How Do I Discipline a Toddler Who Hits?

20 Jan

In addition to cuddling, sharing and being sweet, toddlers often display unpleasant, angry tendencies, such as hitting, screaming and biting. Don’t feel like your toddler is the only one. They all go through a stage like this! (Maybe in different ways.) Like many parents of toddlers, you may feel like your gentle baby turns into a tiny monster, wreaking havoc and distress with his or her bouts of anger. Teaching your child not to hit requires plenty of effort, including speaking to your child in a calm and positive manner. Your own behavior can make the difference between escalating and defusing the situation. So yes, my Toddler beats me up! Well ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a little. Wether it be the terrible 2’s, 3’s, 4’s or just a wild stage… I think almost every parent goes through something like this.

My daughter is 17 months, and just started.. shall we say testing her boundaries? ( Or is it testing mine?!)  Around 10-11 months She first started throwing her head back when she couldn’t get her way. She didn’t care where she was, what was behind her, She just threw her head back full force! As I leap over the sofa to catch her head before it hits the wood floor. Now if she can’t get her way she has a total collapse on the floor. Which is not as bad… I guess.  All in all she is a well-mannered child but she still is in the limbo of communication. She can’t fully express verbally what she wants and sometimes it causes these breakdowns… but I learned the art of distraction at this age is key. Always hug, kiss, and then try to move on to something else distracting her from whatever it may be be that upset her or frustrated her. As they say “Out of Sight, Our of Mind”

Here’s what I’ve learned. It’s more exhausting to discipline our children than to give in. BUT in the long run it’s worth it. Consistency is king. Our kids will push and push if there is any glimmer of hope that Mommy will cave. No means NO! You have to back up your position and stick to it. All caretakers must share your vision of what is and is not acceptable. Understanding the source of your child’s outbursts may help you avoid them and deal with them better. I m not an expert at any means, with only a toddler and one on the way, but I have learned that eventually kids tire of hearing no, they stop freaking out, and eventually stop insisting on what they cannot have.

Behaviors that trigger them can be modified. I do NOT mean you should call in sick and not go to work when your child is having a separation meltdown, I mean that tweaking your dialog to prep them may be helpful.

Here are a few steps to help with this “hitting” Stage: (Some Steps might be more usefully for older children)

Step 1
Inform him that hitting is an unacceptable behavior. Speak to him with words he can understand. Tell him to use his hands for gentle touches and not to hit others, including you and the family pets. Demonstrate this behavior by not lashing out in anger. I always say “No Maya, No Hitting, Kiss Mommy, Hug Mommy” Then give her a hug showing her what you should do. Let her hear in your voice love and compassion and that by hitting you She hurt your feelings. The usual reaction after that is She gives me a hug or hides her head in my lap, knowing what She did was inappropriate.

Step 2
Talk about anger. Let her know that everyone feels anger and this is a normal emotion. Differentiate between the feelings and the unacceptable actions, such as hitting and other aggressive behaviors. Help her recognize her angry feelings by verbalizing your own feelings of anger. Let her see how you deal respond to situations that make you angry. That suggestion is obviously for a semi-older child, My daughter is 17 months so not at this stage yet to discuss feelings but remember your Child is ALWAYS watching! If you are in the car and get full-blown road rage, your child witnesses this and copies this! You are her role model, so if you want a well-mannered, positive, loving child, Make sure you demonstrate these same practices in your daily life!

Step 3
Avoid anger triggers. Like adults, children tend to act their worst when they feel frustrated, tired and hungry. Reduce the likelihood of hitting by making sure your child gets adequate sleep and eats a well-balanced diet. Not that this can always be prevented, but it’s a nice goal to strive for. Minimize escalating temperaments by reducing your own level of stress, giving yourself time to relax and rejuvenate every day.

Step 4
Suggest acceptable alternatives to hitting and slapping. Let your young child know you understand how frustrating it feels to try to hold your anger inside yourself. Discuss and demonstrate ways to deal with anger, such as squeezing a pillow or walking quickly.

Step 5
Put your child in a brief time-out when he hits. Designate an area, such as a certain chair or rug, as the time-out area. Explain that hitting means stopping all activities and spending time in his time-out spot. Let him take two to three minutes to cool down. After the time-out ends, discuss his behavior and remind him that every time he hits he has to take a time-out. Do not allow him to watch television or play with toys during this disciplinary measure.

Step 6
Notice your child’s good behavior and compliment her on her achievements. Rather than harping at your child, focus your reactions on her ability to interact in positive ways. Verbalize your enjoyment and pleasure when she acts nicely and refrains from hitting. I think this is the most important Step! Dwell on the positive, praise her when she is doing well, and give lots of love! She will bask in the attention and glow with happiness when she gets cheers and hugs for a positive action, which in turn will encourage more positive actions.

Good Luck! And Always remember to give unconditional Love to your little beans! 🙂


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