To Hit or Not to Hit

Updated on October 09, 2012
R.T. asks from San Diego, CA
25 answers

To hit or not to hit, that is my question. How do you discipline a 17month old? My prices is starting to hit me and I have occasionally hit her hand (not hard) but firm enough to let her know I mean business. But other times she throws stuff or hits the mirrors and I don't know how to discipline... Firm talks don't work, I don't want to hit her for everything she does wrong but don't want her to think her behavior is ok...

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answers from Los Angeles on

Definitely no hitting.
She's barely a toddler. Just barely out of the "baby" stage.

You re-direct her attention at this age.

If she is doing something wrong, you take her attention away from that and re-direct it to a toy sitting w/her for a min.

You divert her attention from one thing to another.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

She's 17 months old. She's a freaking baby. Lay off on the discipline & enjoy her while she's little. Babies don't need discipline, they need gentle redirection.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

If you don't want to be hit, don't hit.
If you don't want a child who screams, don't scream.
Dawn's advice was spot on.

9 moms found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

Does your husband (hypothetically, if you don't have one) hit you when you do something he disapproves of? That would be domestic violence, correct? What's the difference with your child? Why on earth would you hit her, for hitting YOU? You are only reinforcing the behavior. (Ummm...duh? I guess to me it is, I suppose.)

Freaking chill. Did you really think we would tell you to HIT your 17 month old? I question any person who would.

15 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Kiki is right without the swear word. She is just a baby and has to be taught how to behave. She is impulsive and needs to be redirected into doing something acceptable while being stopped from hitting or throwing.

Hold her hand and say " no hitting" in a firm but calm voice. Then move her away from you if you're the one she's hitting. Hold her hand so that she can't hit you until you get her attention elsewhere.

When she throws stuff, kneel down in front of her and tell her "we do not throw" again in a calm but firm voice. Then get her playing with something else. Show her how to play without throwing.

You will have to repeat this over and over. Eventually her brain will be able to have better control over her body. It's a matter of maturity and teaching.

Do not hit her. I've always wondered how anyone would think that hitting a child would teach them to not hit. Hitting them is doing what you don't want them to do thus teaching them that it's OK to hit.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

No, firm talks don't work at this age. One of the reasons she is hitting is that she doesn't have enough language to be able to talk to you and tell her why she is frustrated. And believe me, she is frustrated. All 17 month olds are.

Yelling at or hitting her hands are not going to help you. They will escalate the behavior. Instead, if she hits you, take her hands firmly in yours (hold on and don't let her pull her hands out of yours, and yes, she will NOT like it). Eye to eye, look at her while holding those hands firmly and tell her "hands are for helping, not hurting". Don't let go until she backs down.

How well have you babyproofed? Maybe you need to babyproof some more. If she throws her toys, take them away and don't give them back to her for a while. If you have a play pen, I would put her in the playpen for a few minutes and walk out of the room when she does things she is not supposed to do.

As you work with her on talking, say to her "Use your words" if you see that she is about to start hitting.

Good luck,

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Children need to be PARENTED not disciplined. They need to be understood, not expected to understand...
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

PARENT the child you want her to be.


PS Thanks for the blog inspiration.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

finally, an easy one.
don't hit.
there are a gazillion ways to convey to her that it's not okay. she's way too young for discussion, but you can certainly remove her from the situation and refuse to give her attention. it's harder, and takes longer.
so what.
who said parenting was quick and easy?
don't hit your baby.
S. (former spanker)

9 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I had a completely different post, but I thought about it a little more, and I'm replacing it with this.

It sounds like you're perceiving her "hitting" as aggression, but at 17 months, there's no such thing as aggression. This is her version of exploration and touch.

So, whatever in the world you do, don't hit a hitter! That teaches her that that kind of touch is exactly what you're supposed to do. Instead, she's like every other toddler in the world: she needs to learn the lesson of gentle touch. Whatever she hits, whenever she does it, just take her hand and have her stroke the person or thing, and say "gentle." (I used "pat nicely" because my son was rough on the poor, patient cat, but most people use "gentle.") Do this over and over. It'll take a few months and she may not get it 100% for years. But if you're gentle and patient with her, she'll ultimately learn to be gentle and patient with the world.

And, whatever you do, don't fall into the trap of assuming adult / big kid motives on the part of a baby. I mean, if she gets ahold of your keyboard and starts messing around with it, you don't assume she's trying to hack into your account and charge things to your credit card, right??? It's the same thing with hitting. She's not trying to do harm -- she doesn't have that concept in her head. It's just that she's one, life is a blast, and she's announcing her presence with a great big drumroll. All you need to do is teach her (tactily) to be gentle with most things and give her a few things (maybe a toy drum) that she CAN hit.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

NO Hitting. If she is hitting you, you tell her no hitting, hitting hurts and re-direct her to some thing she can do.What is she doing when she hits? Is she tired/frustrated/hungry? Have her needs been met? Is she overwhelmed? So many factors come into this--but above all, you shouldn't hit her. She is still so little at 17months and hitting doesn't work at any age--but especially because she is such a baby!---it will only teach her to fear you. Not to stop the behavior.I would suggest a really good parenting site Dr. or Harvey Karp's The Happiest Toddler on the Block book. Good luck.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

You've gotten loads of good suggestions on here already and like others, I would strongly suggest you get a basic book on toddler and child development (i.e. Dr. Sears). My question to you is, how do you expect her to learn not to hit, and that hitting is wrong, if you are hitting her yourself?

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

Gently but FIRMLY hold her hands and move them close to her body, look her directly in the eyes and in your best "I'm The Mom and I'm Serious" voice you say, "We don't hit." Then you redirect her to a new activity. That's appropriate discipline for a baby who is still so very little.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Not hit, for a myriad of reasons, on is that hitting teaches hitting and only causes confusion and loss of self exploration. Think of it less as discipline and more as behavior shaping. Dr. Sears is a childhood expert and has some wonderful advice on hitting and why it doesn't work and what to do instead:

why hitting doesn't work:

other discipline tactics for specific behaviors (like hitting)

more great discipline and excellent communication advice:

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Firm voice, big NO (make sure you look her in the eye) take away whatever she's throwing and put it out of sight, and/or remove her from the situation.
It's a stage, she won't stop overnight because it's a learning process. She needs time to learn "oh, if I throw my toy mommy will take it away" or "oh mommy doesn't like hitting." Be consistent with your expectations and consequences and she will learn.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Toddlers do need discipline, let them know you mean business now not down the road when it could be too late. A little swat on the hand when warrented will not scar her for life, you arent beating the child. When you can redirect her and give her another option. At this age she is very curious everything is new and facinating to her.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

At 17 mos, she won't understand discipline, I'm sorry to say.
You can be firm and say No!, but she won't really get anything else for a little while yet.

As far as hitting goes....I'm not against it. I've done it. And I've found that it doesn't work at all to curb the behavior I'm hitting for. So I've given up on that. :(

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Redirect as others have said. If you child keeps going back to the problem behavior after several redirections try removing them from the area/person (for example if she is on your lap hitting put her down). If it is a safety issue or other very big deal you could do a very basic time out. My oldest was an early walker and into everything so he got 1 minute timeouts in the pack and play by 12 months. For hitting you could hold her hand firmly and tell her we don't hit.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I save the smacks for danger/breakable type situations. At that age, the firm no and redirect, or timeout seems to work. But it only works for so long at that age. And really, a firm voice and the time out is enough so they know it's not ok. They get that - hitting isn't needed to reinforce it.

Check out and see if they have facilitators in your area. Some classes are reasonable or even free! And if you're looking for discipline alternatives and parenting classes, it's great. It's all about teaching children how to make good choices when they are young so they have that skill in the "real" world where the consequences are MUCH bigger.

Good job, mama for looking for alternatives :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Recognize that this is a normal developmental stage. We wouldnt call you lazy for napping while pregnant, it's normal. She has NO IDEA that hitting you can cause you discomfort, she wont understand that for a long long time. Say NO! in a Very firm voice, and redirect. hands are for "petting/ loving/ playing/ eating, tickling, waving or clapping" (use different cues on what to do with hands"

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

wether you swat or not is up to you. But yes, 18 mo is about the age that they need correction. My feisty fire cracker first born started needing correction at around 15 months when she bit me until I welted and bruised. My younger really didn't need correcting until she was closer to two. You can also do a modified time out, where you set them in the chair and hold them in place (thirty seconds or so), just to get them used to the concept.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I started to do time outs with my DS at 18 months. He didn't get it at first and the time outs were not that long but he finally started to realize that his actions had consequences. Perhaps you want to try this?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would redirect her and say no. If she thinks it's funny, be firm, say no, and stop the playing or get up for a minute so she sees that hitting = losing your attention. If she hits a mirror, tell her no and move her. She may just be going "cool, there's somebody in there." I don't think hitting her back is necessary.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I swat mine (hands) when I have an urgent need to get his attention to let go of something or not to reach for something. I always felt that the best way to teach him not to hit me is for me not to hit him, especially at this age when they haven't yet mastered the spoken language. Once in a while, he'll have a moment and hit in frustration. He knows the look that I give him when I mean business, and he responds well to it. I hold his hands and eye contact, and his disposition changes. I tell him firmly that that is not okay. I tell him to be gentle with his hands, and I kiss them...and we deal with his frustration. I take the time to do that wherever we are, whatever is going on.

It's not a one-time thing. I am not embarrassed if others are present when he hits me because it's very rare and only means that he is super frustrated AND I know that he is learning. He pushes boundaries, and I'm right there to show him where there is flexibility and where there isn't. I think he slapped me once or twice a while back, and we got that under control right away.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

When she hits, grab her hand firmly(but not hurting), look her in the eye and say NO, we don't do that. Then move her towards another area or activity.

When she throws something, again, tell her NO! and then take the item away. I don't mean to just move it, take it away. For my kids when they throw something they get a warning. If they throw it a 2nd time it goes in the trash. It only takes a handful of times doing this for them to get the point. The hardest part is when its a newer toy that has to be tossed. Then I might just put it in the closet. Yes there will be tears when a favorite toy is tossed, but it's a lesson learned.

To me, when a toy is thrown, it is no longer a toy but a weapon.
Ask my kids (11y and 5y) what happens when you throw a toy, and they'll tell you in a heartbeat "it goes in the trash".

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Every child reacts different to different discipline.

My first just needed to hear gentle words and never did the offending action again - ever.

My second did not respond to words or hand slapping or spankings, so we used the naughty mat. He was hard. I would place him there (firmly, but gently) and he would get up....over and over and over, so I had to be consistent and put him back on the naughty mat 27 times in a row, until he finally stayed. The next naughty mat visit took me 8 times for him to stay, the next was 3 times and on the 4th time, he stayed with the first placement. This worked for him.

My third could care less about the naughty mat or words, so she responded to spankings. Her first visit to the naughty mat was at a year old - and she knew what she was doing. Sometimes the naughty mat words now that she's 4. The only thing that works for her mean mouth is soap.

My fourth is 17 months and responds to a gentle hand slapping, but he screams like you almost killed him. (This is also the scream that gets his siblings in trouble when they annoy him.) Words work some of the time, but if it doesn't, the hand slapping does....immediately.

We never discipline out of anger. If we are mad, we have them sit in their room until we can discipline them fairly. All of our discipline is ONLY after firmly telling them NO and explaining the danger, etc.

Good luck. Remember, what works today may not work in 6 months. Just go with it.

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