Toddlers are full of surprises. Chances are one day, if it hasn’t happened already, your precious little love bug is going to haul off and hit someone. It might even be you. All of a sudden your delightful child has become a boxer in training. Don’t be too surprised when it happens. It’s normal and will happen with most toddlers. Here’s how to stop your toddler from hitting.
1- Don’t make it a game.
Almost all toddlers hit. They don’t have the communication tools they need to express themselves, and eventually frustration or even curiosity will turn into a hit. When they hit someone, whether it is an adult or a child, immediate action is required. It’s important to let your child know that hitting isn’t allowed.
Do not laugh, smirk or give your child any attention for the behavior other than to let them know hitting isn’t okay. When you give them too much attention for the behavior – either positive or negative, they’re more likely to repeat the offense. They repeat the behavior partly because they received attention for it, and partly to test and see if they’ll receive the same reaction a second time.
2- Don’t hit them back.
Hitting them back actually reinforces the hitting and aggressive behavior. You’ll end up with a child that hits consistently to get what they want.
Conversely, could your toddler be picking up their aggressive habits from you? Maybe you don’t haul off and hit them, but how do you handle situations? Is your anger reigned in or do you let it all out?
3- Provide your child with other ways to communicate.
One of the primary causes for hitting is that a toddler lacks the communication skills to get what they need. They may hit for fun or out of anger. It’s not necessarily an act of aggression. Help your child learn new ways to ask for what they want. If, for example, they want to play with a child, teach them the way to ask. Maybe instead of hitting they can give the child a toy.
Similar strategies were discussed with how to handle stubborn toddlers.
4- Recognize the signs.
Does your child hit when they’re tired, frustrated, excited or bored? Pay attention to their behavior and emotions when the hitting incidences occur. You’ll be able to help manage the hitting better if you understand when and why it occurs. Sometimes hitting is part of a tantrum, try to figure out what could have triggered the tantrum in the first place.
5- Navigate hitting situations with care.
Be on high alert when you’re in a situation where your child may hit. For example, if you take them to a play group once a week and they generally hit other children, then it’s time to stick close to them and prevent any hitting. If you’re able to catch their hand as they’re getting ready to hit, you can teach them quickly that it’s not acceptable.
6- What about punishment?
Each parent has their own method for discipline. Time outs are often successful and you can also try to redirect them from the situation. It’s also important to make sure the child makes amends to the person they hit. Learning to apologize is a good skill. Additionally, it helps your toddler learn to empathize. Empathy is a skill that won’t come until later, but it’s never too soon to demonstrate good behavior.
Use this moment as an opportunity to teach appropriate behavior.
And believe it or not, it is possible to discipline your toddler.
7- Remove your child from the situation.
If your toddler is just being downright defiant and the no hitting message isn’t getting through, it may be time to remove them from the situation. This is particularly important if they’re hitting other children. If a short time out doesn’t work, then you can stop taking them to play group until they’ve learned to get their hitting habit under control.
Toddlers hit; it’s often part of their development. That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable and it doesn’t mean that it will last forever. Set firm ground rules, teach proper behaviors and have patience. It won’t be the first time your child behaves in an inappropriate manner. Start setting the foundation now.