My 3 Year Old Is Occasionally Hitting Me

Updated on July 07, 2010
T.O. asks from Elmhurst, IL
7 answers

My 3 year old occasionally hits me when he gets mad. This of course is unacceptable, but I don't know what to do to stop this behavior. We've tried time-outs and they do not have any effect on him. He is a very stubborn child who seems to just react in the moment. When he gets mad he screams, yells, and on occasion bites and hits (the pillows, his brother, etc.). He doesn't hit me often, but I will not allow this behavior - however I don't know what to do to stop it. Any thoughts? Thanks!!!

****His time out are alone in his room sitting on his bed without any toys, books, etc.***

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answers from Portland on

Kids get mad, just like adults. And their coping skills and impulse control are teensy compared to ours. Add limited choice and vocabulary to express their feelings, and it can become overwhelming. Time-outs, spanking, scolding and other punishment simply make everything more overwhelming for some children – resulting in a "reverse" effect for strong-willed kids.

What does tend to work for all kinds of kids is more empathy from the parent. Let the child know you see/understand how frustrated or angry he is, that it is hard not to get what he wants, that he is upset when his brother gets into his things, that he has to stop playing and come to the table – whatever the issue is.

The parents I've know who use the Emotion Coaching techniques in books like How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk get surprisingly good results, with children of all personality types. If it's not already in your parenting library, I recommend it enthusiastically. This is NOT pushover parenting – you get to determine your reasonable limits and expectations. But it will teach you how to do this in a way that is more respectful of the child's needs, and therefore usually more effective.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Lexington on

Hi T.,
At 3 he should have something he can loose for bad behavior, toys, activities etc. Also Isolation time outs, no toys, tv, games, siblings etc to act up for or entertain him. Being consistant and not giving up and giving in to him will eventually win out. There should be immediate consequences for his actions and a loss of privlages consistantly every time... He'll get the message...also you may want to find a way to redirect or vent his emotions when you see them starting to build to help him learn to contorol his anger/frustration before he blows... I've seen the SuperNanny do this and it seems to really work. Even though I do believe in spanking for some children, I would avoid it with your son as it might just make things get even more out of hand. Even children this young can have anger issues but he won't have any idea how to deal with them. Talking to a family counsler or reading some books on the matter may give you some good ideas. Good luck.



answers from Philadelphia on

I have the same issue w/ my 39 month old son. When he is angry he will hit me also (sometimes) & some bad words will roll out from his mouth. Time outs are not really working for me either. I may be partly responsible because I'm not consistent with the time outs & just tell him that his behavior is wrong & he needs to better express his feeling. I think I'm going try to do that still but be consistent w/ the time outs. Also I was doing time out in front of the TV in the family room where he was comforted & tried one in the formal living room (w/o Tv). This seemed to be more effective. I am going to now try the time outs there & hope this will help. I 'm sure this is a common thing at this age, but hope to change this behavior soon... at least before school. Good Luck! I need it too.


answers from Detroit on

my son trien that a couple of times and at first i tried the things you tred and then i had to sit back and think this child will do nothing but get older and continue to hit me and soon after that he will be BIGGER then me hitting just because he can't get his way. So the next time he did it i tore his behind up!!!! and i explained to him VERY CLEARLY that he was not to hit me under any circumstances! I am his mother and every over time he tries to hit me he was going to get the same thing! My son has not hit me since! I refuse to have any child especially my own hit me! If he even rears up at me he's catching a whooping, I will not accept it under any circumstances. I have seen tooooo many parents on TV and in public complaing about their children telling them to shut up, calling them bitches, cussing them out and hitting them. And it won't be me not in the this lifetime or the next. You need to get your son NOW and stop this behavoir before he is bigger then you beating you up! good luck and you are in my prayers!



answers from Chicago on

I have also experienced this with my three-year-old son. The time out can work, but it is hard to do it correctly and consistently. Here is how it worked for us:
Our time out was on the bottom step of our staircase.
1st time he hit: "when you hit, you go to time out. You sit here." Set timer for 3 minutes. Keep returning him if he gets up. Reset timer each time. DON"T GIVE UP!!!! When 3 minutes are up, keep him sitting, get down to his level, look him in the eye, CALMLY say "you are in time out because you hit. Hitting hurts and it is not okay. I need you to apologize for hitting." When he apologizes, say "thank you for apologizing," and hug him and tell him you love him. Try not to overtalk. DO NOT say "it's okay" because hitting is not okay. If he refused to apologize, set the timer for 2 minutes and do it over until he apologizes.
2nd and 3rd time he hits: Say "you hit, so time out." and do the whole thing over again.
after that, say "time out" without any emotion in your voice.

That is how it worked for us. (it really was pretty hard to not get emotional and stick to our guns. Boys are pretty tenacious and it took our son about a million minutes the first time before he would sit for 3 minutes. It got much easier after that.)




answers from Sacramento on

In my experience, the only kind of time out that really works is a total removal of the child from anything that could even be considered a reward for the inappropriate behavior. I had/have a VERY stubborn son and the only thing that ever worked for me was putting him in his crib in his room with the light off. It wasn't easy because he would throw some vicious temper tantrums and on a couple of occasions he actually cried and screamed for several hours. I can tell you, it wasn't fun but it was necessary to get the point through to him that that kind of behaviour was absolutely NOT going to be rewarded with ANY kind of attention from me. This is advanced parenting and it isn't for the faint hearted. Time outs in front of the television or with some kind of reward is NOT a time out.



answers from Chicago on

I would have him stand next to a designated wall and not put him in his room, the reason why is he may feel when it's time to go to bed, he's being punished. Just place him in a time out (and stick with it). He'll learn evenutally that hitting is not allowed. I rented 1, 2, 3 Magic and it taught us exactly what to do.


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