Last Updated on August 26, 2021.
It doesn’t matter how much you love your toddler, they are going to hit. It’s the nature of the beast and it can be frustrating to deal with. If your toddler is hitting other children or family members, then this post is for you! We will discuss how to stop a toddler from hitting in 3 steps that won’t leave anyone feeling frustrated or upset.
Why Toddlers Hit
It’s sometimes difficult to understand why a toddler behaves the way he does. But here are four big reasons your toddler might be lashing out.
Toddlers Test Limits
Toddlers hit when they are trying to test limits. They’re trying to see if they can get away with what they want. This is how children learn how to behave and how the world works. When you set limits and enforce them consistently, your toddler will eventually stop trying to push boundaries.
Toddlers Can’t Communicate What’s Wrong
Sometimes when a toddler hits or kicks someone it is because they are frustrated about something that doesn’t seem like a big deal to an adult but can be for the child. It might just be hunger, or tiredness, or feeling overstimulated.
Toddlers Have No Self Control
Your toddler’s brain development is not complete yet. All of his impulses and emotions are firing at the same time, which is how they end up hitting or kicking without understanding why they’re doing it in the first place.
Toddlers Lack the Tools to Process Emotions
Toddlers lack the ability to process how they feel. And they can’t understand how their actions make someone else feel, and that’s why they might hit or kick when you don’t respond the way they expect you to.
Three Steps to Tackle Hitting
1. Redirect & Remain Calm
When your toddler hits, redirect them to a more appropriate activity and remain calm. Make sure they know how their actions make you feel so that next time they might not hit or kick again.
Redirecting can be as simple as redirecting their attention. Give them something else to do, like coloring or playing with a toy that’s not in reach of other children. You can also take your toddler out of the situation and move him somewhere calm where he can have some time to process how his actions made you feel.
If redirection doesn’t work try a time-in. The goal of a time-in is to give your toddler the opportunity to calm down and connect.
It’s incredibly important to remain calm. Don’t react or reprimand your toddler. Show how you feel by telling them how they made you feel and what their behavior is doing to the relationship with that person.
2. Remind them that hitting isn’t acceptable and about the appropriate alternatives
You can use the following phrase to remind your toddler that hitting is not acceptable and how to behave in a different way:
“You know how much I love you. But when you hit it hurts me. You don’t need to hit for anything! Instead of hitting, can you try using your words?”
You might also give them ideas on how to let out their frustration, like yelling into a pillow or stomping the ground. Reiterate that these are ok behaviors because they do not hurt anyone (including themselves).
3. Address the Issue After Cooling Off
It’s important to re-address the issue outside of the situation. You can use the same phrase you used before to remind your toddler how they made you feel, and how their actions affect others.
It might be worth talking about how their behavior would make them feel so that next time they understand how it’s making other people feel too. It will help them regulate themselves better in the future because toddlers are often unaware of how their actions affect the people around them.
If you’re struggling to have conversations about regulating emotions, you can use kid’s books to help start the conversation.
Here are my favorite kid’s books about hitting:
Tips For Hitting Toddlers
Here are quick tips to handle toddlers who hit:
- Make sure kids are getting the right amount of sleep. Sleep deprivation can contribute to aggression
- Feed kids nutritious meals and snacks often. Hanger is real.
- Use fun transitions between activities to eliminate stress and anxiety
- Don’t overstimulate your toddler. If they are feeling overstimulated, let them go to a quiet space for some time away from the situation
- Try playing games with your kids or reading books about how people behave in different situations and how it makes someone else feel
- Stick to non-violent TV shows/movies.
- Cartoons can be a great way to teach how other people feel.
The Bottom Line
Hitting is typical for toddlers. But you don’t have to just let it happen. If you understand the reasons behind the aggression and use our simple 3 step-strategy, you can stop it from happening!
What You Should Do Next…
Are you ready for more activities to build a rock-solid bond with your kids? Try our Connected Parent Challenge! It’s 15 Days of 15 Minute activities that are sure to improve your connection, diminish bad behavior, and create lasting memories. Plus, I’ll deliver more amazing parenting strategies to your inbox weekly (don’t worry, unsubscribe any time!).
Connect with like-minded moms (and dads!) in our free online community. You’ll find a plethora of resources to help you through your parenting challenges. Plus, you’ll find me there! And I’d love to connect.
Do you need actionable strategies right now? Register for this free 60-minute webinar titled How to Get Kids to Listen, Without Nagging, Yelling or Losing Control. You’ll walk away with parent-tested tactics to get your kids to listen starting today.