Lately, our son has been hitting and pushing his sister quite a bit. He's getting smart about it, too, and does it only when I'm not looking. I hear her cry and come in to find her on the floor and him smiling, saying, "I got her." (She's going to kick his little butt one day soon.)
Trying to have a conversation with him in the moments after such an incident is difficult. The question "Why?" is met with blank stares and then his description of what he did, not why he did it. He often goes straight to his time out chair, which is good and bad. On one hand, he knows he's done something wrong. But sometimes I suspect that he just does what he wants and picks his punishment. Time out is just not painful enough for him.
My son has interesting thoughts these days, though, when I can coax them out of him. This afternoon before nap time, I was doing puzzles with him and remembered what my sister had told me about engaging boys in an activity and then trying to talk to them. It somehow opens a channel within them according to a child psychologist whose name escapes me right this minute. I've seen it work with him. However, I often shun this particular strategy in favor of a my-way-or-the-highway approach that is usually born out of extreme frustration with a little boy who seems to have the most stunning case of mother deafness ever.
Back to nap time: I began to talk with him about pushing his sister.
He replied, "Keep my hands to myself."
"Yes," I replied. "Kids won't want to play with you if you push or hit them."
He puts his arms out to both sides as if to push kids away. "Move out of my way," he says, nodding his head. I take this as his explanation of why he hits or pushes.
So I tell him that he can say "Excuse me, I need to get by" when he needs someone to move. And then if the person doesn't move, I tell him, he should go ask an adult for help instead of pushing or hitting. (I really hope that I'm not encouraging my son to be a tattle.)
"Keep your hands to yourself," I repeated.
"My arms are attached," he says solemnly, crossing his arms and patting his shoulders.
Um, I guess that would make it easy to keep your hands to yourself, now wouldn't it?