Do U Believe in the Old Slap on the Hand?

Updated on June 24, 2011
A.S. asks from Orwigsburg, PA
21 answers

so my son is 15 months. sometimes the word NO just dont cut it (lol) so im wondering does anyone do a little tap on the hand and if so does it work? he started kicking me on purpose while changing his diaper and also on purpose throwing his fork spoon and cup on the floor when hes done. i dont like being disrespected when he gets treated like a million bucks. i know hes just a baby but when we say no ( to those things) he dont listen. any tips on what you all do??

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answers from Philadelphia on

Don't slap him on the hand unless you want him to start slapping you and other people. He's *not* disrespecting you, he's being 15mos. You've got about another 10 mos of that. Positive reinforcement works better at this age. Trace a fork & cup on his tray, make it a game to put things back there with excitement and rewards.

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answers from Phoenix on

I don't know if 15 month old can disrespect someone. As far as slapping the hand , I have mixed feelings but I have found it to be ineffective. I think being consistent in removing from the situation seems to work best.

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answers from Portland on

"No" is only beginning to be meaningful at your son's age. He can tell, from your tone of voice, that you don't like something that he just did. But that's still a long way from understanding WHY something is wrong. And once the power of "NO!" really gets through to him, he'll start using it all the time (a period commonly called the Terrible Twos). Some kids also include the slaps/hits they were exposed to.

Many parents have discovered that the more they can find a mutually agreeable way to get to "Yes!", the happier and less stressful toddlerhood is for both child and parent. Here's my list of favorite parenting tips. I've collected these ideas for years from my own experience and the terrific outcomes I see with lots of other parents:

(I last rewrote this for a little girl request, and don't have time to do that again for a boy – please read with this in mind.)

1. Child behaviorists make a very compelling case that ALL behaviors are strategies to get some need met. When she's acting out, your daughter is feeling some need that is not being met by current circumstances, and the more carefully you can ferret out what she's feeling, the more likely you are to help guide her toward better behavior.

2. Keep in mind that personality does make a difference. Some kids are definitely more intense, more demanding, more needy or bossy or energetic than others. Children, particularly the more intense and demanding ones, must have opportunities to gradually learn to deal with disappointments.

3. You can't "make" a child be happier or more easy-going, but you can often manipulate their experiences so they are less frustrated. This is a very difficult age for most kids, who want to do/try so much more than they are able. They are limited by motor skills, by basic comprehension, by language skills, and by rules and schedules that they have no say in controlling.

4. Very few 2-3yo's have any real idea how to share. They may tolerate having things taken from them, or being required to hand over toys to other kids, but that's not the same thing as understanding the reciprocity of sharing. Also, many toddlers are still at the stage of "parallel" play, playing alongside other littles (and perhaps grabbing their toys), but playing "with" will only begin to develop gradually over the coming year or so. Find opportunities to play sharing games with your child, and make the takings and givings-back very brief at the beginning so they have a chance to see the loss of some toy as a permanent, heart-breaking situation.

5. Trust that she is not "trying" to be naughty. Children don't really want to cause problems or get in trouble if they have any other way at all to meet their own growing need for autonomy, independence, and control of their circumstances. She's simply encountering many new experiences that she does not yet have the life experience to handle yet. It will be a while before she sees very much from your point of view. As exasperating as that is for adults, she can't help it. It's just reality, and reality is easier to take if you can accept it. (That can be harder to do if you have other adults pressuring/judging you about your child's normal behavior.)

6. Digging in heels and tantrums are a natural outcome of becoming more frustrated than the child is able to endure. This "new" behavior may seem to come out of the blue. It's more often true that the child is tired or hungry, or simply overstimulated or over-scheduled. The stress of travel, teething, changing schedules, illness, or any major change, may contribute.

7. When she wants something, empathize. Big time, and in the child's language. I love the advice of Dr. Harvey Karp on how to get on a tantruming toddler's wavelength in this and several related videos: . Once your little girl realizes you do care about what she wants, she's more likely to be able to calm down and cooperate with what you need from her. And there are lots of positive ways to approach this, rather than just saying no. They hear no so often, and they can be so frustrated by it. And they learn to tune it out. So look for ways of finding a mutual "yes," as in "Hey, look at this cool toy," or "Can you hop over to me like a bunny?" instead of "No, don't touch that," or "Stop that and come here right now!" Try to save "no" for those occasions when children are trying something dangerous.

8. Keep it playful. Children learn primarily through play. You may need help with this if your parents didn't model a lighthearted and cheerful approach when you were little. The book Playful Parenting is a great resource. Your daughter's sense of humor is developing, and you'll both be happier if you can nurture that. (Also be aware that some "behaviors," like throwing, are a natural experimental activity for kids, a form of play that is programmed into them for the purpose of developing brain/body connections. It's a very strong impulse. Find plenty of "acceptable" play outlets for those repeating behaviors, like throwing things into a basket. And remove things that you don't want them to throw.)

9. There will also be times when you must have her cooperation, like diapering or trips to the store, so keep a special toy that she gets to play with only at those times or keep her as playfully engaged in the process as possible. This often requires creativity, because each child is different. (For my grandson, we came up with a series of plastic jars in which he could see, shake and rattle different small objects, buttons, mini-toys, marbles, nuts and bolts, etc. These would keep him interested long enough for a diaper change, even though he would rather be on-the-go.)

10. Here's a big one: give ADVANCE NOTICE when you'll want her to be doing anything differently, especially when she's grooving on her activity/play. All children absolutely hate abrupt, unexpected transitions (and so do most adults). With my grandson, we let him know at least a couple of times that a change is coming ("We're going to go to the store / have lunch / take a nap pretty soon." … and then a second or third alert one minute before making the change.)

11. Whatever the next activity is, make it sound as desirable as possible. Give some detail about the ride in the car, or a favorite food at lunch, or sweet snuggles before nap. Be positive and enthusiastic. Be calm. Be "as inevitable as the tides." Desperation will show, and even though she's too young to deliberately plan a power struggle, she will quite naturally sense any cracks in your resolve in an attempt to meet her own emotional needs. And this is where future power struggles truly can begin.

12. Try to keep demands low when she's tired, over-managed, hungry, or sick. An already frustrated child doesn't have any emotional reserves left with which to cooperate. (Often true for adults, too!)

13. Get to know her most likely trouble-spots, try to see them from her point of view, and plan ahead. For many kids, it's when they want something they've seen. So keep those things out of sight when possible – so many parents think they can just leave tempting objects sitting around. This is one more source of endless frustration for kids, so child-proof your home. And for those things that can't be kept our of sight, be prepared with a distraction – for example, a toy she likes when you have to take something away from her, or a healthy treat when she wants a sugary snack. Laughter, introducing a new game, a few twirls and bounces, hugs or tickles, a goofy song, can help break into her determination to get something she wants (that short attention span is both a curse and a blessing).

14. Avoid bribes, but let her work toward occasional rewards. Don't try to "buy" cooperation for things she must do anyway with "IF you'll do X, we'll let you have Y." Instead, phrase it as if she gets to assist in advancing something good for herself: "Hey, as soon as you help me get X done, then we get to do Y." It sounds like a small distinction, but it's important. It gives the child a chance to cooperate in what feels to her like choice, even when there's no "if" about it.

15. Be sure she gets lots and lots of physical activity during the day. Time outdoors in nature is calming for most children. If she has pent-up energy, it will have to come out some way, and unless channeled in a positive direction, it will likely to add to both her stress and yours.

16. Whatever you are trying to teach will need to be repeated hundreds of times over the next few years. That's completely normal. Attention spans and impulse control are extremely limited in toddlers. It takes time, attention, and repetition to build new habits. Look at your parenting contract, and you'll find it in tiny print under "I agree to the following terms and sacrifices."

17. Spanking and time-outs don't work for every kid, and will sometimes actually backfire over time. Especially with spanking: children may be shocked, scared, or shamed into cooperating, but behaving for the sake of avoiding pain isn't the same thing as developing an internalized sense of "good." Consistent, calm guidance and demonstrations of what you DO want from her will work better in the long run than punishing for what you DON'T want her to do. For example, kids learn without punishment to use good manners when their parents speak to them with respectful good manners. See more on this by googling The Science of Parenting or Emotion Coaching.

18. Pay attention to what you love and appreciate about your daughter, and make sure she knows. Remind yourself to do this even when you're tired or busy. Children CRAVE attention and approval, and if she knows you're noticing her finer moments, she'll try to create more of them. If she doesn't get that positive notice from you, she'll seek attention in other ways, and that often turns out to be misbehavior, because you notice it.

This stage won't go on forever, and most kids emerge, like butterflies from a cocoon, into a new, more mature version of themselves by the time they are around 4.5 or 5. I hope you find a great deal of pleasure in this unique time in your daughter's life.

I hope these tips address some of the challenges you're seeing in your daughter. Your friend is right about one thing: children need IMMEDIATE and consistent response from parents after every offense.

But EVEN MORE SO after every good, helpful, polite, cooperative or voluntary thing they do. The positive messages have to outweigh the negative ones 20 to 1, or a negative spirit can take hold in that child, and they become less enthusiastic, less hopeful, less positive about their future possibilities, and less motivated. Life becomes an ongoing, joyless chore. They begin to see themselves as bad, or perhaps even unlovable. Many children begin acting out their negative self-images by the time they are 4 or 5, and it only gets worse as they grown up. Other authority figures become symbols for their parents, and they transfer all the resentment and disappointment they feel onto the world at large. These sad outcomes are what I learned at my mother's knee. Or perhaps I should say, over my mother's knee.

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answers from Nashville on

Yes, a slight slap on the hand is ok, not hard though. You are not doing it to hurt, just to warn. I would say, "no sir, we do NOT kick" or "no throwing". You need to keep your words simple b/c they can't understand much 2-3 words and that is it. Time out won't work at this young age. You must hold his legs and say, "we do not kick" or "no kicking" and then if he throws things, take them away. Distract his attn is the best thing you can do from now until age 5 or so. It is best to distract them from what they aer getting into.

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answers from Mobile on

I don't think it's a good idea. If you hit your child, you are only teaching them to hit. It would be unfair and confusing to tell your child not to hit and you slap them. Your son has no idea was disrespect means. He is still a very small child. NO is also not great to use. They get in the habit of it and that's all he will say. I simply take things that he throws and explain we don't throw things. He may not understand it but he will pick up on it. When he kicks, gently put your hand on those little legs and tell him it's not nice to kick. Consistency is the key! Good luck!

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answers from Portland on

I do not believe in the slap on the hand, other than it teaches our children to hit, and to possibly hit us back! We are our children's first teachers and should be modeling appropriate behavior. I don't believe hitting anyone did a bit of good.

That said, he's a baby still.
My experience of working with children and being a mother is centered around a philosophy of teaching. The word NO, in and of itself, (in my opinion) is not nearly as helpful as many other tools. I'll share them with you:

Change your environment. Eliminate all the "no's" you possibly can. Some parents feel that their children should 'just learn' not to touch or play with certain things. My feeling is "I'm the adult, I am capable of moving it out of reach. His JOB is to explore. My job is to offer appropriate choices for exploration wherever he can reach."

Give positive directions. Instead of "no", tell him *what you want him to do*. "Relax your legs, please." "Hand me the cup, please." or teach him to sign "all done" when he's finished eating. Understand that he's not 'disrespecting' you. That is an entirely adult concept. He doesn't understand "respect" or how to 'treat' people. You are going to model this for him, day in and day out. The idea that he's 'disrespecting' you is in your head, not his.

Use distraction and redirection. When he tries to kick, offer him a toy or another activity instead. "Soft legs, please. OH, what's over here?" Can you tape up an educational placemat with some simple pictures for him to look at during changes, or can you sit to the side? We adults have the advantage of mixing it up a bit, trying new ideas. No, you shouldn't be getting kicked, so you could also try doing a 'stand-up diaper change'. Experiment.

Limit your responses to the behaviors you don't like. If you get upset and make a fuss, your baby thinks "wow, that's interesting. I did X and Y happened." This will guarantee they will try it again, because it made a Big Impression. Babies and toddlers are all about cause and effect. As he gets older, if he starts to kick at a change, you can say "I'll wait until you are ready" and then stop changing him. Stone face, not angry, no response other than, 'relax your legs'. When he's older, it's appropriate that if he throws his cup and his plate, you clean him up, let him down, and have him retrieve and hand you those dishes. Once again, neutral emotional expression.

Understand, too, that unless you are attaching a physical punishment at this age (which is not appropriate, from all of my study), "NO" is a relatively arbitrary word. It doesn't really "mean" anything to a child.This has a lot to do with the brain development of a human infant. "No", even if they begin to know it means 'stop' (which I think is a far better instruction) doesn't give them anything they *can* do, and their brain has to work even harder to stop themselves and come up with a suitable alternative. He's still got a very primitive brain at this early age.* Remember that babies are born with their brains not fully developed, or they would never be able to make it out! Their nervous systems aren't even syncopated when they are born.

I don't believe that children at this age misbehave, and I have the works of child development specialists to back me up on this. I've worked with very little ones at both daycares and as a nanny. I did find that having reasonable, age-appropriate expectations of children really made things better for everyone. Understanding their learning processes and stages also helped me develop my philosophy of instruction rather than punishment. Your son is learning how to 'be' in the world. It's up to you to teach him in ways he can understand. From my experience, "No" is better used for when they a bit older, and then in the context of a complete sentence, not just a fragmented direction.

*"The Science of Parenting" by Margo Sunderland. Great book on human brain development, easy read. My assertion that toddlers don't misbehave: one great book for later on "Taking Charge:Loving Discipline that Works at Home and at School" by JoAnne Nordling. We have to remember that they are learning about their world. It's their natural instinct to want to learn, in whatever ways they can.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

If he throws his dishes on the floor, move them away from him and feed him instead of letting him feed himself.

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answers from Seattle on

Babies are babies, and I find often throw things to throw things. Mine will constantly throw something, then want it, then throw it, then want it again. Patients is big.

Mine likes to slam his hands on our faces when we are holding him. He just gets all excited and starts pounding us with his hands. He is only 11 months, so we are trying to teach him "gentle". "No" doesn't really work with him either (at least with this issue). What we do is just gently hold his hand and say gentle, or stroke his face if he has just been hitting ours, and say be nice, be gentle. We definitely wouldn't think about smacking his hand, because we would be doing exactly what we are trying to get him to stop doing.

Tapping, or slapping their hand is only going to show them that it is ok to hurt, and it is ok to hit. Maybe if he kicks you hold his leg and look him in the eye and say But whatever you decide, sticking to a way of handling a situation will help in itself. Because they see the pattern, and repetition and learn from it as well.

Good luck with everything!

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answers from Minneapolis on

I never did it. I don't remember ever considering doing it. I agree with Adansmama on the reasons why.

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answers from Boston on

I completely agree with adansmama.

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answers from Dallas on

I found that slapping the hand does not work with my friend's kids so I haven't even tried it with mine. If they try to touch something they aren't supposed to I will either take away the item or much to the annoyance of my youngest daughter I will just gently hold her hand. It is much more frustrating to her not to be able to do anything with her hand than to just not touch something so it works quite well. I hold her hand just tight enough so she can't get away. I do that with her feet when I'm trying to change her diaper as well. I will grab her feet. If she is throwing things I take them away. At dinner she would do the same thing. When she finished the dishes were on the floor so everytime she finished I would hold her hand if she started to throw. It only took - I think - 4 dinners for the point to get across.

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answers from Rochester on

I slap my youngest daughters hands when she is doing something I really don't want her to be doing WITH her hands (pulling my hair, etc) but it totally does not work...I've recently given it up. She'd just hit me back. I don't really think it's an effective method. I didn't use it with my first (didn't have to, she was an angel) but my second is really challenging, and I think I started doing it out of frustration...but I digress. It doesn't work.

My little one doesn't listen to no. She really doesn't listen to any sort of reprimand, or respond. Strong willed children...ah...don't you love them? I'm not even sure what to say...I am so frustrated with the same type of thing. If my first had been this way, I think I'd have figured it out, but because she was SO good all the time, I think my expectations are just way too high.

Redirection is the only thing that works for us...and she has a long attention span, so we have to redirect literally to another room, another activity, or outside/inside depending on where we're at...and she doesn't forget it for about ten minutes!!! So that really isn't too effective, considering the time involved...

Sorry for rambling. I totally hear you, and I guess I have no good advice. I'm curious to see what others say...I could've asked this same question!

And I know that logically, explaining your reasoning (ow, that hurts mommy) over and over again SOUNDS good...but that also sounds good coming from those with no experience with this type of child. I would've said the same things as advice, because as I said, my first was so good all I had to do was explain "why not" once, and she listened and obeyed. It was so easy. I used to come down on parents (well, mentally, in my own head) whose children misbehaved, thinking it was all in the raising of them. I can tell you, it's're probably not doing anything wrong...and I learned my lesson. Apparently, some children are just really adventurous, and they're going to try and try and try to see how many different results they can get. I agree that consistency is key...I've repeated the same things (if you'd just let me change this diaper, we'd be done already!) during huge diaper changing tantrums hundreds of times...but it doesn't work. Definitely don't get down on yourself...this child may just always be a force to be reckoned with and that's not necessarily a bad thing!!! :)

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answers from Provo on

I don't think there is anything set in stone when you deal with a child. Above all I used distraction when I could. Different kids have different personalities and I try to find out what works best for each child. I can remember that I used to hold their hands when they touched the wrong thing and said, "Not nice." I would also remove them from the situation. Once in a while I would just tell then to get their toy not mine.

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answers from San Francisco on

Redirect, redirect, redirect! Don't slap him on the hand. He is in the stage of "cause and effect" figuring out how things work---what gets a reaction out of you. Ignore the things you can--unless he is really hurting you or he is going to hurt himself, redirect his attention to something else and then let the things go that you can. This stage will pass~ Hang in there!


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answers from Bloomington on

I do time out with my 17 month old is he is repeatedly doing a no no. He has seen his brother in time out numerous times, so he caught on right away. He'll sit there and pout, but after a minute I tell him he can get up and he'll run to me for a hug.
For the kicking at changing time, I use distraction! I'll give him a toy he loves or my phone to hold. If he repeatedly drops his cup or spoon, I take it away. After a few minutes, I give it back and try again.

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answers from Allentown on

Hi, A.:
This is a really tough question. I am witnessing children getting away
with inappropriate behaviors like you are mentioning.

I don't believe in smacking a child as a constant reminder to stop inappropriate behavior.

I do believe in a sound whack that will give him/her a shock to have respect for you as the mom but also as a person. A whack that will make him/her
think twice before being disrespectful again

Hope this helps.
Good luck.



answers from Philadelphia on

Absolutely! Sometimes you have to get physical to get a child's attention when your repeated words don't work. But slapping the hand for us is used depending on the circumstance. If our child is repeatedly hitting and won't stop then a slap on the hand shows them how hitting hurts and we tell them that hitting hurts, doesn't it, don't do it again and apologize. If our child is repeatedly kicking us during diaper changes and refuses to stop with our words, a slap on the thigh shows them how it hurts and we tell them so. Throwing forks and food on the floor does not get them a slap. They get immediately removed from the table and will go hungry until the next meal and will be removed from the room and put in their crib or bed until the meal is over. When they whine about being hungry they're told not to throw their things next time and they will be able to eat. They won't be losing weight or get sick if they miss a meal because they must not be too hungry in the first place if they're throwing their things around. If a child does not listen to words there are other reactions they will get and sometimes it is a slap on the hand or behind. My kids are 24, 16 and 6 year old triplets. My 6 year olds are still told if they don't want to listen to my words they can always listen to my hand and they get moving pretty quickly. Defiance has no place in the home and must be curbed on day one.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets



answers from San Diego on

i do it and it doesn't work. i'm running out of ideas. i've tried spanking him on his diaper as well and he just doesn't care... he thinks i'm playing with him. My son is 19 months, been doing this since 13 months maybe ... Good luck


answers from Houston on

ive done it out of pure reflex, id rather not, hitting never teaches anything but hitting as conflict resolution.


answers from Williamsport on

Best way on earth to instantly teach self control and prevent oodles of battles later. For all three of mine way before age two we did a slap on the hand for throwing food, hitting, reaching for dangerous objects and tap on the butt for kicking and squirming in diaper changes. Therefore, a calm "no" is all we have needed ever since. All my non spanking friends have hitters btw. Positive reinforcement does NOT work better. It's just a philosophical preference.
To clarify, they are still allowed to throw balls and hit stuff and study cause and effect all day long elsewhere in their lives, but babies can learn to follow your directions for certain things this young, but are too young to care about words. The advantage to starting now rather than later is nipping things and teaching the control before they get set in bad habits which are harder to nip later when they do understand words. My friend's 9 month old has already learned not to chew on books this way. She can chew on anything in the whole house, but my friend taught her "no" with a slap on the hand ONCE when she chewed a book, and now she automatically chews everything in the house but books. Kids are SMART!!! All of our toddlers could be taken to any non baby proofed place and follow our verbal directions not to tear people's stuff up. Therefore they got more freedom and praise and positive reinforcement than they otherwise would at young ages.

Never use a mean scary voice, you are teaching your baby to respond to a calm "no" like a momma bear nipping a cub to teach important stuff. Also, do NOT just say no no no no with no consequence. This teaches the baby that "no" does not need to be responded to. It's best just to not even say no until they reach the age where you feel like disciplining if you don't want to enforce it this young. (15 months isn't young though it's actually getting up there as far as easily nipping stuff goes).



answers from Atlanta on

Yes I do a slap on the hand, but my son either laugh or have no reaction at all. So I just continue to say NO! NO! Eventually I guess It'll sink in.

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