Almost 3-Year-old Son Hitting Mommy & Seems to Be Unhappy

Updated on June 17, 2009
A.C. asks from Bloomington, IN
10 answers

Does anyone have a child who constantly hits his/her mother when he/she doesn't get his/her way or is mad? My son's been doing this a lot lately, and he seems to be only hitting me. I've put him in time-out numerous times, held his hands and told him "No hitting. That doesn't get you what you want. Use your words." all the time, and have even just separated myself from him for a bit. He should be getting old enough to know that this behavior is not acceptable. I know that he doesn't always have the right words to communicate what he wants, but he's pretty verbal, and I can usually understand him. Also, he's been screaming and crying a lot and just seems generally unhappy. I'm afraid he's even getting whiny. How do I help my son become a happier child again? He very rarely naps during the day anymore, but he does have a set bedtime and we try to make sure to observe it every night. He seems to eat okay, though being a toddler, some days he eats better than others. His daddy's work schedule is pretty erratic, and some nights, he's not even at home, but I'm not sure that's the issue. Anyone have any suggestions on what I can do?

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answers from Indianapolis on

If one child of mine hits anyone, their world stops. No toys, no tv, no fun of any kind. It's like sccrreeeech!
It needs to be on the wavelength of you did WHAT?! They backpedal, re-evaluate, and realize you're horrified and tend to shy away from a reaction like that. I've never had a hitting problem, I think, because we approach it that way.
Good luck.

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answers from Lafayette on

I would try to get one of those emotional face charts that shows the words and expressions for all kinds of emotions. Then help him to choose what he is feeling. Has his Dad's schedule always been erratic, or is that a recent change?

Also - does he have playmates who act like this? Are you sure he is ok physically? Sometimes an ear infection or an allergy can make a child cranky without any other obvious symptoms.

Also, even if he doesn't take a nap, it is a good idea to have quiet time for awhile daily. He can look at a book, play with a toy, or nap, but he needs to be quiet and rest. If you are like me, Mommy needs quiet time too!

I hope you figure out what is going on with him.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

Hi A..

I have a son who is about 3 and a half. He's been doing the same things. I've noticed that he does them usually when he is overtired and needs some quiet time. Some extra positive attention goes a long way, too. I've been focusing on keeping him on a schedule and making sure that he has some *special* time with mommy. Hope this helps! I think a lot of it has to do with age. I've heard that the terrible threes can be worse than the terrible twos!! :)

By the way, I wouldn't be concerned about autism or adhd unless your son has a hard time focusing or giving eye contact. Too many people are too quick to jump to those types of labels these days!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

I would discuss this with your dr. He could be frustrated because he can't get the words out he needs. I know my son got very upset when he couldn't communicate his feelings to us. Are you being patient with him when he is trying to talk? Are u clarifying what he is saying and does it seem like you are understanding him. SOmetimes words and thoughts don't match for him maybe. He may need to be evaluated by a psychologist or neurologist. There is a book that might help Have a New kid by Friday by Dr Kevin Leman. It shows how to change your child's attitude, behavior and character.



answers from Indianapolis on

If he is not napping, he may be overtired.
I would try the naptime is worth a try.
Be consistent with the time outs EVERY time he exhibits the unacceptable behavior.



answers from Cleveland on

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I have many friends who have great success
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if you are interested in hearing more.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions.




answers from Columbus on

Sounds like a 3 year old...My son went througha hitting phase, about a month long or so, right around that age. We were consistent with time outs and that he did not get what he wanted when he acted that way. Eventually he stopped. BTW I was almost always the one that he hit, could be how much we Mommy's are the parent that is there...



answers from Kokomo on

A. darling... let me start off by saying you are not alone at all. My oldest will be 4 in September. He has started getting more pushy with his little brother when he doesn't get his way. YOU ARE RIGHT! It IS frustrating. There are days I wonder "am I making my little kid miserable?" You are not. Just teaching him boundaries. That is soooo important.

What I have found that helps me most when we get into what I call "death spiral mode". Is stop... collect my thoughts and try to build into my child. Positive reinforcement makes the biggest difference for both of us. Give him a little job and praise the heck out of him when he does well. (give him a rag and let him dust. pick up toys and put them away. Help you put lunch together, water the flowers outside, etc). This is a self-esteem building exercise. He needs to know he makes you proud. It's the "knight in shining armor" syndrome that is naturally built into men. We need to nurture that. When he goes wayward. Take a bit of time to let him know what a good boy he can be. I've found it eases the violent behavior a bit.

If he starts hitting. Throw him in time out and take a second to collect yourself. Once you make up, talk about it. If he's still being a pill. He's probably overtired and needs to go off to beddy bye for a nap. It truly aggravates me when people are so quick to throw a diagnosis of ADHD or Autism on a child. For crying out loud... it is growing pains. LIFE HAPPENS!! I'm sure your baby is fine. Just needs some extra TLC.

My three year old starts hitting when he"s frustrated and can put words with his emotions fast enough. JUST like you talked about earlier. He may know you TELL him not to hit, but registering WHY may not make sense in a little kids mind. Give him... and you, a little grace. He'll get there. Now that I've said all this, I'm off to go follow my own advice. ;) Best wishes!



answers from Cincinnati on

hi –
There are already some good suggestions. Some other thoughts: kids thrive on consistency, routine, predictability. is his day predictable? Have a routine? if not may help to put together a daily schedule (I don't know where I'd be without my daily planner). Is he bored when he starts to act out? if he is not getting much daddy time due to his work schedule try making a schedule that shows him that he has planned daddy time when possible (then make sure dad sticks with it so his son is not disappointed). How is he in time out - does he stay? truly appologize after time-out? (not say sorry! in a quick mean tone but say sooorrry like he means it.

Other thoughts: Never give in – when you say something follow though so your child learns you mean what you say, give your self a time out if needed (e.g. you feel your self getting ready to say something you don’t want to say), NEVER make empty threats (e.g. I’ve heard parents say “if you don’t stop [X], I’m going to call the police” or “if you continue, you won’t have a birthday party!” – think about it… if a parent is really willing to take away the birthday party he/she can say it but chances are the parent won’t, and obviously a parent is not going to call the cops if their 3 year old is hitting them), use a low firm voice when discipline him (don't yell - this only escalates behaviors/emotions - think of what you do when someone yells at you - typically you want to yell back),
lastly - try making a rule chart with pictures and simple rules of what he SHOULD do (e.g. 1. keep our hands to yourself 2. try to use our words etc… I've done this with great success. after each rule I copy and paste example pictures (go to google images to find kids playing with toys, keeping hands down, clipart for kids using words, etc).

Good luck!



answers from Indianapolis on

Sounds like a three-year-old:( The thin that worked best for my friend was to tell her son "I'm not feeling safe right now because you hit me. I'm going to go ____. When you are finished hitting, you can come get me." It quickly taught her son that 1) hitting won't get him what he wants and 2) when he hits he gets left by himself.

It's worth a try:)

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