SO FRUSTRATED With My Son's Hitting - Help!

Updated on January 05, 2012
H.1. asks from Des Moines, IA
15 answers

Okay ladies, I just left a playdate with my 20 month old because he kept hitting another child and we just had to leave.

It was one particular child he seemed to have this problem with (another child who was really keeping to himself nicely.) Each time, I addressed it the way I have been trying to consistently do at home - I initially gave one warning and then would give a timeout in the other room. He didn't seem to hate the timeouts, which is a problem really in itself. Then, I bring him back to the playroom and no more than a few minutes pass and he's at it again. Sometimes for no reason at all, other times when he wants the toy the boy has or that boy is trying to play with his toy also. Eventually, I told him "if you hit again, we are leaving." He did, and I followed through.

The whole way home (and now, too!) I am fuming mad and frustrated at this and having to miss out on a chance to have a little time with other mamma's - all for something that doesn't even seem to be effective. I expressed my frustration to another mom who said timeouts weren't really effective with her kids either. But if I just say "don't hit" I feel like I'm doing nothing.

Problem is, he either doesn't care or doesn't get it. He just smiled and waved (and gave hugs) like he didn't have a care in the world. I don't know what I am doing wrong. He seems to understand a lot of things, so I struggle to think he can't understand this connection, but it honestly seems like he doesn't. I can have a stern voice, look upset, etc etc and he acts totally unaffected (not amused, not upset) What am I doing wrong? What can I do?! Help!!!


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So What Happened?

Added: It's just he and I all day at home together, so he doesn't get much "practice" sharing with other kids anymore. He was in daycare full time until about 6 months ago. We do regular socialization at library storytimes, other playdates, babysitting other kids in my home, etc. and this has been a mild to moderate problem. I think certain kids really bring this out of him for some reason.

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answers from Chicago on

Ok, look my son stopped hitting once he knew what it felt like, have you given him one good hit so he KNOWS what he is doing to others? Once my son got a slap on the hand back he never hit again.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

My son went through a brief starge of hitting. I took away from the situation the first time, every time. I didn't give him a chance to say goodbye or anything. No hugs, no acknowledgment. Just picked him up, said no hitting, we have to leave, because you hit...and left. It didn't take long for him to learn. Perhaps, you could try that?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

When all practical attempts to avert the inappropriate behavior fail...Hit him back when he hits someone else so he knows what it feels like. One quick slap on his hand or one quick slap on his bottom to humiliate him might do the trick.

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answers from Phoenix on

4 of my 5 children need (or needed) two consequences. My 20 month old needs 2 swats and a 2 minute time-out in his crib. Then I explain why he's in trouble and have him say an age appropriate "sorry." When you're consistent at home, their behavior automatically shapes up when you're out and about or on a play date. So going home is the perfect thing to do in this situation. You can even discipline him at home and say that he got in trouble for hitting the little boy/girl. Good luck! (One of my children obeyed by just a warning...LOL but my other 4 didn't...LOL) I wanted to add that this is "normal" for this age. They don't really play too well with others yet but they're learning.

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answers from Philadelphia on

awww it will get better, my daughter was't a hitter, but I can tell you all of the other moms are probably so impressed with your follow through. We were on the receiving end of the hitting a bunch and never once did a mom actually follow through like you. I'd want to be your friend and make an effort J. because I knew your son was going to be raised right if I were in your area. I'm sure he's J. frustrated and doesn't have the words or the coping skills yet so he hits, its instinct. At this age its nothing to do with him being mean, he's J. now aware its wrong yet. I know I get the primal urge to hit takes a lot of restraint not too when my 5 year old is going i wouldn't suggest hitting for discipline ever, it will reinforce hitting is ok when you're upset in his mind. All of the kids we knew that hit, had parents that hit for discipline at that age..I don't do it, I'm not against it in ertain circumstances but under 3 it doesnt teach anything but that hitting is ok, IMO. They cant understand its ok for mom or dad to hit you to discpline you, but you cant hit another kid if they take your toy

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answers from Sacramento on

I don't think this is abnormal behavior for a 20 month old. Kids hit for all kinds of reasons... stimulation, to get attention, frustration, to make connection. He probably doesn't have a lot of verbal skills now and hasn't learned how to get what he needs or wants in an appropriate way.

Sorry, but I don't agree with hitting him so he knows what it feels like and will stop. If and when another kids retaliates he'll know what it feels like, but it isn't likely to stop the hitting behavior. You need to teach him other ways to interact. He isn't hitting for no reason. And saying "don't hit," really isn't doing anything... it doesn't teach him anything.

It will take time and consistency, but before you hit him back, I would stay close to him during playmates and observe his behavior. Address the hitting immediately. If he wants a toy someone else has and hits them, go to him right away, get on eye level and say, " Jimmy, hitting hurts. Give Sam nice touches." Take his hand and gently touch Same where Jimmy hit him.Validate that he feels angry, frustrated etc.... because he want the toy. " "You feel angry because Sam has the truck. It's his turn now. Let's find something else." Then redirect him to a different, maybe similar, toy until Sam is done. If he continues to go back to Sam for the toy, remove him from play and tell him, " Hitting hurts. When you hit Sam you can't play."

Kids are really smart and they understand a lot before they are able to verbalize. Use simple language, use teaching rather than negative consequences.

Good luck~

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

The only other suggestion I have is when he is in time-out, that he have the time-out in the same room so he can see what he's missing. Personally, I believe in spanking and if nothing else is working, I'm sure a good solid spanking would get his attention and would leave a lasting impression.

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answers from Appleton on

You are not doing anything wrong. I have often wondered how old a child is when they realize that when they touch (or hit) you --you feel it too. I don't think at 20 months they understand that basic concept.
You don't say in what context he is hitting. It is poor muscle control, he means to touch but hits because he can't control the arm muscles yet or if a child takes a toy or gets in his way does he hit?
I found what worked with my kids was to jump in right away and hold their hand firmly and get in their face and tap the hand with a forefinger, a firm tap but not a slap, and say NO. As soon as the child starts to swing his hand (arm) to hit again -- again grab the hand and tap firmly and say NO.
They have such short memories at 20 months I think by the time you pick them up and remove them to a different room or area they have forgotten what they did. So if you jump in and deal with it they have a better concept of what they did wrong.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

My son was being hit every day in our gym daycare by a time out kid. My son was 2 1/2, the kid was the same age. My son was getting scared to go in, and crying every time I went to the gym. The daycare lady-who understandably could only give time outs (no excuse for the mom though) told me why. Since we disciplined hitting firmly in all of our kids (one swat each after firm "NO HITTING" did the trick, not angry, just SERIOUS. And it stung.), I had no patience for it. I let the mom know that if she wasn't going to discipline her child, my son would have to defend himself. She said, 'But I give my child time out EVERY TIME, and so does the lady here." The kid was hitting my kid the minute he jumped out of time out. For weeks. The next time it happened, I coached my son at home how to strike back when being hit (the logical consequence for hitting is getting hit after all, no matter what the PC moms say) and the next time the kid did it, my son hit him back (more like pushed him though according to daycare lady who was in support of my son defending himself). To this day, my son (now 4) knows hitting is wrong and never hits other kids. That's the ONLY time he has. I was raised the same way, and never got into a fight in my life. The kid left him alone after that, and ended up striking an infant with a toy truck in the head, and they quit coming to the gym after the baby's father went ballistic. Hitting is no joke. Be FIRM about it. If he doesn't have an effective deterrent, he wont' stop doing it. I'm tired of the daycare moms who are mortified at spankers being the ones with all the biters and hitters in the daycare, personally. My daughter's uppety daycare when she was four was a nightmare of little hitters and biters and time out parents. Meanwhile, me, the mean old spanker, had a gentle kid getting victimized. It's hard if it's just you and he at home and he never hits you, you would have to somehow give a public consequence when it happens, which may mean leaving right away. But don't skip the consequence when you leave. Leaving in itself is not a consequence that will stop the behavior this young. Unless it does. In that case, no worries. Give it a few more times, but not many.

****This may be a bit harsh for 20 months, I'm projecting the frustration with how people handle toddler hitting and what we went through because of it when ours were toddlers. He can be redirected and intercepted and distracted and removed a bit longer at 20 months, but if he becomes more aggressive toward age 2 rather than stopping, get tough on it. H's not too young to comprehend it now if you want to prevent trouble.

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answers from New York on

It's SOO normal at this age, they just cant express themselves verbally well enough and have NO concept that other kids have feelings. Most kindergartners who are still hitting are being hit at home (or watching Dad hit mom) Hitting will encourage hitting. Keep a close eye on him and keep stopping him immediately.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

It will get better as his vocabulary grows. Just keep it up, say no and remove him from the situation. If he hits with a toy, take the toy. Calmly keep at it, and it will get better. Hang in there.



answers from Dallas on

There shouldn't be a warning for hitting. The consequence should be immediate.
Timeouts did not work with my kids. They would get upset but it didn't stop the bad behavior. Bug had great advice.



answers from Minneapolis on

This won't be helpful at all, but maybe reassuring because my 25 month old does the same thing!! Ever since he was 18 months old. Just the other day we strolled by another toddler and he reached out wanting to hit him saying "no baby, bad baby". It is so embarrassing and I can't figure out what triggers it because he is just fine around other kids. Before we laughed it off because it seemed to I ky happen with people he liked. We always said you know he likes you if he takes a swipe at you. It is certainly not funny anymore. My first, a boy, never did anything like this. Frankly I feel like I failed somewhere with my second but I don't know where. ;). I would love to hear some insight on this behavior. Again, sorry this doesn't help; but at least your not alone!



answers from Duluth on

Totally agree with Julie K. My first was a biter, my second a hitter, and I'm still waiting to see what #3 is. My kids are extremely physical kids--they use their bodies a lot. They move a lot when they are little, they run quickly after they walk, they snuggle--and yes, they hit, bite, shove and are aggressive when they're frustrated. It's a little harder than average to teach my kids not to do these things, because it's part of how they're hard wired. I would say, though, that if he's not hitting YOU, you are doing something right--he DOES have an early sense that hitting is not right, because he knows not to do it to mom, even if he's angry with her. It took my oldest a long time--and a lot of patience from the daycare he was in--to teach him not to bite. He did it to kids he liked--but that doesn't make it right. But we consistently (or mostly...) taught him to touch in nice ways, and redirected his biting play. He was removed from situations where he bit and not allowed to play there for a little while--kind of a time out, but more a sense of you are no longer playing acceptably here; try this instead. Keep at it; at 20 months, it takes a while for lessons to be learned, but he IS learning!



answers from Sioux City on

Some kids just seem more prone to hitting than others. Why? And how do you change that behavior?


All kids experience frustration, anger, etc. on a nearly daily basis, but not all kids hit to communicate what they’re thinking or feeling or to fulfill their objectives. Kids who choose to hit do so for a variety of reasons. They may have learned that behavior by watching someone else hit. They may be physically-oriented kids; all kids are at least somewhat physically oriented, but some kids are more oriented toward physical experience and expression than others. They may have ADHD. These and many more reasons can explain why some kids may be more prone to hitting.

How do you change that behavior?

Immediately put the child in time out. Calmly and lovingly explain that hitting is not nice and should not happen again. Maintain a peaceful environment (i.e., no loud, fast-paced music; no harried activity; etc.) throughout the time out so as to avoid escalating the situation. If your child hit to accomplish an objective, do not let the objective be fulfilled at this point lest s/he learn that hitting...

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