16-Month Old Hitting Others

Updated on April 18, 2010
M.J. asks from Thousand Oaks, CA
13 answers

My 16-month-old daughter has been hitting other toddlers in daycare and hitting me, her father, and our rabbit. She does it in a playful way--she's always smiling and happy--but when I tell her "no hitting" or "please be gentle" or "be nice" and take her hand and gently stroke or pat the rabbit, she gets upset and then seems to hit out of anger. She is not a bully, but I really want to stop this hitting habit in its tracks. Any suggestions?

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answers from San Diego on

My 12 month old does that. He thinks it's fun and becomes even more excited about it when people (especially his sister) get really worked up about it.
I tell them to give him "high fives" and tell him to only hit the hand. He loves that and it seems to be helping focus his excitement to something acceptable.
Good luck

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hello M.,

Yes this is normal developmental behavior. And I call it
"miss" behavior, rather than "misbehavior"

Every misbehavior is a symptom of a need that is unmet, or "missed."

In the words of Ruth Beaglehole, CNVEP, "Every behavior is a tragic attempt to meet an unmet need... tragic because the behavior in question will NOT result in the need being met."

It is our challenge, every time our child "miss" behaves, to determine what that unmet need is, and then help them to find a behavior that meets that need, rather than misses it!

Childhood can be a stressful thing, not just for parents, but for the child also. The littlest things can stress a child out. Even picking a child up without warning can cause a child to internalize stress. And if your household is going through any changes, your daughter could be picking up on the energy. Or it could be something else. Whatever it is, hitting could be her way of releasing that energy. Redirect it. After you have told her firmly but with love that it is not ok to hit a person, because that hurts, REDIRECT her to something she CAN hit (a pillow, a teddy bear, the floor) and ENCOURAGE HER TO HIT THAT ITEM!!!

"Your Two Year Old" is a great book that will give you the ages and stages and what to expect. It is so important to have age-appropriate responses to our children. (Impulse control, which is governed by the prefrontal cortex, is not fully developed until 27 years of age, actually, and NOT 3, by the way! so hang onto your panties and keep delivering your message with love!!!)

Lots of Love,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I started 1 minute time-outs with my son earlier than that age. He understood what time out was. I had to start it in his play pen but now he stands in a corner for 2 minutes. At 16 months, you'll have to keep it simple, of course. Give her a warning and let her know she'll have to have a time out if she hits again. If she does it again, put her in a designated time out spot, set a timer for a minute, and let her cry. When the timer goes off, go get her, repeat, "no hitting" and give her a hug. Repeat as necessary. It may take a few days for her to catch on, but she'll get it. As she gets older, you can require her to say sorry for whatever she did and then give hugs and kisses and tell her you love her to let her know that no matter what she does, you'll always love her. This has worked really well with my son. He is very nice to other kids, shares really well, and is overall a very well behaved little boy, especially for his age (not quite 2 1/2).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Wichita on

This is a normal phase but at the same time you need to get them out of this or it will only become worse. Try grabbing your daughters hands when she does this and talk to her tell her no that it is not okay, keeping a hold of her hands while you are talking to her. Remember eye to eye contact.



answers from Green Bay on

My son went through a hitting stage and we bought a book called Hands are not for Hitting!! I think that helped him a lot we would read that everyday. Not when he was hitting so i think that it might have sunk in a little bit more because he wasn't being disiplined or in trouble. i hope this works for you!!



answers from Seattle on

I have had the same problem with my 19 month old son. He has started hitting me and others when he gets upset. When I am changing his diaper, putting him in the car, or other places where it is hard to put him in timeout. So it is hard to know what to do. The advice others have given sounds good. I will have to try that and report back. I hope things are going better for you. Let me know if any of these suggestions have worked for you. Thanks.



answers from San Diego on

Hitting is/was an insta-timeout in our house.

Of course, there are two types, the excessive force...which gets redirected/shown/taught...and actual hitting, either out of anger/frustration/pleasure.

If it was actual hitting -unilatereally- he got scooped up and put in his crib on timeout (or scooped up and put in the car and taken home). Absolutely, every single time. Of course, with talking to/etc., (we had a rather long process...to type that is...so I'll skip that here), that made sure that a) he felt badly about it, b) he understood WHY he was in time out, & c)things that he could do next time instead. We also made sure that he knew that being on timeout IS NOT punishment. It's a time to cool down, and think, and regroup. Not only did/does my son go on time out, sooooooo do I. :) Thank the powers that be. By the time he was 3 he would frequently put himself on timeout, when he felt himself starting to lose it.

We never followed the minute by year rule. At a year-ish: sometimes he was on timeouts for very short (a few minutes) times, others for longer times (10-15). This was including the "talk about it" phase that always needed to happen (and still does) before he can/could come off of time out. It mostly depended on the severity of the infraction, and how I judged his emotional/mental reactions to both the offense and incarceration ;) LOL SOUNDS like punishment, doesn't it? But that's not what we wanted to accomplish... We wanted to teach him how to learn to self regulate. It also meant that I had to pay a great deal of attention to what was going on with him in the beginning...so I very rarely took a simultaneous timeout. <laughing> When I did, it nearly always stopped him in his tracks. The "Uh-oh" look on his face.

I DO have to say, that the "no hitting" rule was so firmly established that we were actually afraid of how he'd deal with bullies. Turned out we had no need to worry. He'll not only defend HIMSELF or plain walk away with a "you're an idiot" look on his face to the mean kid...but he'll wade right in between other kids fighting and (attempt) to break it up.

Anyhow...that's our experience...swift immediate justice, each time, every time.


answers from Los Angeles on

Hi M.,

Hitting is a normal behavior for kids, particularly young ones. They don't have the ability to effectively express themselves verbally, so they often need to use physical means of releasing emotions.

That being said, the next time your daughter tries to hit someone, acknowledge to her that you see that she is enjoying it (and that that is OK). Once you've acknowledged it, redirect her to something that she CAN hit- safely (a pillow, the floor, a doll, etc.) By telling her not to do what she seems to want to do, you are creating a power struggle.

Furthermore, if you can avoid using the word "hitting" that would be ideal. When you name the behavior, your daughter learns that this behavior is called something and that is will elicit a response of some kind. It gives it more power when it has a name. I know this is easier said than done.

If I can be of any more help, don't hesitate to contact me. www.GilaBrown.com
Good luck!
G. B., M.A.
Child Development Specialist & Parent Educator



answers from Los Angeles on

keep doing what you are doing. all 3 of my kids hit at that age. i am sure it's somehow developemental.



answers from Los Angeles on

I was just going to post this same exact question this morning and then I saw your post. My little guy will be 16 months on the 3rd and has been doing this for the past 3 weeks or so. I am embarassed to take him to play groups because he hits anyone and everyone. He does his with a big smile on his face as well, we have tried the whole gentle talk and stroking the dog with love, and the whole hi-five thing, but he still kisses you one moment and then slaps you across the face before the kiss is even dry. I am interested to see what other advice you receive. Hope things turn around soon for both of us.



answers from Los Angeles on

get these 3 books and read them to her a lot "Hands Are Not for Hitting" "I Can Share" and "Mouths Are Not for Biting" i would read those books to my son..and then when he would hit i would say "hands are not for hitting" it worked..he's a sweetheart..only 3..he was a wild child..when she starts talking more she might stop too..also Yo Gabba Gabba..have her watch that show..i can hear my son repeat what they say..and a lot of their shows are geared towards nice behavior..i heard my son the other day repeating.."sharing is good, sharing is fun" or something like that..he does not have problems sharing now. good luck!



answers from Los Angeles on

I had the same problem with my daughter. It's quite common at that age. It will pass as she developes language skills. To get you through this time I suggest putting a couple of squishy balls in her hands on play dates and at the park so that when she has the impulse to hit she will squeeze the balls instead. Also, I'd avoid over reacting. You could simply say, "Ouch", and put her down or remove her from others. Sometimes they smile or laugh because they're embarrassed or confused by their own behaviour. Hope this helps. I know it's upsetting.



answers from San Diego on

Hi M., it sounds like you are doing the right thing, most toddlers go through this stage, just keep reinforcing the gentleness, if she does not improve then you will need to be more firm with her, specially the rabbit. J. L.

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