Trying to get a toddler to stop hitting can seem an awful lot like trying to run a marathon in quicksand, with bricks tied to your feet. Contrary to what it may seem like, it is possible to curb the behavior.
Get to the Bottom of It
The first step in trying to get your toddler to stop hitting is to figure out why they are hitting in the first place. There are several reasons why they may be hitting. By trying to figure out the “why” in the equation you will be better prepared and able to stop it. My little girl is hitting her older brothers when they race her to the car. They are older and bigger so they win and it frustrates her so much that she lashes out by hitting.
Reasons Toddler’s Hit
Toddlers can hit for several reasons. Some of the more common reasons are they are unable to express their emotions appropriately (frustration for my little girl), they want attention or they just aren’t sure how else to get someone to listen to them.
7 Steps For How To Stop A Toddler From Hitting
Once the reason for their actions has been identified (to the best of your ability), you can easily take steps to correct it. Yes, you read that right. I said easy. Here are some ways to correct the behavior.
1. Label your Child’s Emotions
Toddlers hit simply because of their emotions. A toddler can hit because they are excited just as fast as they can hit because they got angry, or bored. Putting a label to how your child is feeling will help them (and you) to better understand how they are feeling.
2. Validation of Emotions
Validating your toddler’s emotions is very important. Let them know that what or how they are feeling is okay but, there is a better way to handle and express their feelings. For your toddler, knowing that their emotions are real will help them later in life.
3. Explain Emotional Reactions to your Child
Keep in mind, that while putting stops to outbursts is normally best done in the moment, explaining to them is a bit different. It is best done after they cool down.
With each emotional outburst, whether happy, or sad, or angry it is helpful for you toddler to have that labeled and explained. Get down on their level and explain to them the best way to express their feelings in a language they will understand.
4. Redirect the Behavior
Redirecting the behavior is very helpful if your toddler is hitting out of anger. It is perfectly fine for them to hit when they are upset. It is a way to show their emotion and relive the tension they feel. The trick is to do it in an appropriate way. For this, I suggest giving them one specific pillow to hit.
Each time your child goes to hit out of anger, you grab the pillow and remind them to hit that. Also remind them that being upset is okay but, they need to hit the pillow instead of people.
For a while, you will have to carry the pillow from room to room. Even send it to daycare with them. Once your toddler gets used to it though, they will seek out the pillow when they are upset.
Sometimes, distraction is the best way possible to stop them from hitting. If you see your child getting to a point where the would normally hit, try to put a stop to it before it even happens. Call their attention to something else. See if you can get them to refocus on something new. You can use a toy or maybe take a walk. Anything that you can use to diffuse the situation before it happens will help them to reprogram their thinking path.
6. Make a Point to Spend Time with Them
Often times, hitting is simply to get attention. If a child feels like they need attention but are not sure how to get it, they may hit. If you make it a point to spend an hour or so of distraction free time it can help. Once your child knows that this distraction free time is sticking around, the frequency of hitting will greatly be reduced.
7. Walk Away
This one may seem off the wall and I agree but, hear me out. If you have tried everything else, and nothing has worked it is time to ignore the behavior. They may be hitting just to get a reaction out of you or their friends.
That is when it is time to move them out of the situation or walk away. You can tell them that they can’t participate if they can’t be nice. So, If your child hit you while you were playing with them say “That hurt, if you can’t be nice I won’t play” and stand up and walk away. Give them a few minutes and try to play again. If it happens with friends, you can tell them “You need to be nice to play with your friends” and move them from the group.
Typically, some combination of these steps will greatly reduce the amount of hitting that happens. Hitting is unfortunately part of a toddler’s mind set so nothing will fully eradicate it but, it can be greatly decreased if you can get to the bottom of their most common reason for hitting. The key to any of this is to be consistent and before you know it, hitting episodes will be few and far between.
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