6 Ways to Stop Your Toddler From Hitting

6 Ways to Stop Your Toddler From Hitting

Concerned about your toddler’s new hitting habit? Try one of these tricks to stop it.


By: Nicole Fabian-Weber

It’s a moment every parent dreads. You’re at the playground with other kids or chilling out at home just the two of you, and it happens: Your little one, usually in a fit of frustration, hits. "Where did this come from?" you wonder. "We’ve never laid a hand on him. And he’s barely allowed to watch TV!" Relax. Though seeing your son or daughter hit is certainly an upsetting sight, it’s incredibly common in toddlers -- regardless of how calm and peaceful your household is. "Toddlers hit because they have so little control over their impulses," notes Tovah Klein, author of How Toddlers Thrive. "They may hit out of anger or upset, or just as likely because they are excited and happy."

Got a pint-sized boxer on your hands? Instead of immediately raising your voice and coming down hard on him, try these tactics.

1. Gimme five. Trying to shut down your little one’s hitting can wind up making things worse. "These are impulses that they need to channel somewhere,” says Klein. "Offer them a 'hitting game,' where you put your hands up in front of you, palms toward your child (like a shield), and say, 'Hit here, hit these hands.'" Or, you can put up your hand and tell them to give you five. These tactics lighten the moment and give your child a way to have contact that is appropriate, and it puts up a boundary so he doesn’t hit Mommy or Daddy.

2. Give her a punching bag. If your child raises her hand to you or someone else out of anger or frustration, offer her a pillow or a stuffed animal to hit instead. Tell her, "I can't let you hit me, but you can hit this pillow." It lets her work out her emotions while letting her know that hitting other people isn’t OK.

3. Label it. "Try labeling the emotion behind the hitting to help your child understand the feeling that prompted it in the first place," suggests Klein. "This helps them gain control over time." Saying things like, "You were so angry!" "That's frustrating!" or "You were so excited to see her" shows your child where his hitting came from.

More from P&G everyday: 7 Tips for Teaching Empathy in Toddlers

4. Help him empathize. Toddlers may be fiery balls of emotion, but that doesn't necessarily make them the most empathetic people in the world. After your child hits someone, help him understand the repercussions of what he did, as well as develop empathy. Try saying something like, "That really hurt Sally when you hit her earlier. Did you see her cry? Remember when you fell at the park and cried because it hurt?"

5. Keep your cool. "Hitting is normal, especially for 2- and 3-year-olds," assures Klein. "It gets better in time. Overreacting can increase the behavior and make the child feel bad -- without helping them learn to contain the hitting."

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6. Look for clues. If your child is hitting a lot, try to figure out what may be the cause. Is she overtired and does she need an earlier bedtime? Is there stress in the house? Is her new baby brother starting to walk and getting more in the way? Often times, if you figure out the causes of the behavior, you can take the proper steps to avoid the triggers.

Does your toddler hit? What do you do to curtail the behavior?


Nicole Fabian-Weber is the mama to a sweet toddler girl and an equally sweet baby boy. She lives outside of NYC and writes for The Stir and numerous other online publications.

Image ©iStock.com/Yarinca


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