“Mr.Fisty”: A Proven New Way to Stop the Pre-Schooler Who Hits

by | Nov 30, 2015

An exasperated parent coaching client plopped onto the couch in my office recently and sighed, “How do I get my 4-year-old son to stop hitting?” At the slightest provocation, his son was hauling off and punching other kids at preschool. Needless to say, this did not go over well with teachers or classmates. The dad racked his brain to come up with a good “consequence,” a.k.a. “punishment” to get his son to stop.

Together, we came up with a completely different approach… what I like to call a “180 approach” and dad left, ready to give it a try.

Find humor and compassion instead of harshness and shame

Dad went home and talked to Walker about how hard it must be to keep his hands to himself, especially when he’s mad. With compassion, dad held Walker’s hand and folded it into a fist and said, “This little Mr. Fisty just loves to hit, doesn’t he? He must be trying so hard to protect you when you get stressed. Look how strong he is. He doesn’t mean to get you in trouble, but every time he punches someone, who gets in trouble at school?” Walker was listening intently, thinking about his rascal of a fist, and said, “I’m the one who gets in trouble, not Mr. Fisty!”

Empower the child to make choices and be in control

Together, father and son talked about how Walker was going to talk to Mr. Fisty and try to keep him from punching anyone. If Mr. Fisty got tempted, Walker was going to treat Mr. Fisty kindly, explaining to him how he had to stay in Walker’s pocket and that Walker would handle the situation.

Externalize the offender

This approach externalized the offender… rather than Walker being naughty, it was “Mr. Fisty” who was being ornery and Walker was the big boy in charge of things. Instead of Walker being punished and feeling bad about himself (which fuels more misbehavior), he became the big guy in charge of his fist. He felt empowered.

The plan worked brilliantly. Dad was thrilled. Walker maintained Mr. Fisty’s good behavior for a solid three weeks. This was a first for Walker to go three weeks without a single incident. Dad was so happy that he sent me a picture of Mr. Fisty.

Keep in mind, setbacks are inevitable

The story doesn’t stop here, however. Mr. Fisty did misbehave again. Dad’s response to the latest offense was even more ingenious than the first.

Stay tuned to read part two of the Mr. Fisty saga.

Insight on Managing Misbehavior

I call this a “180 approach” because it is often helpful to try an approach that is the complete opposite of what we think of automatically when it comes to handling misbehavior. The more a kid acts up, the more parents think they should come down hard on their kids. However, when we go for effective, powerful kindness in lieu of punitive discipline, we can meet our kids’ needs, fill them up, and change their behavior for the long-term. In this case, Dad had the chance to show compassion for Walker and teach him the essential skill of impulse control.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2015 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

+++++

Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

Visit Kerry’s extensive collection of articles on parenting…a treasure trove of tips and insights.

Calm Parenting

Before I had kids, I always pictured myself as a calm, loving, happy, and nurturing mother. I was sometimes. I still am sometimes. I didn’t realize how hard I would have to work sometimes just to avoid coming completely unglued and falling apart right there on the...

That was then…This is now

As I watch, walk, read and listen, I am horrified and heartbroken about the systemic pervasiveness of disrespect and destruction of Black people’s lives that is rooted in racism.

One Way to Start Mother’s Day 2020

I think the sweetest gift I could receive would be WORDS. Words that in spite of my imperfections, my humanity, my annoying idiosyncrasies, and my mistakes along the way … that they’ll take me the way I am. That I am enough.

Raising Boys Made Me Braver

I have had to call up the intrepid, courageous, and active parts of me that, up until motherhood, had laid somewhat dormant.

The Car Sanctuary

So often while driving, my kids would fall asleep and I found that to be a quiet peaceful time. So, I decided to make my car my sanctuary.

Instead of M&M’s, Kids Need More N&Ns – AKA: My Kid Hates When I Say “No”

One day when I took my young son to Burger King, he wanted something he couldn’t have and I said no. It didn’t work out well for either of us.  What he wanted was “white pop” (known to older kids as Sprite). I was OK with that. I held the cup to the Sprite label on...

Popsicle vs. Poopsicle: your ticket to better dinner conversation

It's possible that dinner conversation is not quite what you had dreamed of. I had fantasies of a happy family gathered around, politely eating a meal that they appreciated and each person happily chatting about their day, one at a time. If you have that,...

How Do We Parent in Ways We Weren’t Parented?

Make lasting changes in behavior that last a lifetime and span multiple generations. In some ways, it's easy to parent our children in ways we weren't parented, right?  I was a latch-key kid with a working mom who was gone a lot. When it came time for me to be a mom,...

What Is Head and Heart Parents About?

Hi! I’m Kerry Stutzman. At Head and Heart Parents, we care about all things related to parenting.  I, and the other therapists I work with, think about the entire system of a family, from the well-being of the kids to the sanity and sense of humor of the parents....

My Favorite New Year’s Resolution

I loved this resolution because it helped bring to life a piece of me that I longed for: the part that can pause long enough to truly see and hear my children’s words and respond with a smile