Toddler hitting is never acceptable but it can sometimes be understandable if you take the time to see the point at which it is coming from.
A one, two or even a three year old can often struggle with getting out their true emotions.
The fact is that sometimes they get frustrated when they can’t express how they are truly feeling.
Let’s face it, I could probably name a few adults who could fall into this category too!
I have 4 children and at some point, each of my children has gone through something similar to this.
Some people call it “terrible two’s”. Although it can happen at other ages also.
Personally, I don’t believe there is such a thing as terrible two’s. If there really was such a thing, I think we would all love our children a little less as soon as they hit 2 years of age.
The age of two (there or thereabouts) is the age where toddlers start to explore.
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Did you do something wrong?
So you gave birth to this perfect little baby. You spend most of your day playing with them and laughing.
Then one day your toddler decides to hit you and not in a playful way.
What does that mean exactly?
Are you suddenly a bad parent?
Did you not play enough games with your child?
Let me just break it down for you here.
You are not in any way different from any other mother. You did nothing wrong.
Even if you were to lock your child away from every single tv in the whole world and not come into contact with another single person, you would still have this issue.
Because oddly enough it is normal.
Is my toddler hitting normal?
Let me tell you the absolute truth so you are fully informed.
Your toddler may even bite and scratch as well. This stage does not only include hitting.
I know this sounds terrible but it is a reality that a lot of moms don’t want to talk about because they think it reflects on them as a parent.
It doesn’t…at all.
Your parenting skills are not in question here but how you handle things from this point onward is.
Most toddlers will hit, bite or scratch because they can’t verbalize how they really feel.
My son is one at the moment and he really wants to be able to keep up with his siblings.
He wants to play with their toys and do the things they do. He has one problem though.
He can walk, even run a little but he can’t talk yet.
When I look at him, I can sometimes see he is trying really hard to say something but can’t verbalize it.
His siblings don’t know what he wants so they sometimes ignore him or don’t do what he really wants.
I watch out of the side of my eye as to what is going to happen next.
Sometimes he will try to get my attention because he knows that I will take more time to try and understand what he wants, but not always!
Sometimes he bites, yes sometimes he bites or hits his brothers. Sometimes he even hits me.
How does the toddler hitting stage begin?
Toddler hitting usually begins when your child realizes that they can be just like their siblings. When they realize that have rights too.
Your child at some point will want to start exploring things and usually part of that exploring phase means that they can get frustrated.
They get frustrated whilst trying to do something and it’s not going according to plan.
I’ll give you an example. My youngest (I’ll use him because he’s at the perfect age) has this Woody toy (from toy story) that talks when you pull the string. He loves it so much.
One day he goes to pull the string and it doesn’t talk, he tries again and still nothing. So he takes it to his brother to make it work for him.
His brother is preoccupied and just takes it, puts it on the floor and continues doing his own thing.
Well, that was that, there was screaming, shouting and biting all over the place!
You see he wasn’t trying to be naughty. He just couldn’t express what he wanted.
All he actually needed was for someone to turn the toy on.
A lot of the time that’s how it is for toddlers.
Don’t get me wrong though I know not all instances of toddler hitting are as simple as that. Sometimes it can be a bit more deep routed.
Toddler hitting begins as your child starts to grow up out of the baby phase and wants to claim their own territory, so to speak.
There isn’t a whole lot you can do to stop it because it is part and parcel of their development skills.
Until your child learns some social skills it will likely keep happening.
Try not to get too frustrated with them.
What can I do to stop my toddler hitting?
Firstly there is one thing that you shouldn’t do.
Never shout at your toddler and lose control because you will only be feeding what your child thinks is right. You have to be seen to set the example.
The first thing you should do it try to remove your child from the situation, especially if they are hurting someone else.
Never laugh or smile but keep a straight face and in a stern voice. Tell them that what they have done is not ok.
Take the time to explain why it’s not ok.
I’m no angel myself and a lot of the time I get things wrong and shout at my children.
One thing you must do no matter how upset you are is to explain to your toddler why that type of behavior is not acceptable.
Think of it this way.
You get sacked from your job and no one tells you why. All you get is a “don’t come back to the office tomorrow”.
The likelihood is that you will be highly confused and wonder what you did wrong. The same rings true for your toddler.
You might think because your toddler is perhaps only one or two years of age that they don’t understand, but they understand a whole lot.
Wait for your child to be calm enough before letting them go back to play.
Explain again what they did wrong in a softer more understanding voice.
With my son, even though he can’t verbalize yet I give him space to let him talk back to me when we have a conversation.
It probably looks really funny to anyone on the outside looking in but he needs it.
I may not be able to fully understand what he is saying but I’m teaching him that a conversation is 2 ways and that he has the opportunity to speak and tell his side.
Depending on who he has hurt. Sometimes I will ask him to go and give the person a hug to say sorry.
If it is myself or one of his siblings then I make sure that he follows through with it.
The best thing you can do for your child is to always follow through.
4. FOLLOW THROUGH
Follow through is really important because that’s how you build up respect between you and your child.
In times past I’ve been terrible at doing this mainly because I was always juggling so many things at once.
My first 2 children are 1 year apart, I got pregnant again fairly quickly with baby number 3. I didn’t feel I had time for follow through.
If you tell your child to do something and then don’t follow through, they know next time you are likely to break again.
Why should they listen to you?
If you know you can’t follow through on something, then in all honesty, it’s best you don’t say it at all.
Children are very very smart and the minute you let them get away with something they will do it again because they can.
It took me a good few years to work this out but I got there in the end.
I could never figure out why the children would listen straight away when their dad said something but with me it was always a battle.
I just couldn’t understand it. Then one day I worked it out. It’s because when my husband said something, he meant it.
There was no trying to get out of it. That was that.
I was at home all the time with the children so if they caught me on a bad day I would often cave into things that I know I shouldn’t.
I lost a lot of respect this way and still today I am trying to gain it back with follow through. Don’t make that same mistake.
Not all instances of toddler hitting are simple and there are occasions where it can be a little more serious.
In situations like this, you have to be a bit more on the ball.
Is your child upset because of a relationship breakdown?
Is there a big change happening at home?
Are you moving house?
Has someone new moved into your home?
Do you have a new baby?
Any of these things can upset your child if they don’t understand it properly. It’s really important to get to the root cause so it can be dealt with in the most appropriate way.
Should I discipline my toddler for hitting?
That’s a judgment call you have to make, no one can make it for you.
I would say though, weigh up whether or not your toddler was really being naughty or not before you decide to take action.
What can I do to keep the hitting to a minimum?
– Don’t allow your child to watch too much tv. Keep them busy and active during the day so they can burn off any excess energy.
– Make sure they get a good nights sleep so they are not grumpy in the morning.
Remember toddler hitting is not unusual, a little embarrassing perhaps but its nothing that other moms haven’t seen before.
As long as you quickly deal with your child’s behavior you won’t become the parent at the playground that all the other moms talk about.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON TODDLER HITTING
One last thing to remember which is quite important is that when you see a toddler hitting, it’s not because they are necessarily trying to hurt the other person.
It’s usually just a form of expression. Be kind and patient to your child and they will soon get the message.
The hitting phase will soon pass.
If you are worried that it is something more serious or you feel that you cannot cope, you must seek some help before it gets out of hand.
There is no shame in asking for help.
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