Daugher Hitting Others and Self

Updated on January 17, 2012
L.F. asks from San Francisco, CA
12 answers

When my daughter gets frustrated, she hits me or my husband! When we tell her "no" or give her a time out, she hits herself! Is this a stage in the "terrible twos" or something more serious?

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answers from Sacramento on

Hi L.. Have you tried teaching her sign language to help her communicate better? Baby Signs is great. Until she's capable of communicating better you can redirect her hitting onto something more appropriate. "You will not hit Mommy, but you can hit this pillow." Walk away where you are out of hitting distance and ignore her behavior. If you react to her hitting herself then she may be more apt to doing it again.

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answers from San Francisco on

Hi! Our daughter of 16 months is going through a similar phase. I personally don't think it's an action that she's learned from us or the people we've interacted with, since we don't hit eachother nor do our friends. However, our daughter seems to do it when she's frusterated or very excited. Tonight we were playing the "where on the face" game and we got to cheeks and normally she squishes her own cheeks, but tonight she grabbed my cheeks and pulled down, scratching my lip with her fingernail. It seemed to me that she just got over stimulated and could no longer control her body. We took her into her room and gave her a discussion on how much that hurt. Her father actually asked her if she was sorry, but that was too complex for her. (She said no) When asked if she understood that she hurt mommy she said yes and gave me a hug and kissed my lip. Talking it out seems to work for us, although it is a slow process and sometimes they act out again, even if they haven't done it for a while. To make a long story short, just be as patient as you can. There is so much going on in their world that it's easy to understand how they can get over excited easily. :) BTW, she does hit her self too, but usually when she's trying to go to sleep. Not sure about that one. We usually just snuggle up to her and she mellows out. :)



answers from San Francisco on

Hi L.,

Im not a mom yet but my friend asked me to join for the future.

I dont' work with children currently, but I did study child psych in college. This behavior can be associated with so many things. Are there other behaviors? The hitting herself is concerning. I would suggest you list out any atypically behaviors and call your doctor with them or call a child psycholigist.

Good luck, I hope it's just terribile two's.

Best regards,


answers from Wausau on

It is a stage...that comes back...When my 6 year old was two she started hitting herself and others it's how they show that they are mad when they can't explain in words that you would understand how they feel. Try asking her questions like "Are you mad that mommy told you that you can't have another cookie?" and if she says yes let her know that it's ok to be mad and everyone gets mad. The more you do this the easier it will be for her to stop hitting. When she hits herself it's because she got mad at herslef for getting into trouble. When my daughter started Kindergarten this year she started this again...with a vengence! It's was from the stress and big changes that come with growing up and having responsabilities...she's starting to get better.



answers from San Francisco on

I've gone through biting and hitting phases with my 3-year old. First thing you should know is that this is common and not your fault, though very frustrating. I did pretty much all of the things recommended below and mostly it just took took time, repetition and a lot of patience. You may be getting funny looks from other parents who haven't experienced this yet -- they are fortunate not to have gone through this and should just be thankful.

One thing that made an impression on my son was completely leaving a situation (playground, party) if he bit or hit. I would explain appropriate behavior before we went into whatever, remind him that if he felt frustrated or couldn't control his body he could come have quiet time with me or ask to have a time out (to cool out), and that if he bit or hit we would leave. Yes, this did take several times of actually doing it for him to understand, and yes, he was as young as your daughter for the biting part. And I do still remind him about expecatations for his behavior when we go anywhere.

I've also been careful about when and where I take him. He does better at outside playdates or places where there is lots of space and lots of toy/activity options; I arrive early for parties so he can settle in before it gets too busy, and I watch him closely for signs that he is getting wound up and may have trouble controlling his impulses. Then I either take him away for a quiet activity together (sticker books, reading, walk outside, snack) or say thanks and goodbye -- get while the getting is good. I don't take him places near naptimes or in the evening, and I make sure he's well fed anywhere we go.

Yes, this is very high maintainace, but it has gradually helped him play better with other children, learn boundaries and kept us sane.

Some good books: for your daughter "Hands Are Not for Hitting"; for you "Raising Your Spirited Child." The second book may not apply, but if your gal is intense in other ways this is a very helpful book.

Hang in there. Best wishes, L.



answers from Chico on

Hi, I have a 20 month old who does the same thing. What has worked for us is: when he is hitting himself, I gently hold his hands and say "no hit", we have just had to keep at it, we have noticed a huge difference. I do the same thing when he is hitting us or other kids. It took about a week before we noticed a difference.



answers from San Francisco on

I would probably want to know more before I made any comments. I raised 3 children, now grown and taught school for 14 years. Seems like she's trying to tell you something and she cannot communicate it properly to you. Try to listen to her more, in her actions and in her eyes and facial expressions. Explain why she cannot do things, rather than just saying no. Give her alternatives like this is not for now but this is! She may be feeling the presence of the baby on the way and is jealous.
If you can seek professional opinions, do that. The longer this goes on, the worse it can get for you and her.-E. C.



answers from Sacramento on

Hang in there, things will get better in time. I would suggest that you either check out or purchase some children videos about manners and how to treat others at www.amazon.com. Also, you can check out books for your daughter at the library on that particular topic. Education is the best tool when facing a difficult time with your child. Be patient and try to communicate with your daughter in a loving and caring way how hitting mommy, daddy and others is wrong. Also, keep in mind that your attitude can directly affect her. I would say, try this method for two months and if it does not work, try it again. Children want to feel loved and accepted, teach her what is acceptable behavior.

You're doing great because you care. I hope at least something I wrote is some help. Every child is different. One method may work with one but with another it may be different.



answers from San Francisco on

Yes, I agree that children imitate what they see but they also just don't know how to respond or know the appropriate action so they may just hit. For example, when my son was becoming interested in the cats (about 11 months old) he would just hit at them. We told him no, you don't hit you pet or rub. We actually demonstrated this action with our hands and then took his hand to actually pet the cat too. The same goes on mommy and daddy. It didn't take long and I haven't seen him hit anyone or the cats. He'll still "pet" mommy and daddy and the cat or a dog today (he's 1 year 9 months now) and not hit.

(I'm not saying you were hitting) In ANYTHING, your child will become what he sees. He will act it out or speak it out---anything. If you resolve conflicts or disagreements with yelling, throwing, manipulating, mind games, etc then your child will become the same. Be what you want your child to be. If you want him to love then husbands love your wives and wives respect your husbands. Your child will do the same. And your child will know the difference if you say one thing and do another. He will do what he sees more than what he hears. Actions speak louder than words.

Model everything from putting away your toys, to reading, brushing teeth, cleaning, working, opening doors for others, how you talk to others....everything. Let him do what you do in order to learn. Of course a 1 and a half year old can't open a door for me so I hold him and say, ok, help open the door for mommy. So, he pushes with his little hand as I actually open it. Or.... can you say hi? Say hi. Mr, so and so said hi to you and asked how you are doing. Ask Mr. so and so how he's doing (you get him to focus on the person and the interaction). Kind of get the picture? He's learning.

Hope this helps.




answers from San Francisco on

She is still so little and this behavior is very common as others have said. I really don't know how effective 'time out' can be with a 15 month old. Do lots of Modeling 'gentle touches' on yourself, on her, her father, dolls stuffed animal - try not to be preachy but natural and relaxed. Talk about how good it feels to cuddle up & be gentle - at those times don't talk about the hitting. WHen it happens show her it makes you sad - even remove yourself for very short periods - letting her know why. Immediatly redirect - distract her - then come back with the modeling of gentle touches. Seems like lots of work but in the end more effective.My 18month old - 2year old son( many years ago) had a phase were he hit kids at the playground.It really upset me - then I realized he didn't know how to begin an interaction I taught him to say hi and do you want to play? And the behavior really stopped then.

Good Luck R.



answers from Sacramento on

My daughter is almost 14 months and she does this too. I try to explain to her that we don't hit Mama and then put her in time out (her pack N play) until she wants to play nice. It seems to be helping.

Good Luck!



answers from San Francisco on

Hi L.,
What I know about young children is that they mostly imitate what they see and experience around them, so maybe you or others that are involved with your daughter "hit" her when she is doing things that you don't want her to do,that could be even in a playful situation like hitting games. Because she is so young she is just testing things out and "asking" for direction and boundaries.

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