From time to time, I have posted on here about Will being a biter. . . or a hitter. . . and now we add spitter to the list.
Yesterday, when I went to retrieve him from the church nursery, the person in charge (who also happens to be one of the directors for the preschool) told me that he had several "spitting and hitting incidents" during his time there yesterday. It is always a madhouse at pick-up, so I wasn't able to clarify, but it really doesn't matter what the "story" was, because I 100% trust that she was telling the truth, and hitting. . . now spitting. . . is WRONG.
When does this sort of aggression change from normal developmental phase ("Oh, it's normal! He'll outgrow it!" people love to tell me) to not-so-normal ("Ma'am, your son has been expelled for fighting at school." or "Ma'am, this is X County Jail. We have your son."? I mean, I don't think I am the best person to judge whether this is normal. A) He's my kid, my perception is decidedly skewed. B) I tend to go all "worst-case-scenario" on things and not take them in stride. I realize A) and B) might seem to cancel each other out, but they really don't. Instead, I alternate between trying to ride out the storm and assume it will pass and then freaking the freak OUT that my kid is becoming "THAT" Kid.
You know the one? The one that you don't want your kid to play with. I'm afraid that he is going to become "THAT" Kid very quickly. He starts preschool this fall (for real this time) and I am a little scared about this becoming a bigger issue. And honestly, I have no idea what to do about it. I have tried a lot of different approaches to this problem. It seems to "cure" it for awhile, but then it comes back. It does seem cyclical, though I can't tie it to anything in particular, I just notice it comes in waves. I have asked everyone (family and friends IRL, our pediatrician, you fabulous people inside my computer) for advice and most people seem to think he is "just fine" and that it will sort itself out. The things people have suggested (time outs, paying no attention to the hitter and all of it to the hittee, taking away toys, leaving play dates immediately, taking away privileges, a sticker chart for "positive (no hit) play dates", are just some examples) don't seem to have any long-lasting impact.
Since he was ten months old and started biting, then started hitting at 15 months (me first and then gradually his playmates), and now more of that plus spitting (which is another form of physical aggression), this has been a recurrent issue. I do believe he is a sweet boy, but this is worrying me.
What I find frustrating is that this is a child who has not been treated with aggression or observed it here at home. Is that my problem? Should I resort to spanking? I have never been able to understand the thinking behind "Don't hit or I will spank you". Yes, I know, children are not logical, therefore we cannot apply our logical thinking to their thought process and come up with anything close to what their little minds have brewing. But the times that I have used physical discipline, I haven't found it any more effective, and it's not a style of parenting that I* feel comfortable with, so it's very difficult to be consistent with it.
If anyone has any good advice for me or can sit in camaraderie with me (ex: "My child was a hitter but now is not a sociopath, I promise!"), I would really appreciate it. Do you think this is an issue worth making an appointment with our pediatrician for? He turns three in August and we will have his well child exam then. I will definitely bring it up at that point, but I am wondering if I shouldn't go in before then? But again, I have asked her about this before, and she hasn't given me any sort of solid advice. I know she leaves it up to parents to figure out discipline (and I think that's appropriate). I do know she isn't really on board with spanking and does employ timeouts, but I am just not finding that effective in this area. While I adore our pediatrician, I am not sure this is really her jurisdiction, you know? But then again, if it really is becoming an issue, she is the one who I would want to refer us out for other assistance.
* I am not sitting in judgment of anyone who spanks their children. Many of my friends to employ spanking and It just doesn't feel right for me, personally. And I believe the most effective discipline is consistent discipline. And I just can't be consistent in that way. But then again, my child is the one with the hitting problem, so Dr. Sears, I clearly am not! :)