21 Month Old.. NEED ADVICE

Updated on June 13, 2009
R.R. asks from Murrieta, CA
14 answers

OK.. I need some serious advice!! My 21 month old son will not stop hitting other kids! I take him to the gym daycare everyday while I workout and he got kicked out of the daycare today for his hitting! He constantly hits and when the ladies put him in timeout he sits there for the min he is there and gets up and runs and hits another kid! He sometimes hits at home but most of his time is spent with just me and he rarely ever hits me so I am lost as to what to do to fix this behavior because I don't usually see him hit unless I am peeking my head through the window and watch him at the daycare!! I was sooo mad at the daycare because I said to myself he's only 21months old, its not like he's 3 or 4! And now I am home with him and am so disappointed in him but feel sorry for him because he is so clueless as to what just happened, he's not even 2 yet and he's already getting kicked out for his behavior! I know it's nothing that other kids are doing to him or even the daycare staff they simply put him in timeout, as I do at home, and then he just continues hitting!! Does anyone have any advice!!! please help!!!

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answers from Los Angeles on

He is still a little one. Just give him a break from the Day Care situation. Three is early enough for a peer group etc.
B. v. O.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi R.:
Your sons behavior is normal for his age.He is not old enough to have developed social skills.Learning how to play,mingle with other children takes a certain amount of maturity,and of course guidance from someone who knows. Shoving him in a corner,in a chair,is not going to teach him how to get along with others.That's why after sitting there for a few minutes,he gets back up and does the same thing.He's to young to grasp WHY he was put there.Children aren't born into this world with communication skills. They need to be taught.The reason many adults,lean toward discipline as a resolve,is because they look at this type of behavior as BAD. Where they fail,is in their expectations of their child. Surely, we can find a little time in this hectic world we live in,to teach our children how to play with others.What sort of message are we sending our young children If our focus is on discipline,each time they fail at progressing? My fear is that we will have a generation of children,who believe themselves to be disobedient,or bad before they even reach grade school.Take the time to teach,and lend guidance. It's as simple as finding a playmate for your child,and observing.I use to sit,and role play with my son,and his cousin. I would have them trade toys,and teach them how to ask,rather than grab..In one afternoon,I had them both playing nice,saying please and thank you,and giggling at their new found game of (Communication and social skills)It's my opinion, that the young girls in charge at the health club,are not experienced enough,to realize, that your son is younger than the majority and their expectations to high, therefore their discipline, inappropriate.You may want to point this out next time you go,and ask them to please use patience,and show him how to play correctly. I wish you and your darlin son the best. J. M

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answers from Honolulu on

This is normal development.
Boys are more physical than girls.... they get to an age, where they do this...even if for no reason.
My son does that, my daugther's Teacher has a grandson the same age that does this... and her Teacher says its normal... they are exploring...

Here are some great links about it that I highly recommend:

Bear in mind, a toddler will NOT just stop. It will continue... but you teach them redirection and ways to express themselves. For a child, it takes an entire childhood to learn "our" rules... and socialization. It will not be a battle won overnight... nor will they get adept at it overnight, nor will they "master" rules overnight.

Some kids are just more physical than others.

One thing though, ALWAYS keep your "expectations" of a child, in line with their age and development. At this age they don't even have "impulse control" yet... but a parent will EXPECT a child to just "behave" and stop... they don't understand that behaviors WILL continue and a child CANNOT be perfect. Yes, it can be exasperating... but the child is learning... it is growing pains.
They are not all knowing about the world yet... even TEENS have problems like this too...

One thing I do not believe in, is constant scolding or harsh punishing... this does not always teach them well.

It is a phase... a child must be guided, and yes like you said... they are often "clueless" about things. They DO NOT HAVE THE COGNITIVE ABILITY at this age... to succumb or to perfectly listen or correct themselves at-will. FULL impulse control and emotional development is simply NOT developed yet at this age.... so "expecting" things from them that they cannot yet do, will lead to continued disappointment for the parent and then the child will learn that they are just scolded all the time. The "reasoning" ability in them is not developed yet.

A Toddlers life is basically one that they are always scolded, told 'no', having disappointment, not allowed to just vent and get out their yah-yahs etc. Un-fun. Meanwhile, at such a young age... they don't even know why they are scolded many times.

For me, I may be irritated with something my kids are doing because they are very physical and expressive (something I value in them), but it can get on my nerves... but still, I KNOW that at certain times, and certain times of the day- they are just venting and getting out their extra whatever... so I let them. A child NEEDS to do that... they have so much energy to expel... EVERY single evening... my kids get naturally more physical and energetic... I call it the "witching hour" and I know that after they are done, they are once again calm and relaxed. No matter how active they were during they day, every evening my kids just get more alert and energetic. It is them... but if they "fight" with each other... they get their toys taken away. Toy time out. BUT... per my son's age since he is younger... I go according to HIS development... whereas my daughter is 6 years old and she understands more, naturally. BUT... they KNOW my limits and what the bottom line is... then they stop. I use "cue words" with them... like "in one minute.... stop. Wind down..." And since I use these cue words all the time, they understand and do it.

Kids NEED "transition" periods too... so they can unwind and and then get into another mode of rhythm or activity or behavior... and I always teach them how to "explain" what they are feeling even if it is something they don't agree with me... and then we "compromise." I taught my daughter the word "compromise" and what it means from 2 years old... and it formed a basis for MANY behavior advancements in both my children.

Its what you teach them AND the coping-skills for it, in conjunction with teaching them HOW to problem-solve and "compromise" with a Parent. OVER TIME... it then becomes the foundation for MANY things and makes them more competent at "solving" issues, and even later, with friends or others.

Its NOT always about "fixing" the child... but rather, HOW TO TEACH them other means or alternate means of expressing things and building empathy and then cooperation. And sometimes... a Parent needs "fixing" too... to learn HOW to handle their child given their personality and vitality AND talents and interests, and nurturing it at the same time.
For example: we have taught my daughter/son to "always be yourself... what is in your heart and what you love..." we don't try and FORCE them to be like us... but to blossom into what they are like. Its a balance.

All the best,

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answers from Los Angeles on

I was a nanny for ten years and I understand your frustration. It sounds to me like your son has your full attention at home and has learned that hitting gets him undivided attention at daycare. Unfortunately, small children don't care if attention is negative or positive as long as they are getting it.

I recommend you help him learn that positive attention is better than negative. In order to do this I recommend starting playdates at home if you haven't already. Start with one on one so you are there to correct him when he hits. Once he learns in a one on one scenario not to hit, then expand it. Invite two friends over. It will be a long process, but it is necessary for him and for you. You must be consistent. Praise him when he is doing well and playing kindly with other children. Make sure that he is getting more positive attention than negative. If the consequence for hitting is no attention, i.e. time out in his room, then he will learn that being good gets more attention and thus positive attention is what he will gravitate toward.

All children need different forms of discipline. Whereas one child may simply need to sit in time out for one minute and they don't make the same mistake again, some children don't get the same benefit from a time out.

The point of a time-out is to get the child's attention so you can teach them something. They want to be with you more than anything, so separating them for a 'time-out' gets their attention. If you sit with them in time out or they don't care if they are separated for a minute or two then the time-outs are not the right choice for your son.

Try a few different things to see what works best for him. If putting a favorite toy in time out for the one minute or more gets his attention, then that's what you do. Sometimes simply turning your back and saying "I don't play with little boy's who hit." will get his attention.

Most of all you need to make sure that you are clear in telling him that hitting is wrong. Talk to him as you would a five year old. Explain it to him that it is mean and hurts. My daughter is 22 months and had tried out hitting a couple times. I tell her that it is mean and we don't hit. I remind her that I don't hit her, she doesn't need to hit me.

I don't know your view on spanking but I feel it sends the wrong message. If I strike my child and tell them hitting is mean that doesn't accomplish anything. They won't get the message.

I hope this helps. If putting a toy in time out, try taking away other things. Most of all be consistent and be tough. Kids are worst than terrorists, they can smell a crack in your defenses from a mile away and they won't hesitate to exploit it.

S. M


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answers from Los Angeles on

Dear R.,

I understand how frustrating this can be. Please understand that there is no reason to be disappointed with your son. In fact, he is doing an excellent job at communicating with you. He acts out when you are not around, but doesn't when you are there. He wants to be with you. He needs more of your time. A time out will be completely ineffective because, essentially, the daycare is punishing for having feelings of sadness, abandonment or anger. Punishing him for having these emotions does not change the emotions. It does, however, create shame and increased anger. I have a number of articles on my website about this issue. (www.GilaBrown.com) If I can be of further help, feel free to contact me.

Best of luck,
G. B., M.A.
Child Development Specialist

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Hi. My son was a hitter too. He eventually grew out of it, but redirecting him to hit something else like a teddy bear really helped. I think it's a natural instinct for boys to be a little more violent. Maybe let him pick out something to make his punching bag and bring it with you on outings with other kids so if it seems like he's gonna hit a kid, you can quickly redirect him to his punching "thing". Don't worry. It's really normal for little kids to do this- you just have to stay consistent with not allowing it and this will pass. Best wishes!



answers from Los Angeles on

HI R.,

oh, how this brings back memories! My son (now 3.5 years) was a VERY persistent biter. Drove me NUTS!

Take a deep breath and realize that this is a normal developmental phase. Obnoxious and frustrating, but normal! :-) As much as you can, try to intervene to teach him how to act around others. Be very specific about what behaviors/actions you want him to do. Telling him to "be nice", for example, is not specific enough. Something like: "oh, i see you want that toy, let's ask Johnny if you can have a turn: Johnny, can Jimmy please have a turn?" or "oh, you want to say "hi" this is how we say hello to our friends" and take his hand to wave it.

I would encourage you to avoid any physical punishment or hitting him so he "knows what it feels like". He's too young to make that connection, and doesn't address the fact that he doesn't know what you want him TO DO.

It is a tough phase; you want to address the behavior, but what really works is just teaching him substitute behaviors, and giving him time to grow up.

Good luck!


answers from San Diego on

Oh, how the memories of my son at that age come flooding back. My son is 4 1/2 now. Looking back, some of the hardest times with my little guy were between the ages of 20-24 months. We stopped going places for a while because he could not control his emotions.

All I can say, is don't be hard on yourself. This is very typical. He needs his mommy to help guide him through dealing with his feelings. Something that worked for me is after he would have an "episode," I would ask how it made him feel to behave that way.

Stay positive, you'll all get through this, he will always be your little angel.



answers from Los Angeles on

My 21 month old is a hitter as well but does it out of frustration with me and others. He knows what he is going is bad as he gets in trouble at daycare and at home for it. It is natural for a kids, especially males, at this age to vent frustration with hitting even though it is not ok behavior. I would say in your case that you need to go and sit with him at the gym daycare for a couple of times so that you can watch him and see what is actually happening for him to hit the other kids. If he is only does it when you are gone he may be acting out becuase he misses you are feels abandoned. Not that you are actually abandoning him however at this age I see my son going thru more seperation anxiety then he did when he was younger - more aware of me being gone I think. Keep being consistent with him and he'll get it. He's not a bad kid and you're not a bad mom. I would commend the daycare workers for being very patient with your son and see what they say to you trying to critail this behavior by you being present at the daycare. ALso remember that this is yet another phase that he will grow out of.



answers from Los Angeles on

I also have a son who is 21 months old and he doesn't seem to have problems in day care settings but he definitely seems frustrated at times due to the limitations on his current ability to communicate verbally which results in him hitting, trying to bite, or just plain yelling in frustration when I tell him no, he wants something he can't have, etc. I've tried time outs but what seems to work better and more immediately is picking him up, slowly counting to ten out loud with him, then setting him back down. For whatever reason it works with him, he immediately stops his behavior, and listens to me count. Most of the time when I set him back down his frustration has passed and occasionally he resumes a behavior so I repeat the process. After the second time if he starts again he gets a time out but I rarely have to do that. If he's still upset at that point it's usually a tired, hungry, thirsty, teething type cause.



answers from Los Angeles on

If he's allowed to hit you (you say he rarely ever hits you, that would indicate he's done it a couple of times?) then he'll think it's ok - have you disciplined him at home about this behavior (in a non-hitting manner)? I would start teaching what "gentle" means and find a video or book to read him that will teach him about other's feelings. Also, they do go through these stages - he should grow out of it. But I do know that whatever he's allowed to do at home he'll do in public, that's just the way it is. I also agree that he might be just frustrated because he wants more time with you, that's really what children need - to be with their mommies. We're way too busy in our society! Oh, ya - and being dissapointed in him will only alienate you further so try to look at all the wonderful things he is - you will never get these first few years with him back and as precious as they are you don't want to waste them on any negativity in your relationship with him.



answers from Los Angeles on

I have a 23 month old girl who has been pulling hair. It doesn't sound like she has be doing it as frequenty as you express in your story, but it has been a problem for me. She would pull hair if she didn't get the toy she wanted or her way. She didn't do it all the time, it was random, which almost made it harder to handle. I wasn't sure when she would "strike". Everyone (other mothers)one told me it was a phase and all kids go through it. I have noticed in the past few weeks she has really backed off the hair pulling. I have been really on top of her with time outs if she does pull hair and explaining over and mover again why we don't pull hair and what it is to take turns... a.k.a. SHARING! In your situation, I would try to determine what is the main reason for his hitting and until you are blue in the face, explain why hitting doesn't work and give him an alternitive to the situation. Play with a different toy, different person, etc... I think the key is consistancy. You may not think it is helping or working, but don't give up. It is, and soon the phase will be over. He is having a hard time expressing himself and he is doing it through hitting. He soon will have a better way of expression which will help resolve the hitting. Hang in there. :)



answers from Reno on

i would say your time outs and theirs are not effective. my son is 20 mo and if he does something he is not supposed to and i put him in time out he gets it. i make him stay there until he has been quiet for one minute. you also need to remember that they dont remember stuff forever so they may repeat the action in 20 min this is normal. you will just need to repeat the process. if he is doing this at the gym daycare i would not take him there you should be present while he is interacting with other children until he no longer does this. it is unfair to put that on the daycare workers.



answers from Los Angeles on

My daughter was also a hitter, but strangely enough she only hit her "best friend". We just stopped hanging out with them for a while. It is just a phase, and just keep telling him that hitting is not nice. He will outgrow it. I would shadow my daughter and when i saw her getting ready to hit, I would get down to her level, hold her arms down and say "we don't hit, hitting isn't nice" and redirect her immediately.

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