my buttons to see what kind of reaction he can summon. It usually ends with me reaching my patience limit and stopping him by using physical force.
So, we're working on that.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out what to do with my little hitting monster. I rarely use time outs, but in the past when I have, they've been highly effective. This time, they're not working. I tried clap-growling like Harvey Karp says to do in The Happiest Toddler on the Block. He laughed at me. I even tried slapping his hand, which was a new low in my parenting endeavors. He laughed at that, too.
By Thursday afternoon, I was entirely spent and awash with guilt. Cam laughed at my efforts to be authoritative, but I tend towards inappropriate laughter in stressful situations, and it's highly possible that's what was going on with Cam. And worst of all, how is it possible to teach nonviolence with the use of force and intimidation? I've criticized other parents for this in the past, and here I am.
I still don't know what to do. Cam isn't to the point of being able to hold an intelligible conversation, so I have to rely on body language and very basic words to teach. Whenever he hits me or the dogs, I've started saying "no hit" in a firm but gentle manner and following up with the sign for gentle--a soft stroke on the top of the left hand. So far it's not doing a bit of good at decreasing his frequency of hitting.
But there is one positive outcome in just the past 24 hours. We went swimming yesterday and every time I carried him around the pool, he'd stroke my back like the sign for gentle. So something is getting through to him. It seriously melted my heart and confirmed that I'm back on the right path.