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Toddler hitting

How to Stop Toddler Hitting for Good

May 11, 2019, Author: Tamra Cater

toddler hitting

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My toddler started hitting others at around 12 months. I was at a loss of what to do, and she hit others for more than a year after she started. I always considered myself an easy going person that didn’t get angry very often, so I couldn’t understand where this behavior was coming from. When she was about 18 or 19 months, one of her babysitters even decided to drop my daughter from her care, as she was hitting other children.  It was frustrating and hard to figure out how to handle it.

Needless to say, toddler hitting is normal and common at this stage of life. There is an explanation for why toddlers hit, which took me a while to figure out. Eventually, we did come to a solution, and her hitting stopped.

Explanations for Toddler Hitting:

  • Toddlers are learning cause and effect. They are little “experimenters” and are learning how the world works. So, if they hit you or the cat, they are learning what kinds of effects their actions have.
  • Toddlers are still developing their language skills and may be limited in terms of expressing themselves verbally. So, they might hit in order to express some sort of need or want. For example, my daughter would hit others when she wanted a toy. She didn’t know how to ask another person if she could have it.
  • Toddlers are also at a time where they experience tantrums and “big emotions,” so they may not know how to handle that yet. In turn, they may express their emotions physically. This suggests that they need your help in handling those emotions.
  • Toddlers may also be testing boundaries and limits.
  • They may also hit because they are tired, cranky, hungry, or frightened.
  • Toddlers do not hit because they are “bad” or “naughty.”

 

toddler hitting

What can I do when my toddler hits others?

  • If your toddler is hitting because he or she is hungry or tired, then providing a snack or a nap as soon as possible will help.
  • Come from a mindset that this behavior is not “bad” or “naughty.” In doing so, you will likely respond differently to the hitting- such as from a place of empathy and compassion. If you respond harshly, according to one article, this could actually escalate the behavior.
  • Also, remain calm. If need be, take a breath, so you can speak confidently and with authority. If you are angry or frustrated, and your toddler picks up on that, it can result in a battle.
  • Then, get down on their level,  look them in the eye, and speak confidently.
  • Validate their feelings. For example, when my toddler would become upset and hit me when I would tell her it’s time to turn off the cartoons and go to bed, I’d say, “I know that’s frustrating! I love cartoons too! We will watch more tomorrow!”
  • Put a stop to the hitting. If your toddler is about 1, a good approach would be to say “that hurts” and then model how to appropriately touch. For example, you can show your toddler how to gently touch you or another person. This worked well with our toddler when she was grabbing our cat’s fur. We showed her how to gently pet the cat, which she eventually did.
  • If your child continues to hit you, block the hitting, and then say, “I will not let you hit me. It hurts.”
  • It may be helpful to redirect your toddler’s aggression. For example, show your toddler than when they feel angry, they can hit a pillow. Sometimes, it even helped my daughter when we’d just go outside, run around, and play to get the aggression out.
  • Don’t punish or spank the child for hitting. If you spank a child for hitting, this models the behavior you are trying to stop. Also, punishment can bring even more discouragement to a child that is already discouraged. Rather, we should be teaching toddlers how to best regulate their emotions and behaviors.
  • It may also help to read a book about hitting. Here’s my recommendation (Click on the image for more information):

One of the best solutions for my daughter was starting preschool. When she first started, she’d hit other kids (She even ended up in the Director’s office on the first day for her hitting!). It seemed to be the case that she was having a hard time communicating with others. With time, my daughter blossomed in her language skills, which was helpful in reducing the hitting. She could verbally communicate her needs and wants, rather than using physical actions to communicate. In addition, it was also helpful to partner with the teacher and see what they were doing to handle it. My daughter’s teachers would tell her, “We don’t hit our friends.” They would also redirect her behavior by distracting her with something else. For example, if she was fighting with someone over a toy, they would redirect her to another toy.

See the link below for a printable on solutions to toddler hitting!

Solutions to Toddler Hitting

Final Thoughts on Toddler Hitting and How to Handle It

First of all, it’s important to figure out why your toddler is hitting, as this is part of the solution. In my daughter’s case, it was her inability to communicate her needs and wants. Thus, our solution was to work on her language skills, validate and label her feelings, and teach her appropriate ways to handle her frustration and anger.

Consistency is also key. For example, when my daughter would hit, I would still always make it clear that hitting is not ok. Be sure everyone, including other caregivers, are on the same page in terms of what you are doing to handle the hitting.

While this stage can be frustrating and challenging, remember that it’s normal and common. As my mom would always say, “This, too, shall pass.” I didn’t think this stage would pass, but I promise it will! 🙂

If you like the blog post, please share it with others!

toddler hitting

References

Davis, A. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.thebump.com/a/toddler-hitting.

Hargis, A. (2018). Toddler discipline for every age and stage: Effective strategies to tame tantrums, overcome challenges, and help your child grow. Rockridge Press: Emeryville, CA.

 


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comments (23)

  • avatar image
    Very insightful article! You correctly point out that there could potentially be a number of reasons why a toddler is being aggressive and that you need to know the reason to find a solution. Thanks for sharing!

    Michael Anderson

    May 11, 2019 Reply
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      Thank you! :)

      Tamra Cater

      May 11, 2019 Reply
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    Great amount of information and will be helpful to some parents. Thank you for sharing your tips. Alyssa THESACREDSPACEAP.COM

    Alyssa

    May 12, 2019 Reply
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      Thank you!

      Tamra Cater

      May 12, 2019 Reply
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      Very good post for mums.

      Juliasdailytips

      May 20, 2019 Reply
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    Thanks for sharing your helpful tips. I like the book you recommended. I’ll have to give it a read. Your point about the situation improving when verbal communication gets better is so true. I’ll keep your list in mind when I’m working with toddlers at church!

    Lisa

    May 13, 2019 Reply
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      Thank you!

      Tamra Cater

      May 13, 2019 Reply
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        As an early years educator working with toddlers it can be difficult to keep hitting under control. Great tips!

        Jodie@Ignitetheircuriosity

        May 19, 2019 Reply
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          Thank you!

          Tamra Cater

          May 19, 2019 Reply
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    Great tips! Toddler hitting is very frustrating and these are all great tips to help us understand why and redirect the behavior. Thanks for sharing!

    Leslie

    May 13, 2019 Reply
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      Thank you! It can be very frustrating!

      Tamra Cater

      May 13, 2019 Reply
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    This will help so many new parents! I don't have children yet but I think I would firmly say "no don't do that" and hope they would soon stop. Interesting that you don't think parents should say "that's naughty."

    Maya

    May 13, 2019 Reply
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      Thank you!

      Tamra Cater

      May 13, 2019 Reply
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    I'm not a mother but being an aunt I can appreciate these tips. Definitely, a must read for new or expecting parents! Even for parents who have are more experienced but need that extra bit of help. The art of distracting them from aggression is a good idea!

    Nyxie

    May 13, 2019 Reply
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      Thanks. Distraction can definitely help a lot!

      Tamra Cater

      May 13, 2019 Reply
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      Great article 💐

      Lumm

      May 14, 2019 Reply
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    This is great! I am currently dealing with this with my son. I am going to try some of the suggestions you've given. Thank you.

    Sarah

    May 13, 2019 Reply
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    You've got some great advice here! Far too often we dismiss this behaviour as simply 'misbehaving' without taking the time to really understand what a child may be trying to tell us. It's so important to remember that they aren't able to just verbalize their needs at this stage.

    Britt

    May 14, 2019 Reply
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      Thank you. Right, I agree. Usually, kids at this age, just can't control their emotions. So, it's important to look at why this is happening to arrive at a solution.

      Tamra Cater

      May 14, 2019 Reply
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    Good stuff! I love that you talked about modeling behavior that you want your child to demonstrate. I think that is one of the big things that a lot of people don’t realize especially when they get frustrated.

    Jenna

    June 28, 2019 Reply
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      Thank you!

      Tamra Cater

      June 28, 2019 Reply
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    I remember when my sisters kids were this age we went through a lot of "It's okay to have big feelings, it's not okay to hit to express our big feelings" One of the things we always had was a "comfort corner" so if we felt overwhelmed with our big feelings we could go and snuggle with cushions and blankets and favourite books until we felt better.

    ThatAutisticFitChick

    June 29, 2019 Reply
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      I love that idea! Thanks for reading!

      Tamra Cater

      June 29, 2019 Reply