Yesterday my one-year old son took a brave swing at a 30-year old man. It wasn’t a cute “Oops, I was just playing, and I didn’t know hitting was wrong.” It was a definite, “You took my laundry basket, and now I will get my revenge by physically assaulting you.”
Occasionally hitting can happen out of curiosity, or by accident. But usually it’s because the child is angry and wants to hurt someone for wronging him. It’s easy to overlook when the blow you endure is delivered by a tiny chubby arm, and hardly felt past the fabric of your pants. But what will take root in his little heart when he gets away with vengeful hitting is violent selfishness, and violent revenge. If allowed to grow, that weed will ruin his life. Just consider any adult you know with those negative characteristics.
We follow this model whenever we see our kids hitting:
- Immediate Correction.
- Prompt Discipline.
- Opportunity for Reconciliation.
As soon as I caught my one-year old attack our house guest, I scooped him up and took him to a private place. There, I firmly corrected him, “We do not hit!” He then received his discipline, a spanking. (There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to spanking, so let me just say that it needs to be hard enough that he feels a quick sting. But not so hard that you’re being mean.) And then came his opportunity for reconciliation. I reaffirm my love and forgiveness for him by hugging and kissing him. After all, it was my rule he was breaking. Then we approach his victim, and I encourage him to apologize for hitting. His vocabulary is limited, so his apology is not much more than offering a hug. But that’s okay because repentance comes from the heart. Not just words.
If you think this whole thing is going a little overboard with a one-year old, consider the social skills, spiritual disciplines, and ability to deal with conflict that you are teaching him at a young age. So young, that he will probably be unable to remember a time where he wasn’t practicing repentance, forgiveness, and self-control.
His trouble shall return upon his own head, And his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown. Psalm 7:16
When [Jesus] was reviled, [He] did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed [Himself] to Him who judges righteously… 1 Peter 2:23
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6