(Don’t) Hit me Baby One More Time

What is the appropriate reaction to being hit by your own child?

Most experts say to stay calm. Besides the fact that I have a temper and hate being hit, threatened, and yelled at so have very little chance at staying calm, I don’t know if it’s the right approach. We’re supposed to stay calm to show our kids that they aren’t getting to us, that we are safe people to be around, and that we’ll love them no matter what, but what does that tell them about what it’s like to live in the outside world? If I am in line for a long time at Starbucks only to have the person in front of me take my drink from the bar and I respond by yelling and punching them in the stomach, they will not stay calm. I would probably be arrested for assault. Now I’m obviously not saying we go so far as to put our children in handcuffs every time they hit us, but to remain completely calm is equally unrealistic. Usually, I hold it together for 5 minutes then cry. Or if I catch it when he’s swinging at me I raise my hand and say “don’t you dare hit me,” as I’m flinching. I understand that the way I react is upsetting to him, but being hit is super upsetting to me. I am very self-protective and it takes me a lot to feel safe because I had my boundaries crossed 100 too many times when I was younger. When my son started hitting me around age 2, I tried to take it in stride, but I HATED it. By the time he was 3 he was hitting me daily and I felt like I was trapped, like I was unsafe in my own home. I cried most days. I locked my little boy behind a baby gate. I hid in my room with my baby girl. I listened to his screams. That’s the reason I started the assessment process because I felt desperate to get him to stop hitting me and I wanted to feel in control of my life again. Now he is 7 and things are getting much better as he matures and continues to work on social thinking, but it still happens from time to time and when it does I find it devastating. I just feel so sad and small and angry. Sometimes I hope bruises come to justify my reaction, but they never do. I just stew on things, wondering: ‘am I overreacting?’ ‘will the way I’m reacting mess up my kid psychologically?’ ‘am I weak?’ ‘why does this bug me so much?’ And I don’t know the answers.

So I ask again, what is the appropriate reaction to being hit by your own child?

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