"Smart, audacious and often hilarious. Takes everything you thought you knew about parenting and turns it on its ear." - Jennifer Jason Leigh

Owww kid! That hurt!

“Owww!” my husband screamed. Maybe he used some profanity. Not sure. I would have.

Anyway, he’d been whacked in the shin with a  plastic rake by our three year old Hudson. Apparently it wasn’t the first whack because John said, “I told you if you did that again I’d take away the rake.”

And so he did. Up onto a high shelf in the garage it went.

My husband was on his way to help our daughter Jules with something when this happened. He was blindsided, annoyed, in a hurry, trying to do too many things at once and in pain. Everyone loves John. And this is the kind of thing that happens when you’re highly sought after.

Hudson, like all people who exhibit, as they say, “aggressive behavior” was hurting. About something. That his son was in pain, certainly wasn’t the first thing that came to John’s mind . Understandably. Nonetheless, I wish that it had been.

As John went over to help Jules (who was likely screaming with impatience: “Come on Dad!”) Hudson was left near me. Crying hysterically. Angry. And with a mission. No one was going to take  his rake away! So he started scrambling, trying to figure out how he could climb up onto the tool table to reach his rake.

Good times.

Me, I’m thinking, Fuck! How did this happen? And now what? 

If I could remember exactly what I then said to Hudson, I’d tell you. I didn’t get the rake for him. I tried to empathize though it was the last thing he wanted to hear. He was enraged. Somehow (again, it’s a blur), he decided to join me on my trip to the market. He had his blanket. He was in the backseat sucking his fingers. He’d calmed down. Some.

But it wasn’t over.

After twenty minutes in the market, we headed to the car, at which point I said, “You were very upset when Daddy took your rake…”

He cut me off with “I don’t want to talk about that.”

“Well I know there is a reason you hit him. You must have been really upset about something.”

This got his attention. I wasn’t going to tell him what he already knows, that we don’t hit. He didn’t want to hear that. That he knew.

“He said he would come up to my room and play with me,” he very quietly said.

And there it was. He was hurt. Somehow, something his sister had said to Dad had taken his Dad away from him. From their time to connect. To play together. To be together.

Now I’m not certain if John had said he would go up, but that was the impression Hudson apparently had. And maybe John had said he’d come up after he finished something with Jules. Who knows. There was a lot going on. But whatever had happened, Hudson believed his Dad was going to go play with him and then on a dime he wasn’t. And instead he was going to be with his sister.

Infuriating. No?


On our way home I asked Hudson if he’d like to talk to dad about what happened. If he’d like to share with him why he was so upset that he hit him with the rake.

He nodded.

As we climbed the stairs, he made it clear he wanted me to do the talking for him.

Which I did.

“Oh Huddy,” John said. “I’m so glad you shared that with me. I do want to play with you in your room. Would you like to go play now?”

Hudson nodded yes.

And off they went to build.

When you’re whacked in the shin it can be very hard to remember that behind every aggressive impulse is some pain. And when it is coming from a young child, that yes, first the limit needs to be set “No hitting” but then, drop to your knees, “Hudson, you need something. You don’t have to hit me. You can yell, Dad please listen!’ and I will son. I will. How can I help?”

So when too much is going on to remember that (my husband is amazing, but not perfect!) remember to revisit it later. That’s the gift…we can come back to it. No need for anything to be swept under any rug.


28 Responses to “Owww kid! That hurt!”

  1. Sal says:

    I ended up here because a FB friend shared a link to your blog. I think you are dead on correct. Great post. My wife and I have 3 young adult kids who turned out fine and were never any trouble. Makes me an expert, no? Anyway I really like how you figured out the problem here and I also note how sympathetic you are to both your husband and son. The thing that is truly amazing here is the way you are subtly teaching your son emotional intelligence. If he models your behavior in times like this he will really be a wonderful person.

  2. Tat says:

    Wow, what a story. How many times in our pain we forget that our children are hurting, too, and they are less equipped than we are to express their pain in a way that will be heard. I also love your acknowledgement that we can’t expect perfection from ourselves, either. We are all human after all. Revisit it later sounds like a good plan to me!

    • Jennifer says:

      Hey Tat!

      Thanks so much for writing in. Yes! We need to extend compassion to kids. And try to look at things from their pov.

      I appreciate your comment.


  3. Jen says:

    Thank you so much. I am trying so hard to hang on to what I loved daily about myself as a gentle parent of a little one, now that my growing little one has reached two. She is doing exactly what she needs to be doing, and I am working to grow fast enough to keep up. Posts like this help me tremendously. Thank you.

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Jen! Yes, things get more and more complex as they grow. I glad posts like this can help give perspective and support.

      Thank you so much for writing in. I appreciate it!

      — jennifer

  4. Neysa says:

    I needed to read this. I’ve been “on board” with gentle discipline ever since my first son (now 3) was born. However, I question myself often.

    I have a specific question I’d love to run by you but don’t have outlook set up in order to click on the contact link. Is there a direct email?

  5. Jennifer says:

    what do you do when the only thing your child says is:

    “no” ( when i say that he seems angry or hurt or frustrated)


    “I don’t know” (when I ask what made him upset/hurt/frustrated/angry)

    How do you continue the conversation? This is how they all end…. and he is nearly 4 years old. He surely knows what I am asking.

    • Jennifer says:

      He sounds a little like my nearly four year old who definitely does NOT like to talk about what happened IN THE MOMENT. But he does like to return to it about a half hour or so later. Usually he’s looking for a release. And if I hold a limit, he may cry or if he’s angry he’ll punch or hit (I do let him hit my hands like a boxer does, doesn’t hurt at all) and then he’ll get his blanket. He’ll suck his fingers. We read a book. Then later, in the car, or when things are going well, I’ll saying like, “You must have been really upset about something to want to hit so much…I wonder what it was….” Or I’ll tell him what I saw happen and ask if that’s how he saw it. Often he’ll say something like “Tell me it again mom.” He does want to hear it, just not in the moment. Just like in this post. Helpful?

  6. Natalie says:

    As a mom of a two year old, this was SO helpful. Thank you! I have shared this on to my husband and friends and family who are moms with young kids. I am so glad to have come across your blog. I discovered it through the Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond Facebook page. Thank you!

    • Jennifer says:

      Well thank you Natalie! I really appreciate you taking the time to let me know that my blog has been of some help. Very gratifying and that’s what keeps me going.


  7. Ash says:

    Such a great reminder, that children are innocent, and there is always something behind their behaviour. The more I remember this, the closer my sons and I get, and the more I understand them. Thank-you!

  8. Lisa says:

    OMGosh! Your blog is wonderful. I get to hang out with infants and toddlers all day and it is so much fun to read your words. I wish I’d been this kind of parent. I was sometimes but sometimes I was pretty yucky. I’m a better grandma and a pretty darn good teacher. :) Thanks for your awesome blog!

    • Jennifer says:

      Lisa! Thank you so much for saying that. I bet you’re damn good teacher. What fortunate kids. Please spread the word. Thanks for taking the time to write me.


  9. Dkj says:

    It is SO hard to keep it together though, isn’t it, shen we are ‘hit in the shins’ by the little ones we most love yet sometimes can’t control our outward impusive negative reactions towards. I blame ‘Continuum Parenting without the tribe’ coupled with the fact that i am a bloody angry person in general (work in progress) and have some pretty nasty parenting tapes that I fall back on at times only to feel like a complete piece of cow patty afterwards. Yes the ‘mummy’s sorrys’ always follow but I’m not convinced they really really make up for it. If only there were more of a network in place with other like minded moms to get the respite needed to do a ‘good job’ (i can think that about myself)….. Thanks for all of the great posts on here.

    • Jennifer says:

      I hear you. Yes, it can be so helpful to seek out like-minded or somewhat like-minded parents…Ideally in person, if not online.How old are your children? Where do you live?

      Also, I’d like to recommend the book A RETURN TO LOVE by Marianne Williamson…for yourself! Perhaps will help you with your anger.

      all best,


      • Dkj says:

        Yes ideally in person…. build a ‘tribe’ that we’ve long lost, a sense of community, etc. I live in the UK. My daughter is 2 1/2 and I’m pregnant. Thanks, I will check out that book. :)

        • Jennifer says:

          HI Dkj. Thanks for getting back to me. Your daughter likely isn’t in preschool yet. I don’t know what is offered in the UK or where you live or how your system works, but here, at around your child’s age many starting looking for or going to preschools. There are many kinds of preschools and it seems that when you can find one that works for you and your philosophy (ie progressive, play-based etc.) that that is where you can, hopefully, find some like-minded parents and teachers to form a community. do you have anything like that where you live?

          I hope so!

  10. Karen Loe says:

    I love this piece. It shows how even THINKING parents can take a whole afternoon to figure out the shin hit.
    It takes time and caring. He needed to know that you cared WHY that rake hit the shin and he needed to know that he could tell you and, ultimately, tell Daddy. And Huddy has learned, through all of those moments from the past, someone will help me put this into words…then everything will be all better.

    • Jennifer says:

      Karen! So sorry not to have posted and replied earlier. I thought I had!

      Yes, you can be as conscious as can be, but no one is perfect. We all need reminders.

      I love love love what you wrote about what Hudson may have learned from this experience. I hope so! It’s what I’m going for.

      Thanks so much for sharing that with me.


  11. Mrs Kuhn says:

    Thank you for this! I need to read something like this and I should find a way or a part or a qoute to put everywhere, in my car, house, cell phone, bathroom. You name it and it should probaly go there. I have. Very aggressive little man. He hits, slams doors ad yells shut up. Very hard sometimes to look at it this way and it’s nice to get the reminder to Do so. Thank you!

  12. Sara says:

    That was just what I needed to read. It even had me tearing up. My family life has improved significantly by just remembering to *gasp* treat my kids as people and ask them what’s really upsetting them. I really appreciate your blog it’s been so helpful (and real)

    • Jennifer says:

      Glad to hear it. Yes, it can be surprisingly challenging sometimes to realize children are people too. Thank you so much for the support.


  13. Azan says:

    Raising children is raising ourselves…in every situation always good to: Pause, Reflect…then respond, so we act with intention (hopefully w/love) instead of reacting (w/fear). So much harder to do when we’re in physical pain, but all the more necessary. Thanks Jen!

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