Spitting is one of the most unpleasant and frustrating behaviors you can experience as a parent. Either because your child is angry, because he does not want to listen to you, because he has gotten angry with a friend and spits on him … it is important to reduce this bad habit as soon as possible to prevent it from getting worse.
UNDERSTAND WHY SOME CHILDREN SPIT
Sometimes kids just spit for fun, they spit on the ground because they think it’s entertaining. If they receive a reaction from someone it can be even more fun for them because they have also had negative reinforcement about this behavior.
Young children sometimes spit because it is a good way to get attention. Spitting on someone will certainly get some kind of reaction from others. Preschoolers tend to spit because of anger. When they are unable to verbalize their feelings of frustration, they spit to show how upset they are. A child who knows not to hit may think that spitting is a better alternative.
Spitting can also be a self-defense tactic. A child who does not want his friend to take his toy from him may spit at him in an effort to keep him at bay. Older children tend to spit in defiance. It’s a great way of saying, “You can’t control me.”
Some children with autism or other special needs may spit as well. They may find it to be an effective way to express their feelings or to gain some control.
HOW TO RESPOND WHEN YOUR CHILD SPITS
Almost all children spit at one point or another and parents need to know how to react. How you react will be important to whether or not your child does it again. If you want your child to stop doing that bad habit, you will have to follow these tips.
It is essential to remain calm because if you have a reactive reaction your child will do it again because you have negatively reinforced him. The disrespect, combined with the disgust factor, that accompanies spitting can cause you to lose your temper. But when your child loses his cool, the best thing you can do is be a good example of staying calm and in control of emotions.
If you yell at him or slap him, you are sending him the wrong message. If you are angry because he spat at you, stay away for a few minutes until you are calm. Only when you are calm will you be able to handle the situation so that you can speak to your child in a normal tone of voice.
Tell him spitting is unacceptable
Avoid the urge to make a big talk or nag him endlessly. Just give him a quick and easy reminder: ‘Spitting is unacceptable.’ If your child spits in other contexts, the adults around him will have to use the same words as you to make him realize that it is not funny.
If he spits, let him clean it up
A natural consequence of spitting is that you will have to clean up what you just made dirty. If he spits on the floor, give him items to clean it up. If he spits at you or someone else, tell him to clean it up as well if it is appropriate to do so at that time.
Use the waiting time
The waiting time is useful in these circumstances especially if you have spat because you were angry. Get him to sit in a quiet place (one minute per age). Then reflect with him and help him learn to calm down when he is upset by teaching him appropriate calming strategies such as counting to 10 or taking deep breaths.
When he has a good behavior you will have to reinforce it with praise, because that way he can repeat that appropriate behavior in the future. Your child wants your attention and it is better if this attention is positive.