23 Month Old Hitting

Updated on September 05, 2008
C.B. asks from O Fallon, MO
23 answers

Hello ladies,
I wanted to ask for some advice about my son. He will be 2 in a few weeks and he has hit the terrible two's with both feet running! When he is told no or when he is told something that he doesn't like, he will hit. He usually hits on the face, neck, or head. I tend to see the hitting more when he is so tired or when something that we say really makes him mad. As far as discipline goes, do you all have any ideas? I have tried the time outs, but those don't seem to work for the hitting. They are great for other things though. I have tried holding his hands to where he cannot do anything with his hands and that is not working. I have even tried the little butt whoop but then I thought that will just reinforce the hitting and have abandoned that idea entirely. I have also tried putting him to bed early because of it but the problem with that is that he likes bedtime so that idea does not work either. I am just curious to see what has worked for some of you because I am sure that I am not the first one who has experienced this! Thank you for any and all ideas that you can give to me!

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So What Happened?

I just wanted to thank everyone for their responses. I guess I should clarify a few things. He doesn't just hit me. He hits anyone when he feels this way. It could be when we are holding him, or changing him, etc. The punishments are the same. If we are out in public we will hold his hands and if we are at home we give him an automatic time out. Time outs work really well for him when it comes to other things, so I am hoping that the time out for hitting will sink in for him as well. After his time out time is over, I make him apologize for hitting whoever he hit and I do tell him that I love him. I think that we are going to just stick with the holding of the hands in public, and the time outs at home. When he does it, he is told very firmly that we don't hit and then he is given his time out. I'm glad to see that I am not the only one going through this and again I wanted to thank everyone for their help and ideas!

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T.R.

answers from Joplin on

yeah, my 21 month old daughter and i had the same problem. i just told her no every single time and every single time she got sent to her room and sat on her bed. it didnt' take her long but i remember it taking my son FOREVER to grasp the concept. good luck!

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R.H.

answers from St. Louis on

You could try redirect. So let's say he wants a cookie and you say no, so he hits. Take his hands and say "i know!we can read a story!" (or something he loves you to do, or other redirecting) then say "but if you hit then we can't read the book (or whatever)" it takes some thought and creativity sometimes but redirect works pretty well with most the young kids i've tried it with (even my own) you can even try saying "you can't have the cookie but how about...." because they can almost see you trying to work with them. Good luck!!!

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C.G.

answers from Columbia on

Hi C.,
I used to work with kids this age and we saw lots of hitting. Yes, he is at that age and he is testing his limits. This is actually healthy behavior--testing his limits, that is. You can use this time to your advantage. This is a great window of opportunity for you to teach him what is acceptable to you and what is not.

I know, easier said than done. Kids don't realize it, but they do need consistent limits. Their world is very overwhelming if you think of how much a toddler still has to learn in life. They need parents to scale it down and make it more manageable for them. This is where limits come in, and he needs you to be consistent. This goes not only for hitting, but for all negative behavior.

When he hits, get on his level, and firmly say, "hitting hurts. You may not hit." And walk away. Try to notice what happens right before he hits. Try to predict it. When you think it might happen, try not to be within arms reach. But, you need to give him an alternative, acceptable behavior he CAN use when he is mad. Toddlers have strong emotions that they don't yet know how to verbalize, so this can come out as hitting. These strong emotions will not just go away, so you need to teach him something he CAN do when he is angry. If he does have words already, you can teach him a phrase to use when he is angry to tell you. If not, you can decide on the replacement behavior and try to teach that instead. It might be stomping his foot on the floor, or whatever you decide is acceptable and that won't hurt anyone. Even if he can't speak yet, he can likely understand what you tell him, so you can explain to him that he can stomp his foot when he is mad. Then practice. You can even say "I'm angry" together while you practice stomping your feet and really play it up. You may need to remind him of this every time he is mad.

The other thing i wanted to mention, is that kids need to learn that it's ok to be upset, angry, or mad, but not ok to hurt someone. You can validate his feelings and this may help a lot. When he is upset, you can say to him (before he hits) "I understand you are angry. I can't let you have ... but we can .... By saying something like this, you are letting him know that you understand how he feels even when he doesn't hit you and are validating his feelings and putting words to his feelings. You are also focusing on what he CAN do or have instead of what he can't. Like if he wants to go outside right then but can't, plan a time to go out later that day, and then follow through. Finding an alternative or a solution seems more acceptable to a toddler than just saying no to them. This way, he's still not getting everything he wants, but you can find something else that works for you both.

Be sure you don't give in to what he wants by throwing a fit or hitting. Sounds like you are already not doing this, so that's good. I also read that some others suggested spanking him when he hits. Maybe it would teach him not to do it, but I still don't agree with this because it doesn't teach an alternative, acceptable behavior. And, if he is spanked every time he hits, he would likely hit back when another child hits him. Time out was originally meant to be a time to cool down when a child was really upset so that they could come back and deal with the issue calmly. Now, it has been turned into a punishment. It can teach them that what they did was wrong, but again, doesn't teach an alternative behavior. Same goes for taking toys away. Teaches that what they did was wrong, but no real learning takes place if they don't know how to handle it next time.

Hope this helps!
C.

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C.H.

answers from Kansas City on

I agree with Gale. My daughter went through this exact same stage at that age. We grabbed her hands and told her that it was wrong to hit. Tell him how upset you are with him. Do it in a very firm voice. And, I had a problem also - my mom was just letting her hit (don't know why!?!?) so I had to get mom on the same page. So, since you work out of the home, I'd make sure whoever takes care of him knows to discipline him the same way. Now, my daughter thinks twice before hitting anyone. She will start to swing, but then stop herself. I think it took a couple of months to get through to her on this issue. I also had to make sure I punished her each time she did it. Good luck.

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G.N.

answers from St. Louis on

My son went thru the same thing, I would grab both his wrist and tell him dont hit, that hurts mommy and explain to him that hitting is wrong. When you say NO explain when you do this you will get this, whatever the case may be. He has to know that by hitting you it wont get him what he wants, just be consistent in saying NO and grabbing his hand when he hits and telling him its wrong. He will eventually get it.

Good Luck

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M.M.

answers from Columbia on

I also had a hitter/hair-puller/biter and no punishment whatsoever worked. I had read that punishments usually get the worst results, but tried anyway (and failed). Positive reinforcement works best by far. And each time she hit, I told her what action to do, not what not to do. Example - say, "be gentle to your friend" and show her how to gently pet her friend's shoulder. Or "tell your friend what you want by using your words". Always praise them A LOT when they do the correct behavior. And give them lots of attention when they're doing the right behavior, as opposed to just giving them attention when they do wrong. Also, at that age, my daughter was very interested in expressions (happy, sad, etc.). If she hit me I'd say, "That makes Mommy sad. What can you do to make Mommy happy?" She'd be gentle and she'd get a huge smile and hug from me in return. Be very consistent and it will work! Oh, and if they're hungry, tired, or uncomfortable, you're asking for misbehavior! Make sure it doesn't get to that point. Hope this helps!

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C.B.

answers from Kansas City on

C.,
my son is 23 months too, and we've gone through biting, hitting, and now biting again. i know you said you've tried time outs but that's what worked with my son. we save time outs for deliberate disobedience, when he KNOWS he shouldn't do something and he does it anyway. (normally this is when he is tired or grouchy, so we avoid most of that by keeping him on his routine and making sure he has his naps, snacks, etc, when he's used to it - it makes a WORLD of difference, and i have to say we rarely have to do timeouts, maybe once or twice a week at most). the way we did it was, an immediate and obvious change in my reaction. say if i was trying to get him to do something, trying to convince him by asking nicely, etc, and he went to hitting, i would stop being nice and march him straight to time out. putting him there, i'd tell him, "we do NOT hit mommy. that's NOT nice and you will sit in time out for hitting mommy." period. he knew exactly why he was there because the last thing i said to him was that. then the next thing i said to him (only after his time out was over) was again, "you were in time out because you hit mommy. can you be nice now? we don't hit mommy, right?" and it has worked like a charm. i think the biggest motivator for my son (and i know all kids aren't the same) was that moment when *bam*, mommy stopped being nice. i just simply don't tolerate it, and he knows that now. this S. round of biting (we went through it briefly six months ago or so too) he only did it twice and hasn't done it again for about a week, using the same method. i think he really hates when mommy is disappointed and doesn't want to be around him. my main focus is basically, if you're going to be like that, i don't want to be around you. i'm not trying to punish him or make him "pay" for hurting me, i simply don't want to be around him when he's being like that. again i know you said you've already tried timeouts, but maybe it just takes repetition? i would pick one method (whatever you choose) and stick with it though, that seems to work better in the long run. good luck and i hope he outgrows it (he will, i've heard! lol)

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C.H.

answers from Kansas City on

I would keep on with the time outs- or just putting him down and walking away from him. It sounds like since he is hitting you on the face you are holding him. When he hits, look him in the eye saying firmly "No hit" and put him down in TO. Remember a consequence does not have to be hated to be effective-it just have to decrease the behavior. So if more sleep decreases the behavior it is effective.

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B.P.

answers from Kansas City on

I dont have any advise but do know what ur goin through my daughter will be 2 in decembershe not only hits shes pinchin biting and scrachin my oldest daughter did not do this so i dont know what to do best of luck

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T.Z.

answers from Topeka on

There are a few things that have worked well with my daughter.

I've given her an outlet for her anger. You're not allowed to hit people, but you can hit the couch, bed, pillow, etc. I would pick her up and take her to something that she could hit and elaborately and enthusiastically show her that she could hit that.

I've also just gotten up and walked away, stating simply that I don't want to be around her when she behaves that way. If she follows I give more explanation about how hitting is mean and no one wants to be around someone who is being mean.

The last thing I've done is to cry, loudly and elaborately and mimic her behavior when she cries. I make it as real as possible. I'll lay down on the floor, rub the spot that she hit, sob, huff, whatever it takes. If I could produce tears on command I would do that too. My daughter would quickly become upset and often cry and want to make it all better. I found this much more effective than telling her that hitting hurts. It only took a week or two of this method before she gave it up altogether, but you have to be consistent with it and be able to put on a good show. My husband had to leave every time I did it because it looks ridiculous and he couldn't help but laugh. If you can keep it together this really does seem to work well.

Good luck. It is incredibly frustrating when your child starts hitting.

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K.W.

answers from Kansas City on

I have a son who just turned two, and he has tried that a time or two, also. I just get right down by his face and say firmly, "no hitting," or "we don't hit." I tell him that if he does it again, he has to sit on the naughty spot. Surprisingly, this actually works. I also make him apologize to the person he hit. It's still early, but so far it seems to be working. Good luck.

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E.P.

answers from St. Louis on

SMILE - really big and ask if he wants to play the HITTING GAME and hit back, not hard. I got this advice from another mama source mom and it was the only thing that stopped my 2 year old from attacking her family. She was a hitter and a biter. When she would hit we would say to her OH - you want to play the hitting game, we would lift our hand and she would IMMEDIATELY stop and hug the person she hit. Now when she lifts a hand to hit we just ask her if she wants to play the game. Good Luck!

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R.M.

answers from Topeka on

Instead of telling him "no" try distracting him....get down on his level to talk to him...bring out a book...if you do see the hit coming... I would continue to try and hold his hands and talk to him calmly about why we dont hit. Most of all dont over react....if he gets a reaction out of you then he has been "rewarded" for his behavior...just very matter of factly tell him that "we dont hit"....and separate him from the situation. Good luck!!!

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S.D.

answers from Topeka on

Are you speaking to him in a stearn voice when he hits tell him NO that it hurts and that isn't nice remove his hands from you or the other person while talking to him this will get the point across.You can also take away his favorite toy for a while say like 30 min or so since after they are puniished at this age they don't usually remember why at the end.Especially if there is chaos that goes on and on and your going in circles about discipline this will only confuse the child.Good luck I have a 5 yr old and soon to be 2 yr old soon and 1 on the way Oh my what have I got to look forward too.

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A.R.

answers from Topeka on

My little boy started doing the same thing around this age-it must be a boy thing because my daughter never did this! We've tried what you've tried and nothing was the magic answer! We've decided to stick with the time-outs and be very diligent about inforcing them. (we also have him say "sorry" to the person he hits!) We've been doing this EVERY time he hits in anger or frustration; whether it's us, his sister or the wall. I will say that while this behavior hasn't stopped completely, it has decreased. He's 28 months now and I know that this is starting to click for him. Often when he wants to hit now, he'll get ready to and then stop himself.
Sorry that I can't give you a magic answer but my suggestion is to find a disicpline technique you like and stick with it. I really think that's the key. Good luck!

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G.B.

answers from St. Louis on

Very interested in ideas

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J.B.

answers from Wichita on

I haven't read your other responses, so forgive me if I repeat another. For us, whenever our daughter (who was 19-22mo old, I don't exactly remember when) would hit me or I'd see her hitting her older brother, I put her in a timeout on her rocking chair in her room. Then I'd sit next to her and put my arm across her to let her know she needed to stay seated. She would start to cry when she realized that she couldn't move or that I wouldn't hold her. After 1 min to 90 sec, then I'd have her sit on my lap. I would hold her hands and say "No hitting, mommy (or whoever)", very sternly. Then had her say she was sorry. Then I would hold her and remind her that I loved her. Thankfully, we only had to do this a few times when she got the picture. Good luck!!

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K.B.

answers from Kansas City on

Hi, C.. It sounds like you are trying all the right things. I would recommend choosing one thing and sticking with it. As a day care provider, I like the time out idea, but it does not work for all children. Firmly saying, "We don't hit." is very important and simple for young kids to understand. Depending on the situation, try to catch the frustration before the hitting occurs. Do not let him hit you- time and time again I see parents letting their kids hit them and using kind words. Firm, consistent discipline is what extinguishes this behavior. Even telling kids they can not do an activity because they are not playing safely is a good consequence. I agree with you on spanking- one spanking is never effective in extinguishing a negative behavior. Keep trying different methods, and when you find one that works- even a little, stick with it. Good Luck!

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J.L.

answers from Springfield on

My only suggestion is to sternly say "stop", hold his hands in front of him together as you get to his level, make eye contact and say again sternly, "Stop. NO HITTING!" Then do the time out thing. Just be consistent and he will eventually stop. It probably won't work right away. Also a timer for the time outs work well because there is no begging and time ending sooner. You may have to keep putting him back in time out to make him stay. He will soon get tired of it and move on to other drama that goes with the age...biting, spitting...yeah, it's a fun time...But enjoy...He's not a teenager yet...lol Good luck.

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J.M.

answers from Topeka on

I'm sorry I don't have advice about how to end the behavior completely, but I just want to say I think it's good to hold his hands and restrain him until he calms down, and tell him we don't hit other people when we're angry. I'm hoping it's an emotional behavior, not anything calculated, and that he'll grow out of it with a consistent response from you. Good luck!

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C.R.

answers from Springfield on

I totally agree with Sheri G. Spanking always worked better than anything else for both my children. They both grew up to be very respectable adults. I think that's what is wrong with this generation we have now, no dicipline. God's word says you spare the rod you hate your child.God bless you!C.

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J.C.

answers from St. Louis on

My cousin just had the same problem with her son & and at about the same age. They ended up taking a toy away everytime he hit, starting with his favorites. In the beginning he didn't care, but as they took more & more away & he would go looking for a favorite toy it started sinking in & he hit less & less. Then when he got to a point when he could go a day without hitting he got to choose 1 toy he got back everyday that he didn't hit AT ALL. He has ALOT of toys, but it still eventually sunk in.

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T.M.

answers from St. Louis on

Is there anything else that you can take away - books, favorite toy, favorite cartoon/show, etc... for the day? Explaining why it is being taken away - just a thought. Good luck...

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