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How do I get my son to quit hitting?

My 2.5 yo son is constantly hitting his 10 mo sister...with toys or his hand. It is intentional and he knows it is wrong- he attempts to run away or toss the toy down to seem innocent. I have put toys in timeout, put him in time-out, and am constantly praising him for playing nice. I try to explain why it is bad behavior. Nothing is working and I am at my wits end! I do not spank and he is not around any violence (TV included). Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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Asked by bugfin at 11:20 PM on Jun. 22, 2011 in Toddlers (1-2)

Level 15 (1,935 Credits)
Answers (12)
  • My mother would say swat him back and show him that it hurts. But i am not my mother. I think maybe he's hitting because he feels left out. he used to be mommy's little one and now he's not the baby any more. try to spend some extra alone time with him. Have grandma or someone watch little sister and take him for a walk or something he likes to do. tell him that mommy will always love him but hitting sister isn't nice and is going to get him into trouble. Explain to him that it is not his sister's fault that she can't do anything and that she needs to be cuddled. And try to make him feel more included in activities with sister. Hope this helps!! good luck!

    Answer by katie201005 at 11:28 PM on Jun. 22, 2011

  • Be consistent in whatever you do. Every single time that he hits, take the toy away that he hit her with, and put him in time out, or the corner or whatever. If you are putting him in a chair, make sure the t.v. is off, and he is facing away from you. Same thing if he hits with his hand.

    Answer by Tatumsmommy0123 at 11:30 PM on Jun. 22, 2011

  • My son is 3 n he's da same!! He hits everybody n anybody for multiple reasons. What has helped me is the following:
    1) identify y he's hitting; he wants the toy, he wants ur exclusive attention.
    2) verbalize his feelings; "u wanted the toy?" or "u want mommy to hold u?"
    3) do not try to explain y hes not supposed to hit! Not at 2.5. At 3.5 maybe, 4 yes!
    4) teach him how to express his frustration: "let's count to take turns" or "mommy will hold u, ( look right at him when u say this) give me a moment to feed da baby" ( be sure to hug him or hold him when ur saying this). If he's very angry google the anger wheel. It gives them alternative ways to deal w their anger.

    I have been doing this as consistently as I can. I have to be honset, it doesn't work overnite, but this is mr effective n works better in the long run. Ur teaching him to deal with his emotions.

    Answer by Vero0724 at 11:32 PM on Jun. 22, 2011

  • Great suggestions! The weird thing is that it will happen when I step out of the room or am doing something by myself (folding laundry, etc). Today it happened when a couple friends were over. We were all playing in his room. He was more the center of attention than sister. It just doesn't seem like an attention-seeking behavior to me. I do make a point to spend one-on-one time with him when sister is sleeping or playing independently.

    Comment by bugfin (original poster) at 11:50 PM on Jun. 22, 2011

  • Teach him

    Answer by Anonymous at 11:50 PM on Jun. 22, 2011

  • Vero0724 said it nicely!

    Answer by Sillylins at 5:12 PM on Jun. 23, 2011

  • I saw this when you posted the question & kept the page open but didn't get back to it. I agree with Vero0724's breakdown of info, & the attention issue she mentions is only ONE suggestion for triggers that you would identify in step 1, one example. So if it's not typically attention-seeking behavior, look for what it is. In other words, the steps still "apply."
    I know you've tried talking/explaining, and that it didn't stop the behavior, but I wanted to say I don't think this proves that talking isn't effective to help children change so much as it demonstrates the importance of connection before correction. It's true of communication with anyone, but especially true for children and particularly young ones, that connecting first with their reality is crucial. Otherwise, your words are triggering resistance & defensiveness. (It's actually counter-resistance, because the initial resistance is coming from the parent.)

    Answer by girlwithC at 6:54 AM on Jul. 16, 2011

  • So, if you can connect with him & validate him so that he really GETS that you're on his side & you understand where he's coming from (and when the behavior is something very triggering like hitting/hurting a younger child, getting to this place requires really understanding the needs or feelings underlying the behavior), he is more likely to relax his defensiveness. Whereas if you come from the position of him being wrong (and I'll clarify that preventing continued hitting in the moment is different than punishing the behavior, so it's not just that you "do nothing" or "let him keep hitting," but just that your response to the hitting is non-punitive & that your response to the behavior focuses on understanding what led to it, or even just believing that SOMETHING led to it & there's a valid reason, even if you can't identify it precisely.) Focusing on what you DO want him to do when he feels that way (for me, it was "ask for

    Answer by girlwithC at 1:29 AM on Aug. 6, 2011

  • help") is important because then you are providing information, rather than speaking abstractly about "not doing" something. I think instructions such as "gentle hands" make more sense if hitting behavior is excited or exuberant, a kind of social overture that needs guidance or channeling, roughness with a pet, etc. If hitting is more likely out of frustration or powerlessness (this kind of aggression is all "defensive" in that the child gets overwhelmed & feels the need to force things in order to see that he gets what he needs/wants, so he's defending his interests & his validity), then "use gentle hands" doesn't provide info that relates to HOW to handle those feelings. It won't satisfy or help; it just negates what he DID do (with "rough" hands.) I have twins who turned 3 two weeks ago & "ask for help" was what I came up with. "When you feel like hitting, you just need help. So ask for help." And in the beginning, that was

    Answer by girlwithC at 1:37 AM on Aug. 6, 2011

  • synonymous with getting mama involved (i.e., asking MAMA for help.) And I should add that it almost always consisted of these instructions as a reminder or as a response to conflict; it didn't immediately PREVENT conflict. But it IS what I modeled in response. Then of course what I did when I was "helping" was also modeling ways that they could "ask each other for help," as in state feelings/reactions and make requests. I facilitated the process I wanted. And over time, they did internalize this (on either side & at any point in the conflict.) "Asking for help instead of hitting" can mean saying how you want that toy, asking for a turn, speaking up to say STOP & that you don't like something/it hurts (instead of hitting back), saying no you're not done/it's your toy right now. ALL of that is "asking for help" when you feel like forcing your way (and applies to children & adults!)
    It's a dance of advocating for both sides in a

    Answer by girlwithC at 2:00 AM on Aug. 6, 2011

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