How can I make my Toddler Stop Hitting?

Toddler Hitting
Toddlers are constantly exploring their world, and experimenting with all the different ways he or she can satisfy their needs and curiosity. Small children between the ages of 1 and 3 years often hit others, sometimes for seemingly no reason. Try to remember two very important things your child isn't hitting people to intentionally hurt them, and hitting is a very typical behavior for toddlers. Hands are tools for communication (Communication with children: Unicef), especially for young children who have not yet developed their language skills (Your baby's speech and language skills from birth to 30 months). But of course, hitting is an unacceptable social behavior and should definitely be eliminated as quickly as possible.

Before offering ways to do this, be advised that the way NOT to eliminate this behavior is to discipline the child by spanking him/her. The only thing this does is reinforce to the child that hitting is acceptable. If you are doing it why can't he/she? Spanking can only confuse small children, and if you are trying to teach him/her that hitting is wrong, then certainly don't hit him/her to justify this.

It can be very helpful to try to document the times you notice your toddler hitting. Is it more frequent when he is tired? Hungry? Over-stimulated? Under-stimulated? By finding a pattern, it can be easier to provide alternatives to the hitting. A young child can be hitting because she has observed someone else engaging in the behavior, such as a sibling, babysitter, or classmates. Other reasons include a reaction to some kind of recent stress, like a change happening in her life. Also, hitting is sometimes done as a method to obtain attention. But it is extremely unlikely that your toddler is hitting as a result of anger.

Whatever the reason for the child's hitting, there are strategies that can help fade the negative behavior, and ways to offer alternatives to the things she is trying to express. This requires consistency and patience, as well as positive reinforcement. If you suspect your toddler is hitting as a means to getting attention, then arrange for more one-on-one time with her that you can devote positive attention emotional as well as physical. Teach her to use her hands in more gentle ways, such as stroking your cheek, or hugging.

When you sense your child is about to hit, it is best to not shout No! and scold. You will be much more successful redirecting the hitting. For example, catch her hand as she raises it toward you and guide her fingers to your cheek, helping her to rub her fingers there and show her how pleasant the feeling is to you by smiling at her, cooing, or softly saying I love you. You can also try distracting your toddler with a game or favorite toy whenever you see she is about to strike. Or gently taking her hands when she begins the aggressive motion and forming them around your body into a hug, telling her We don't hit we give hugs!

Sometimes small children hit because they feel out of control. Children of all ages should always be given choices. This helps with their forming autonomy and confidence. If a parent starts to put a red shirt on her 2 year old, and the child wants to wear the blue one, but wasn't given the opportunity to choose, he may hit as an expression of that frustration. The inability of toddlers to appropriately verbalize feelings yet contributes to the spontaneous release of physical energy which often results in flailing arms or swatting. A great way to help a child feel more independent is to offer choices at every opportunity. Ask Toby, do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt? Even a 2 year old can point to the color he likes best. This will show your little one that you value his opinions and will help to reduce any feelings of frustration or boredom.

It is extremely important that you begin addressing a child's hitting behaviors as soon as you observe them starting. Never laugh when a child hits someone, even if it is adorable or harmless. This immediately reinforces the fact that he received positive attention for that specific behavior and will surely repeat it again and again. When teaching a toddler to stop hitting, always remain calm and speak softly. And one of the most critical things you can do to eliminate hitting is to immediately praise the child when you see him touching someone in a gentle, appropriate way. Children crave positive reactions, and the more you give, the more they do, too.

Recommended Resources

A Book by Ross W. Greene : A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children. More than 5,00,000 copies sold. A review on amazon: Basically this book gave me new insight into my son's explosive behavior. It has helped us both out tremendously. I highly recommend it especially if nothing else is or has worked for your explosive child. All parents should read this book, especially those with children who are out of control.

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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

Disclaimer: The suggestions in the article(wherever applicable) are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or any other type of advice