How to Get Toddler Stop Hitting Friends?

Updated on March 07, 2012
M.M. asks from Chicago, IL
9 answers

My 22 month old has a habit of hitting other kids. He does hit M. and his dad when he is very angry , but doesn't hit other adults. But with kids I always see him hitting them when they want the same toy etc or sometimes he even hits playfully and the other kids start crying. He learnt this at daycare and I am wondering how to get him to stop doing this. I am worried taking him out on playdates or story times etc because he playfully starts hitting inspite of M. telling no. I take him away from those kids because I am sure their moms wont like it. The problem is he does it with every kid. His way of saying hi to kids is by lightly hitting on their face and smiling.He sometimes tries to hug them and ends up pushing them to the ground. Inspite of M. correcting him he does not get that it's wrong. He is very nice kid except for this hitting habit. I had talked to his teacher at daycare and she told M. it's very normal for kids his age to hit and they usually learn this observing what older kids do. He is now out of daycare since we moved and I am trying to find new friends for him. Any tips for him to be more nicer to kids his age? Also any advise for M. on how to handle the situation when he starts hitting? I have him tell sorry to the kid and I apologize to the mom , but when this continues to happen I don't know what to do. The moms do understand I think, but I wonder who would want their kid to hang around with a kid who hits. Any advise? Thanks!

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answers from Dallas on

What are you doing to correct him? It wasn't really clear, but it sounds like maybe you're telling him not to hit? I suggest that's not enough. My son went through a VERY brief hitting phase. The moment he hit someone, I picked him up, said no hitting sternly while looking him in the face, and promptly left and went home. He hit twice and learned real fast that he missed out on things by hitting. It does not matter if he is hitting "playfully." Hitting is not playful, it's mean. He is not old enough, to understand the distinction. He simply needs to know we never hit, for any reason, and every strike is reprimanded. If he strikes someone take him and leave. Every.Single.Time. It won't take long for him to learn, I promise.

5 moms found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

At 22 months, telling him "no" has very little effect on many children beyond teaching them to say no to everything during the Terrible Twos. They understand action and consistency. And at this age, they are natural scientists, experimenting with (and fascinated by) cause and effect. But they have pretty sketchy empathy, and so getting another child to cry is fascinating and powerful.

The most effective approach that's used in good preschools is to shadow a child who has a hurtful habit (this works for biting, for example). But a watchful adult has to be assigned to hover near the child, learn to identify the situation that leads up to the behavior, and to swoop in an intercept the child bodily, ideally just before the bite, hit, pinch or scratch happens. In your case, you should grasp the child's hand firmly but gently, and state something positive, like "Be gentle, please," and use that little hand to stroke the child he was about to hit. Then direct the child's attention back to a toy he can have.

This approach is demanding but effective. An adult may have to catch the child a couple of dozen times over a couple of weeks, but usually by then, the child is beginning to recognize that a behavior is not going to be tolerated, and can begin to catch himself.

Again, this takes consistent adult intervention. In a playgroup, the adult would be you. So if you want to give your son chances to interact, you'll need to monitor his behavior closely if you want him to continue to be welcome.

Another option would be to keep play dates limited for now. He's still in the "parallel play" stage, where he plays alongside others but doesn't interact with them much (beyond watching, grabbing and hitting, anyway). That stage gives way to interactive play in the next year or so. At that point, the centers in his brain that allow him to control and constrain his own behavior will be better developed, too, so he'll be able to remember rules better.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I agree the consequences need to be swift and sure. If he's hitting you and hubby now, it is only a matter of time before he hits another adult.

I think if you end any and all playdates the very first time he hits someone, he will figure it out pretty quick.

I believe that hitting is not a "learned" behavior. I believe it is a natural behavior and what needs to be "learned" is self-control.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

I agree with Bug. Although this is very common, it is NOT acceptable and that line needs to be drawn firmly and consistently.



answers from New York on

When my daughter, who is now six, would try to hit I would catch her little hand in mid swing and say, 'Nice M.,' and take her hand and stroke my face with it. I did the same thing with my son. Hitting is a big time infraction in our house. My kids are not, under any circumstances, to hit one another. Thankfully, we don't have a hitting problem, but it wasn't for a lack of trying!

You have to try to explain to him, as best as you can to a two year-old, that party time is over once the hitting starts. You have to be firm, consistent, but gentle about it. That means the fun may be over for you, too. That also sends a message to the other child's mom that you're not going to allow that kind of behavior out of your child. I have a friend who has a son that likes to hit. I love them both to death, but they can't come back to my house until that situation gets under control.

If you catch it now, it'll pass.



answers from Rapid City on

Hold his hands and tell him "I don't like to be hit" or "they don't like to be hit" give him one warning and tell him he will have time out if he hits. My granddaughter spent time in time out since she was a year old, just remember 1 minute per year. I also turned my back and wouldn't look at my granddaughter if she hit after telling her "I don't like to be hit, I would rather have hugs". It didn't take much time to stop the hitting. Also it is important that you teach compassion by having him appoligize and to "help" with the owie by holding a bag of pea's or cold press on the owie, even if it isn't really owie.



answers from Minneapolis on

My 3 yr old says.." you hit, you sit". Adopt it and it will work for you. Kids hate time away from their favorite things. They catch on fast.


answers from Santa Fe on

Tell him before the playdate that he is not to hit because hitting hurts. If he hits he will get a time out. Then if he hits a child you have to go over and take him away telling him no hitting! Give him the time out. Make him stay in it. Be stern. Don't use a sweet tone of voice...let him know he is in trouble. Afterwards help him to say sorry and remind him if he hits one more time you are leaving and no playdate for him. Then really do leave if he hits again. That is what I would do anyway. Then just repeat over and over! He is so takes a while for things to sink in. I have a friend who is a sweetheart and has one little boy (age 2)...but when he hits or cannot share she uses this sweet, soothing tone of voice with her son. "Oh Johnnie. No no. We doooon't hit, sweetie. Now let's give this toy to Sally." Her son howls away and will flop his body down sometimes. Or other times he gets a smile on his face...but will not give up the toy. She does not make him give up the toy for a veeeeeeery long time. I don't want to hurt her feelings...but it drives M. nuts. PS - Also do not tolerate him hitting you and dad. Lay down the law with you little boy. Let him know he will be in BIG TROUBLE if he hits.



answers from Las Vegas on

Get the cute little board book, "Hands are Not For Hitting" and read it every day with him.

Teach him "soft touches," by taking his hand and gently stroking your arm or a stuffed animal. When you're doing this, say "soft touches."

When he hits another child, remove him immediately and only say, "No hitting! Hitting hurts." Don't say any more than that. Over-explaining to a 2 year-old goes right over their heads. It's like that "wah wah wah" you hear when the adults talk on Charlie Brown.

Make no exceptions if he hits. Remove him. Even if it means leaving the park or party or whatever. That's the idea. It takes some time, and you must be persistent and consistent.

Best to you and your family.

J. F.

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