Toddlers are cute, but they can be a handful.
As a fellow toddler parent, I’m sure you’ve seen them at their worst before – hitting, biting, pushing other kids around. They’re clearly trying to assert their will and test the limits of their power.
And it’s driving you crazy!
- Is Toddler Hitting A Phase?
- 1. Identify Triggers to Hitting
- 2. Give Them Space When They Are Experiencing Big Feelings
- 3. Set Clear Boundaries
- 4. Make Sure Hunger Or Tiredness Isn’t a Factor
- 5. Limit Device Use
- 6. Try Distraction
- 7. Talk About Feelings
- 8. Reward Good Behavior
- What to Do When Your Toddler Hits
- How to Get Your Toddler to Stop Hitting
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Is Toddler Hitting A Phase?
If your toddler has started hitting, you may be mortified that your sweet baby is turning into a tyrant. I remember worrying that this would happen to my kids.
If you are struggling with toddler hitting, it can be really stressful for the whole family. The good news is that the majority of toddlers grow out of this phase entirely (sooner or later)!
But, how can you make sure it’s sooner?
Here are 8 strategies that parents have successfully used that stopped toddler hitting behaviors at home… and how you can use these same techniques to get your little one to stop hitting too!
1. Identify Triggers to Hitting
I’m the first to admit, my toddler is no angel. Cute, yes. Sweet, yes. But, also naughty and very cheeky!
However, he doesn’t (usually) hit for absolutely no reason out of the blue.
Identifying why your toddler hits is important, as it can help you to know what kind of conversation (toddler-appropriate, of course) you need to be having and what kind of boundaries you need to set.
For example, my toddler often hits his older brother when he is bored because the older one is ignoring him or not letting him play big boy games. Or if his brother has taken something from him that he wants to play with.
I can (try) teach him to be patient and better strategies for communicating ‘I want to play with you’ to others. (And I also need to help my older son share and respect my toddler’s ownership of what he’s playing with.)
2. Give Them Space When They Are Experiencing Big Feelings
Toddlers can be easily overwhelmed by strong emotions – this is often the cause of meltdowns or unacceptable behaviors like hitting.
They’re still learning to process emotions and big feelings like anger can be hard to deal with. (Even adults have trouble sometimes.)
You can help by having a designated place for your child to go when they are angry and upset, whether it is their room or a chair at the table. It will give them time to calm down on their own.
It is important that this space is not about punishment, but about being somewhere safe and calming for your toddler.
If you notice that your child starts feeling ready to hit again, lead him/her back to this space and encourage them to calm down before interacting with other people.
3. Set Clear Boundaries
Boundaries help children understand what is and isn’t acceptable, which also helps them stop hitting.
When kids know and experience the consequences of breaking boundaries, they will be less likely to do so in the future.
Clear, strong boundaries are an easy way to make a great impact on your child’s life.
All of this takes patience and perseverance on both parents’ parts – especially during those times where things get really hectic at home or there are other distractions such as friends over or siblings fighting.
4. Make Sure Hunger Or Tiredness Isn’t a Factor
While it doesn’t making hitting ok, a hungry or tired toddler is an angry, volatile one!
If you know your toddler is due for a nap or is hungry, you may be able to diffuse a situation before it happens by addressing their needs or removing them from the scene.
Well rested with a full belly makes for a happy toddler who has less reason to hit!
5. Limit Device Use
Uh oh. The sticky screen time issue! While the advice is ‘no screens before two’ and minimal screen time thereafter… when parenting in the real world, screen time happens.
However, you may find that limiting time on electronics may help reduce aggressive behaviors. In fact, if you notice a lot of bad behavior after using devices with your child, it might be worth taking a break from them to see how they behave in the absence of technology.
My oldest had a big break from devices from toddlerhood until he was about 4 because it clearly affected his behavior badly.
6. Try Distraction
There’s an art to the timing of distraction – for this to work you’ve got to get in early before they reach critical mass and melt down.
If your toddler is hitting or doing something wrong, don’t tell them what to do! Instead, try distracting their attention and see if that works for you. This can really help get rid of unacceptable behaviors and encourage good ones at the same time.
7. Talk About Feelings
Hitting is a way for your toddler to communicate that they are angry or frustrated… so talk about feelings!
Instead of trying to teach your child to stop hitting, focus on what’s really going on with them and help them verbalize these emotions. This should make it much easier for you both!
Another thing you can do during a calmer time is to read books about emotions. One of my favorites is “When I’m Feeling Angry” that will help your toddler learn to identify their feeling of anger and that they should not let their anger hurt anyone else.
8. Reward Good Behavior
When your child is not hitting, make them feel like the most important person in your world! Pick out something they love and give it to them, whether that’s bubbles or a sticker!
This will teach your children what behaviors are appropriate with rewards for good behavior and consequences for inappropriate behavior.
When you make much of your child for the right behavior they know what you expect and what behavior is appropriate in different situations.
What to Do When Your Toddler Hits
Dealing with a hitting toddler is hard and it can easily make your emotions run hot.
To deal with your own anger, take some deep breaths or count to 10.
If you yell or hit your toddler – even if it stops them hitting – they’ll just learn that when they’re angry, yelling and hitting gets them what they want! They’ll still be frustrated, but in a different way and the hitting will continue.
The goal is for your child to learn appropriate behaviors. And yelling won’t teach them anything except that you’re not someone they need to listen to. They’ll just get angrier as everyone else yells too.
Instead, try using positive language and redirection. Here’s a rough guide to dealing with toddlers hitting:
- Physically stop your toddler from hitting (and remove them from the situation, if around other kids). It’s important to act immediately and decisively to link the action with the consequence.
- Talk to your toddler about the behavior – Hitting is Not Ok. Tell them what they should do instead, gentle touch, and demonstrate on their arm.
- Ask them to demonstrate gentle touch on you and praise them for doing it correctly. This reinforces the appropriate behavior.
How to Get Your Toddler to Stop Hitting
If your toddler is constantly hitting, you may wonder what to do. The best strategy is consistency and patience. Even the best parenting techniques won’t work if you don’t have patience and consistency, which is why I recommend that parents start teaching toddler hitting behavior modification techniques as soon as possible! If you are consistent with your child, then they will learn what is acceptable behavior in different situations.
Being patient with your child will help them learn more quickly, and it saves a lot of time in the long run. It’s very important you have your own emotions in check as you try to teach your toddler how to manage his or her own.
But once again, all these strategies can help achieve peace and harmony within your family! With your guidance and encouragement, you can help your toddler learn to stop hitting once and for all!