My Child Has Begun Hitting

Updated on January 08, 2010
C.B. asks from North Olmsted, OH
8 answers

My 20 month old is very sweet, intelligent, and even funny for his age. I socialize him and his brother as much as possible so they are both used to interacting with other kids. The last few weeks, my little one has started hitting myself and my husband, ALOT. He doesn't hit other kids, or even his brother, just us. Which I am thankful for, but I'm not too sure exactly how to handle it. We've been using "timeout" which he may be young for, but I believe discipline should begin early. Its only for a minute and a half, and usually we put him in his bed. We tell him "why" he's being put there, and tell him again after that hitting is not acceptable, or nice and makes us sad. I don't know how much of this he "gets", but it doesn't seem to be improving. I know this is a phase, but it sure is frusturating! I've even tried ignoring at times, sometimes I know they are trying to get a rise out you, or they are just frusturated themselves. Should I continue to do time outs, or is there another method that has worked for some of you?? Again, we are the only one at the receiving end. Even if he gets upset at outtings because of another child, he will hit me, not the other kid, which again I'd prefer over him hitting someone else's child. I'm at a loss! p.s. His brother who is 5, never went through a phase like this, so it's my first experience !!

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So What Happened?

I have been trying the suggestion of telling him, "gentle touch" Or "love mommy/daddy no hitting" and that honestly seems to be working the best. Time outs Im trying but he will NOT sit, I think he's too young but I do continue to attempt them. And I've been verbalizing that hitting makes us sad etc. It does seem to be helping. I also discovered that he is cutting his incisors and believe that is part of his foul mood lately! Thanks for the suggestions ladies. It's great having this little support system!

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answers from Canton on

Hi. I have a 21 mo old who went through the same phase. I did pretty much what you did and when talking to her tried to help her verbalized what I thought she was feeling. A daycare provider also suggested since she went throughva biting phase to tell her teeth are for food.
I don't know if what any of what I did helps but I have seen herveznt to hit/bite and Ctually pull back ( so I praise her for not doing it).
I also want to mention you may not want to use the bed for time out. Use a more neutral spot like a chair or the couch so he doesn't get confused and think when you put him to bed he had done something wrong.

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answers from Columbus on


Stay consistent, but you problaby should say less, rather than more. At this age, tell him what you WANT him to do rather than what you don't want. That is the stage they are in, and you will find better compliance. Instead of "don't hit" say, "gentle hands" or "nice touch" or what every you use to describe touching but not hitting.




answers from Cincinnati on

At 20 months, your child is too young for time outs to be effective methods of punishment, although they may be effective in calming him down. If you notice they have a calming effect, you may want to continue, but if they don't, there is no point. Most kids cannot really understand the cause and effect of a time out until they are about 2 years old. Also, do not ignore his hitting. Violence, unlike some other attention-getting behaviors from a child, should never be ignored. I would grab his hands, kneel down so that you are his level and can look him straight in the eye, and tell him with a strong, firm, serious (but not yelling) voice that you know he is angry/frustrated, etc., but he is NOT to hit you, that it hurts, and you will not tolerate it. If he is angry, he needs to tell you he is angry. Do this every time he hits you, without fail.

Then, watch him very carefully. The next time he gets angry with you or Daddy and doesn't hit, but rather uses words (even if he yells and cries), tell him how good he is, how proud you are that he used his words. If he is a visual sort of kid, you might even make some sort of rewards chart and give him a sticker every time he uses his words instead of his hands. After 5 stickers (or something), he gets a small 99 cent toy or something as a reward. Good luck.



answers from Indianapolis on

If he raises his hand to hit, grab his arm and say, "NO!"
Immediately remove him to his time-out spot (not his bed, because you do not want a negative association with punishment) for 1 1/2 min.
Say, "You are in time out for hitting."
At the end of the time return to him.
Reiterate that he was there for hitting, then he must say "Sorry", then hugs and it is done.
If you can do this EVERY time, he will soon get the idea that this is not acceptable behavior.
This rule should be posted with your family rules too.



answers from Columbus on

You hit the nail on the head when you said that he was frustrated. However, he can't express that, so he hits instead. You have to give him the words. Take his hands so he can't hit and tell him "Hitting hurts, don't hit Mommy. If you are mad, say I'm mad." When he learns to use his words to express his feelings, the hitting will stop. Model this also. When you are frustrated with him, look at him and say "I'm mad." Say it in a mad tone of voice. He will mimick your tone of voice, it will help him to get the frustration out. If he is angy at another child help him to say to the child, "I'm mad because you took my toy." If you spoon feed him the words, and he repeats them back it will empower him. He will feel in control of the situation even if it really isn't changing the situation. The expression of feelings will help to calm him down. At 18 months, he may not speak in complete sentences, but just "I'm mad, my toy" will help. More words and better discriptions, like "frustrated" will come with age. Good luck.



answers from Indianapolis on

Almost every child goes through this when they get frustrated before they have the words to communicate their frustration. Children who sign (either because they are deaf or live with someone who is, or because they have learned early signs for communication) are about the only groups that sees less hitting.
You're right, he's too young for time out. It's certainly not going to hurt him, but you're wasting your time and his and probably just making him more frustrated. Don't confuse teaching discipline with giving punishment.
Use your words so he can learn how to as well.
"It hurts me when you hit. Next time tell me you are mad."
Then always have him apologize to whomever he's hit.

This equation works for almost everything.
"It ______ me when you _____."
"It makes me _______ when you _____."
Please _______ next time instead."

You tell them how you feel using I/me statements and then give them an alternative to use.

"It makes me angry when you throw your spoon. Please tell me if you are finished next time instead of throwing your spoon on the floor."

What you want to be doing is setting up a communication pattern you can continue to use as they grow instead of hitting or yelling or using time out for everything every time they do something you don't like.

Good Luck:) The hitting will cease in time.



answers from Fort Wayne on

Keep up on the timeouts. I wouldn't use the bed though. I would use a naughty spot. We have started using the corner, but my daughter is almost 3. When he hits, grab his hands and say "We don't hit. It hurts Mommy." Then stick him on the naughty spot. It may take some time and lots of repition, but he'll eventually get it. Like you said, he's probably getting frustrated and can't express himself and that's why he's hitting. You can even say to him "I know you're mad, but we still can't hit!" Or give him another outlet for his frustration. Good luck!



answers from Columbus on

My nephew went through a bad phase of hitting & biting out of frustration/anger at about this same age. My brother & his wife would tell him "use your words" to try to get him to say what he was feeling instead of acting it out. It took a while, and when he was out of control, they took hold of his hands (firmly but not in a punishing/hurtful way) and tell him hitting hurts and hurting it not nice, and to touch people gently. If he did it again, he did get timeouts. Once he started saying he was angry/frustrated/upset, the hitting/biting got less. And once he understood that talking helped fix some problems (he could let them know what he wanted, for example), that also helped.

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