How to Get Your Toddler to Stop Hitting

parenting Apr 29, 2021
How to Get Your Toddler to Stop Hitting

Raising a toddler may be a happy and exciting journey, but it isn’t always filled with rainbows and sunshine. Sometimes, it can be filled with shouting, crying, and whining (the toddler may do this too haha).

We’re sure you’ve had it happen before — you try to feed your toddler something, but they get mad and retaliate by hitting your hand or the spoon. This doesn’t only happen when your toddler won’t eat; it can also happen on play dates, a visit to the park, or a normal afternoon with their siblings or cousins.

A little bit of pushing around and roughhousing is to be expected during playtime. It doesn't mean it's ok, but it is to be expected.  Hitting other kids — or even adults — is not immediately a sign of anger issues or aggressive tendencies. You don’t have a bad kid; you just have a normal one that needs to learn how to express themselves without hitting.  Your toddler has not yet learned what to do.

However, hitting others is a behavior that, if left uncorrected, can lead to problems for them in the future. As loving fathers, it’s our responsibility to guide them towards more positive ways of dealing with their emotions.

Below are six tips to help you discourage your toddlers from hitting others.

1. Stay Calm and Collected

The first thing you need to remember is to stay calm. Remaining calm is key to helping your little one calm down as well. If you react strongly or violently, you might make things even worse.

Here are some don’ts to keep in mind: 

  • Don’t yell
  • Don’t hit back
  • Don’t spank them
  • Don’t display other aggressive behavior

Think about our fight or flight response. When we’re faced with danger, our natural instinct is to either fight or run away. The same goes for our kids. If they feel like they’re in trouble because of your reaction, they might choose “fight,” react more aggressively, and start hitting harder.

2. Avoid Punishing the Child

We need to discipline our children when they do something wrong, but in this case, punishing them is often not the solution. A much better and more effective alternative is to gently reprimand them and teach them right from wrong.

Toddlers usually hit someone or something because of lack of impulse control — they don’t know that it’s bad and do it because they can’t handle frustration or other big and negative emotions well yet.

Punishing may not be effective and can even lead to more aggressive behavior in the long run. Rather than giving them a punishment, try to explain what they did wrong and what to do instead.

Also, remember that your child is always observing and learning from you. If you resort to spanking or physical punishment, they might think it’s acceptable to hit others for doing something they didn’t like.

3. Show Empathy

If your child hits someone, it’s important to show empathy — not only to the person they hit, but towards them, too. Instead, try to calmly assess the situation and understand your child’s feelings. Talk to them in a gentle tone and acknowledge their emotions. This will help them feel understood and may prevent future outbursts.

Try to understand why they resorted to hitting by putting yourself in your kid’s shoes. For example, if your toddler refuses to eat — to the point that they’d hit you to make a point — maybe they can’t stomach the taste or would rather sleep than eat.

Showing empathy towards their needs and emotions will make them feel loved and understood. This can calm them down, help them process their emotions, and prevent them from hitting again.

4. Act Fast and Stop the Motion

If there’s one superpower us parents have developed while raising our kids, it’s our fast reflexes and intuition. Most times, we have a spidey sense for when our kids will be up to something silly, dangerous, or bad.

If you see or feel a hit coming, do your best to get ahead of it. Act fast, stop them in the act, and teach them why they shouldn’t do it. Do this as gently as possible.

The key here is to act fast in stopping their behavior and display empathy when you do. You don’t want to scare them or make them feel bad for not knowing better.

5. Teach Your Kid the Correct Behavior

Once you’ve stopped them from hitting, it’s time to teach them the correct behavior. This is where your dad skills and patience will come into play.

Gently reprimanding them by saying “No hitting, that’s not nice,” or “No, that will hurt,” can go a long way. For younger kids, even just saying “nice” or “softly” can work. Since actions often speak louder than words, you can try to model how gently they should play or act.

For older toddlers, you can explain why hitting someone is wrong and tell them what they should do instead. For example, if they hit because your child won’t eat what you served them, you can say you and your partner lovingly made the food for them or how it would make them grow faster.

6. Understand What Makes Your Toddler Hit

It’s crucial to understand what is causing your toddler to hit in the first place. Knowing what triggers this behavior is the best way to avoid or prevent it in the future.

Take some time to observe and analyze the situations that lead up to your child hitting someone or something. You can also ask them directly about it or do it by playing pretend. Giving them hypothetical situations and asking them how they would respond can also help you gain a better understanding of how they handle anger, irritation, or frustration.

The Hard-Hitting Truth

Always remember that your kid is still just a kid! As kids, they still don’t really know how to fully and properly express themselves. Oftentimes, hitting is simply a way for them to vent out frustration because they don’t know what else to do, similar to crying or shouting.

Hitting is a common phase many little kids go through, and it’s as natural as their curiosity for the world around them. Be patient with them. Understand their behavior, gently correct them, teach them what’s right, and model the behavior you want to see them do.

Watch our "How to Get Your Toddler to Stop Hitting" video here:

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