Help! My 1 Y/o Keeps Hitting People!

Updated on March 08, 2011
T.H. asks from Frisco, TX
6 answers

Okay, gals, I've tried to do everything that I think I would tell other people in my situation to do so I need help! I have a very active 17 month old little boy. He is 'all boy' as people say and recently he has started just randomly hitting people. Mostly it's kids, mostly it's girls (double ugh) and mostly it's girls younger or littler than him. He doesn't do it to be mean or to retaliate in any way, he just decides to do it and whacks them on the head. He started this behavior with the dog, it was his way of petting him b/c he didn't really have the petting motion down. I didn't really think much about it as the dog tolerated it, but now that's it's moved to people I realize I have a problem...and yes, I'm now trying to teach him the "correct" way to pet the dog instead of whacking him, but it's a long road!

Mostly this happens at play areas and he will hit the kid on the head. I usually go right over (and apologize to kid and parent) and remove him from the situation. I try not to react but rather just say no and I put him in a 1 min time out. I struggle with how effective a time out is, but I don't really know what else to do. Plus, I usually have to hold him in place so I figure that maybe he's making a connection between hitting and then being forced to sit still?? I don't know. The worst part is, he totally thinks it's a game and will usually target this particular child now. He will seek them out and hit them again and laugh! I feel like the worst parent! Today when it happened I left the play area but usually I have my 3 y/o with me and I hate to punish her for her brother's behavior, especially when I'm not conviced he completely knows what he's doing. So...what advice can you give me? Thanks, Moms!

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answers from Richmond on

I've said this a ton on here... This worked for all 3 of my kids, although I'm still working on it with MY one year old terror... When the baby hits, grab his hands and run his hands down your face and go 'niiiiiiiiice! niiiiiiiice! niiiiiiiice!'... then I let go and say 'You do it!' with a smile on my face... then baby gently runs his own hands down my face going 'niiiiiii! niiiiii!' It's so silly but it WORKS, you're redirecting the negative behavior with a positive one. Before you know it, you won't have to do the hands, just say 'Be nice!'... works when the baby is hitting the dog too ;)

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answers from Las Vegas on

I agree with Rachel D... I do something like that with my 2 year old daughter right before I take her away to time out. After time out she has to go say sorry (looking the child in the eyes, or grandma/pa) and says I'm sorry. I'm not sure if the I'm sorry part would work because I don't know how his talking is obviously but just telling ya what I do.

Did he watch anything where a guy hits a girl? (not violence per se) like spongebob playing karate with Sandy or stuff like that that he could've taken the wrong way? (you said it was mostly girls)

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answers from Pittsfield on

You could try putting him in time out in a playpen, or in his carseat when you're away from home. Just give him a serious looking face, say "no, you hurt so-and-so". Then put him in the time out (for a minute or 2) and don't give him any attention and give lots to the child that was hit. I'm thinking it might work because there's nothing kids love more than attention, and if he starts to see that when he does that someone else gets attention and he doesn't, maybe he'll stop. Just an idea. Good Luck :)

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answers from Louisville on

this is VERY normal youa re doing the right thing by removing him from the situation for a few mins, keep it up this will pass!

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answers from Appleton on

My son (now 2.5) went through a bit of a hitting phase at that age. We also went through a brief biting phase. I kept redirecting. You can say no firmly and redirect, meaning take him to do something else or show him a toy. Get his mind off of the game of hitting. Time-outs or punishments, I think, are rather useless at that age. And you really can't reason too much at that age so it's best to redirect. Say no and do your best to get him on to something else.

Here's one thing I've done with my kids. When they get hurt, label it. "Oh, you got a boo-boo. I bet that hurts." This introduces the vocabulary of pain and hurt. So the next time my son would hit someone I use the same words: "No, hitting hurts. Hitting could give X a boo-boo." Use whatever choice of words you want to describe it, but just use those words a lot when he gets hurt or when he tries to hurt someone else. I guess I have no way to know for sure, but I hope that a connection forms in his mind between being hurt himself at times and not wanting the same thing to happen to someone else because he knows how it might feel.

I think the Dr. Sears book "The Discipline Book" has some good advice for kids of that age. I know it helped me maintin my sanity!

Good luck with your little guy!

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answers from St. Louis on

This is what The Family Virtues Guide calls "a teachable moment". We miss so many opportunities to teach children how to feel and exercise their potential for virtue to empower and direct their lives. We often only think of teaching them what to NOT DO or redirect them TO DO something more 'acceptable'. But, it is only teaching them what is more acceptable to us. We are not training them to feel inside what is more acceptable, more effective, more satisfying to their own nobler instincts.

In a situation like this with my son, I would definitely do what you did first, which is to take control. But, I would then take his hand in mine and direct that hand to touch gently. As I would guide his hand to touch gently, I would be telling the child he hit that WE are sorry. I would use my child's name and repeat the apology stating that he doesn't like things that hurt. I would name the virtue of compassion and tell my child that we use compassion and we feel sorry when other people hurt. Then I would stay close enough to him so that I could catch his hand whenever the impulse to hit was triggered and guide the hand to touch gently, encouraging him all the while and telling him that he has kind and gentle hands for his friends and that friendly hands are always kind and gentle. I would only remove him if he became aggressive with me as I tried to guide, encourage, assist him. I would stay with that until I saw that he learned another technique to solve his issues. Each time he touches gently, notice it and honor it verbally. Don't make a big deal of it or applaud or tell him you are proud of him for it. Keep it low key, but honor it with simple acknowledgement with words like, "Good job. I see your friendly hands". This will draw his own attention to his own success so that he can feel his own sense of accomplishment. It is important to train children to be aware of their own inner sense of dignity rather than to be more aware of how good they 'make you feel' when they do well. This is how they develop their own inner sense of right and wrong rather than to be manipulated by others or to become 'people pleasers'. He is a bit young to ask him to use his words for problem solving, but you can also use this opportunity to introduce language skills for challenging situations.

For example, if he is hitting because someone is taking a toy away from him, you can show him how to say, "Not fair," or, "Not friendly". Or, you can teach him how to get an adult to help. If he is hitting in order to get another child to give up the toy he wants, you can teach him to use his flexibility and redirect him to another toy. If hitting is just an impulse to get a reaction, then just staying with him until he, himself, is touching appropriately is all you need to do.

I recommend The Family Virtues Guide, by Linda Popov, to all the parents I work with.

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