How do I deal with a toddler who hits others?

Real Mom Problem

“I have a 21 month old son and he's started hitting. We've tried telling him no. He just looks at us and laughs, then does it again. I want to stop this before it gets out of hand.”

by sunangel803 sunangel803

Quick Tips

  • 1. Show your toddler how to use their hands gently
  • 2. Explain to your toddler that hitting hurts
  • 3. Praise your toddler every time they refrain from hitting
  • 4. Offer alternatives for expressing frustration
  • 5. Discipline your toddler when he hits others and move on; fussing over him may encourage him to keep hitting.

Real Mom Solutions

Hitting is a common issue with toddlers, who may do it out of anger, frustration, or even excitement. No matter the reason your toddler is hitting, it's likely a stage you are hoping to get through quickly -- and painlessly! Lucky for you, these moms have offered up their tried-and-true tips for handling a hitter.

Teach Gentle Touching

  • PEEK05

    Re-direct her behavior and show her how to use gentle touches. Take her hands and physically rub them nice and gentle down your face and remind her that if she wants to play with anyone, she must use gentle touches. Positive reinforcement for when she does it. Time-out from the situation if she keeps doing it. Be consistent.

Help Your Toddler Understand

  • thankfulmum

    I went through this with my son and it was tough. For awhile it felt like nothing worked. So I started being immediate with his punishment. As soon as he hit I was telling him "No! Hurt! Hurt mommy!" And I marched his tail to time-out. It took a few times to get the point, but I really think if you're consistent - and if the punishment is immediate and forceful (like you mean business, not play), then it will all work out. For my son, the thought of "hurting" someone was very effective. He might get excited and hit, but he did NOT want to hurt anyone. Big lesson there.

Offer Alternatives

  • RobynS

    You might try giving her another outlet for expressing her feelings. Give her a long cylindrical pillow she can use sort of like a bat and tell her that when she's angry, she's allowed to hit a certain spot (the couch or a chair, for example) but that she's not allowed to hit people and not with her hands. If it's not anger-based, then it sounds like she needs a good way to grab attention--get her a microphone and have her sing songs or tell jokes instead. Challenge her to find the silliest way to hug; hug your leg, your arm, just your hand, hug backwards. It's still physical contact, but sweet instead of aggressive.

Don't Give Extra Attention for Hitting

  • mypbandj

    It sounds like he's getting a lot of attention for hitting. It obviously is frustrating to you and he knows it drives you crazy. I'd start off by talking about it during the day, when you're both in a good mood, and when nothing else is going on. Tell him that hitting is not acceptable and if he does, x, y or z will happen. Give him something he can do. "When you get so mad, you can hit this pillow." Let him practice. Praise him hitting the pillow. Give him a lot of attention for it. Then reaffirm that if he hits people x, y, or z will happen. Practice. Then, when the time comes, if you see him getting to the point where he might hit, remind him of his new option "you may hit this pillow." And if he doesn't, swiftly pick him up, and follow through with whatever your consequence was. Do not discuss it. He knows. Do not give him any attention. Be matter of fact. Be firm but try not to be emotional. You want to be careful that he isn't getting one ounce of extra attention for this.

Remember, It's Common Toddler Behavior

  • sofiesmom112

    This behavior is totally age appropriate, and some of the solutions listed work and some don't. The best advice is that they will outgrow this stage. We use cause and effect: "Look at Susie, you made her sad when you hit her. Susie, I am sorry Sofie made you sad. We don't want our friends to be sad. We like our friends. Sofie, would you want to be sad?" Then redirect the child to something else. This is actually working. At 2, they may apologize but do not understand the meaning behind it, but they know what it means to be sad, and that they don't want to be sad, so I find it works better.