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How to handle toddler hitting?

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  • How to handle toddler hitting?

    I'm always looking for new perspectives/ideas on handling my 28 mo son's hitting. It is generally set off by being sleepy (a real challenge right now because he seems to be transitioning to skipping nap and going to bed earlier) or hungry. I try to avoid these situations but sometimes they sneak up on us. He's also started hitting our very tolerant cat.

    My biggest challenge is figuring out how to react when he does hit.

    Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    It's a little tricky at that age because they don't quite have the communication skills to fully understand a lecture of information.When our son hits we remove him from the situation first. Then in a very calm but firm tone, we tell him it's not ok to hit. When he calms down enough to listen we encourage him to use words to express himself rather than actions. The little guy is full of an emotion that he cannot control so the idea is to give him a way to express himself in a controlled and healthy way. When he is angry we encourage him to use his words to express himself and then we let him know that we understand his frustration and go on to solve the conflict. It's important to validate their feelings and for them to know it's ok to have them but that they also need to control them.

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    • #3
      Sounds like you have a really good handle on what causes the hitting. That's great, because then you know what to do to try to avoid it, though, I know that sometimes, it happens no matter what we do. But, what seems to work for my daughter is to tell her "use gentle hands, gentle hands" and then I also like to ask her what happened to cause her to hit (yours may be a little too young to tell you?). I also tell her that next time, please use words (I give her sample words to use, ie "I'm angry!") and that if she needs help to come to me and I'll help her, but that hitting is not ok. Sometimes, we also practice "gentle hands". I show her how to touch gently and we do it back and forth with each other. She actually kind of things that's fun, so that helps! I also think it's important that if the other child is hurt (crying) by the hitting, to comfort that child.

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      • #4
        we have a saying in our home "hands are for loving". so i say that whenever someone hits. i also tell them that they are not allowed to put their hands on someone else's body w/out their permission, this even goes for loving gestures b/c a lot of times ds1 wants to kiss all over ds2, but he doesn't want his brother in his face. he doesn't have words yet and often will hit his brother for kissing him! so i explain to ds1 he must get permission to give kisses.

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        • #5
          we are going through this same problem with our 22 month old.. and i am at my wits end! we have tried everything i can think of.. hands are for hugging not hitting.. time outs.. that hurts, please do not hit me... removing him from the situation.. you name it.. and i'm tired of nothing working! i honestly dont know what to do with him.. its very frustrating..

          he also does it when he's super tired, cranky, hungry, etc.. lately if he hits, we say, you're too tired to be nice, so its nap time. and we put him to bed. I will leave him to "rest" until he can be nice even if he wont go to sleep, but i have to tell you.. the second he gets out of bed.. he hits us again! GAH! and time outs are a joke.. he will smack me, i'll say time out, and he runs to his time out chair, jumps in it and giggles! GRRR! i just dont know what to do.. i really am at my wits end with this.. *sigh*

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          • #6
            Aw, Amy, that does sound frustrating One advice my wonderful friend, whose parenting I admire, gave me, was that hitting really is a phase and will pass. So, while we as parents do all the right things during the hitting phase, it doesn't always mean that it will stop right away. The child usually hits because he lacks the ability to express that emotion with words, so once he is able to, then the hitting will reduce and he'll start using more words to express himself, rather than hitting.

            Dr. Sears has a really good section on what to do about hitting in this link that I found helpful.
            http://www.askdrsears.com/html/6/t063900.asp

            In there, he says, this:
            Children become aggressive in order to release pent-up anger, to control a situation, to show power, or to protect their turf in a toy squabble. Some children even resort to obnoxious behavior in a desperate attempt to break through to distant parents.

            Most aggressive toddler behaviors will lessen once the child is old enough to communicate by words instead of actions.

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            • #7
              Along the same 'idea' as what the others suggested we use the words "gentle touches". My 2 year old will get frustrated because she can't get her point across or she is not getting the direct attention and that is my cue to "hey get down to her level and figure out what she needs" But I don't want her to think that hitting will get her attention either, so communicating with her and using the words gentle touches and asking her to use her words is also another. (I just started telling her to 'use her words' and although she is a bit young to formulate her words, its good preparation and very very soon she will be able to use the words. But I use that term more with my 4 year old when she pitches a fit to "use her words" so we can communicate. But my 2 year old can also see by example too, when I talk to my older daughter and that helps.) When she hits now, she knows right away to give that person love and say sorry. Its like she does it but then realizes what she did was not really what she wanted to do. So she is getting it and I think too as she gets more of a vocabulary, she will be able to express herself more.
              Anyway, thats what works for us.
              Good luck!

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              • #8
                We also do the "gentle touch" approach. My 19 month old is going through a very aggressive stage and we still have to watch ourselves or we'll get a hand right across the face. Another word we use is "easy" and he will immediately stroke the side of his face to show that he understands. This is a very trying phase, but through patience and love, our children will learn how to control their emotions. Good luck!

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                • #9
                  I've been reading a lot of articles on toddler behavior and gentle disciplining this last week(gearing up for age 2, next month! lol), and I came across something that said to teach toddlers to clap their hands instead of hitting when they are angry...this gives them an immediate outlet for their anger, and helps them learn to keep their hands to themselves! I love the idea, though I haven't tried it yet. I'm also planning on getting a couple of board books having to do with emotions(with ALL the books we have for ds, I don't know how we don't have any on the subject!), so that he can start learning how to verbalize when he is angry, sad, etc.

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                  • #10
                    i've never heard the clapping idea. i think we'll try it. thanks for sharing!

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                    • #11
                      Clapping! That sounds like a great idea! I'll have to try that too. Currently our son is starting to hit himself or the wall just to see my reaction. I just make a sad face and tell him, "That's not nice." I'll even do the Baby Signs for pain. Teaching Baby Signs is a great outlet for toddlers who cannot communicate what they feel with words and helps to diminish or control some anger/frustration issues. It's fun too! Also, we've started Itsy Bitsy Yoga. You can buy the book or DVD, and it is SUPER fun! As most people who do yoga can tell you, it helps with digestion, helps you to sleep better, is relaxing, and is proven to help control tantrums. There are certain little routines that are quick and fun to do, and I do believe there is one for tantrums (which I would label the hitting in that category). So, it may be fun to learn the poses and have a different fun outlet for your child to do when those hitting times come about.

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                      • #12
                        Oooh - the itsy bitsy yoga sounds great! There is a mom and me yoga class right by us that I've been dying to take him to, although I've been a little apprehensive about it since from what I hear he'll be the only toddler; the next oldest baby is 8 months old. But I'm just going to jump in and do it this coming Monday. Yoga is such a great thing, and it's been way too long since i've been practicing!

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