Toddler Pushes Kids

Updated on February 07, 2008
L.A. asks from Charlotte, VT
11 answers

My two and a half year old son has been pushing and sometimes hitting other children and I don't know how to handle it. I have a hard time not getting angry at him and simply pulling him away from the other child. I tell him he own't be able to visit other kid's homes if he hits, I tell him "be gentle with your friends" before we encounter other kids, I tell him "hands are for gentle touches", on and on, but it makes no difference. Often, after an "incident" he will keep repeating " I hit so and so, I hit so and so". I think he feels guilty and bad about himself, which is not the intended result at all...and it doesn't change the behavior. I feel like he's really frustrated in general lately. Maybe because we moved a few months ago, maybe because his daddy travel a fair amount, maybe because I'm night weaning him (he's still nursing at bedtime and naps), amybe because I'm distracted sometimes and on the phone/computer off and on ( I haven't been able to find a reliable sitter yet). Maybe his molars are coming in, he often skips his naps....I just want to stop yelling at him and help him deal better with his feelings. I think of he could express himself to the other kids he wouldn't have to push them. Everyone says he'll grow out of it, but I see how the other parents react when he comes around....nobody wants their child pushed or hit. It makes me feel so sad and frustrated...and isolated too. It's hard to make friends when your child is a unpredictable. Any thoughts?

What can I do next?

  • Add your own comment
  • Ask your own question
  • Join the Mamapedia community
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Boston on

There's a great book called, From Difficult to Delightful in Just 30 Days by Jacob Azerrad. It outlines an excellent behavioral method for dealing with just these kinds of behaviors. It doesn't get into "reasoning" with a child - which never works - but focuses directly on fostering caring behaviors. I highly recommend it. My sons are now in college but if I'd known about this book when I was raising them I'd have saved myself a lot of grief.

More Answers



answers from Portland on

Hi L.,
If this is a new behavior for your son, then I would agree that he is acting out because he is fustrated. It may be because he misses his dad, or just for the attention he gets from it. It may pass, or it can get worse. I would suggest to you to try and find out why this occurs, and be a detective if you have to. Whatch and monitor his behavior patterns when Dad is home and when he's not. Also, see if mabey he is just trying to get some more of that one-on-one time with his mommy. Kids have a hard time sometimes at these ages, and can be hard to read. Sometimes it's just the terrible two's as they say, but it is a big deal if your child is intentionally hitting or pushing another child. I would also suggest rewarding him in a positive way when he does act nicely around other kids. Another thing is, whatch him closely when he is around other kids, sometimes your son may do something repeditive right before this happens. An example would be if he claps his hands, or if he bites his lip. Some kids can give you a heads up right before the problem starts, and you have enouph time to nip it in the bud before it escalates.
All in All, don't make yourself feel isolated. It's tuff being a parent to begin with, and if every kid came with instructions.....well, we'd all be perfect!! Don't worry about it, people forget and forgive, and as he gets older no one will even remember about him doing that stuff!
Take care!




answers from Boston on

I'm not sure exactly why your child is hitting but as an experienced toddler teacher believe me when I tell you that this is "typical" toddler behavior. What I do in my classroom is make a HUGE deal out of the nice things that the children in my classroom do and not such a big deal out of the not so good things they do. When they hit I address it but give little attention to the hitter and more attention to the child that was hit. I use different techniques but am very consistent in letting the hitter know that it is not ok to hit, ask them to use gentle touches, that he/she hurt the child they hit, ask them to help the child up that they pushed down, ask them to give the child they hurt hugs etc. For the hurt child I ask the child if he/she is ok, give the child hugs, encourage the child to tell the child that they don't like it or just a simple, "NO" depending on language abilities. The hitting won't stop over night but he will get it in time, just be patient with him (as hard as that is sometimes). I don't think it's a good idea to keep him away from other children though because then how will he ever learn? Not to say that he should be aloud to hit the child over and over again. Once you have adressed the situation a few times with the same child I would definately remove him from the area to play elsewhere and tell him in advance, "If you hit Bobby again you will not be able to play with him" and if he does have him walk away or you help him if need be. I hope this helps. Just know we all know what you are going through. : )



answers from Boston on

Hi L.,

Pick up the book 1-2-3 Magic. Have everyone who deals with your son read it and stick to it. It will pay off quickly. It did wonders with my children.

D. C Mom 4 kids, 15, 13, 11 & 7



answers from Providence on

Hi, My son started this at 18 mo. just after we moved and didn't stop until he turned 3. It really was just an "age" thing. I would put him in time out or discipline him in other ways like giving him a little thigh pinch or even spanking, but nothing worked. I was rejected and judged by people who didn't understand that some kids are just more difficult. It was very hard. I finally had to just remove him from most social situations because he simply wasn't at an age that he was able to control his emotional responses to not getting what he wanted, say a toy or something. I also found (by accident) that he did really well with kids a little older than him, by maybe a year or two. With kids his own age, maybe he wanted to be in charge, but with older kids, I guess he realized that he couldn't fight them or something, I don't know, but it worked so that he could still get some social interaction. During this time, I talked with many older moms for help and educators as well. They agreed that this was a very normal thing for his age and that there was nothing wrong with him. I also know that some moms don't fall apart when their child gets pushed or hit occasionally and that it's a learning experience on both sides. These moms are hard to find though. Good luck, and if you need help, your son can always come play with my boys (now 3 1/2 and 1 1/2).




answers from Boston on

Many times kids do things simply to get attention. It sounds like this may be the case with your child. I know this is hard, and counterintuitive, but the next time he hits someone, take the "victim" away from your child and give attention to that child. You can also say to the child who's been hit "Look for a safe place." or "You can walk away from people who hit you."

In the end-up you are teaching by example rather than yelling and it is a way to bully proof kids later.

Good luck!




answers from Hartford on

Hi Lorelie -
I am a mother of 3 boys .. they are 10, 9 and 2 1/2. First, you need to know that your son's behavior is normal. All kids develop differently and he has more aggression than those he is around right now. It is true - he WILL get past his stage. My 2 1/2 year old was "bullying" his tiny little cousin who is only 10 months younger, but is a very petite little girl. My sister and I are very close and thank goodness, she was a day care teacher for many years so she was very good about it. He used to push her down whenever he'd walk by her. But we both knew that it wasn't because he was being mean. Every time he did it, one of us (mostly me) would walk over to him pick him up and calmly tell him that he needs to keep his hands to himself. I found that yelling doesn't do anything (especially with boys). I made sure we were eye to eye and I explained that pushing isn't nice and it could give "boo boos" to his "friends". I also started something that seemed to work. I taught him to put his hands at his sides - and whenever it looked like he was going to push, I said "where do your hands belong?" and he would put his hands on the sides of his thighs! (You know, like when a soldier stands in attention). Anyway, it seems like a long time, but they do grow out of that. Constant positive reinforcement is the best way to handle it. And physically removing them from the situation also teaches them that hey, if I push him, I don't get to play with him! Good luck - J.



answers from Boston on

Hi L.
If you feel your attention is divided while on the computer find a way to include him, even just talk to him in between tasks and make him feel important and part of your day while working on stuff. Maybe you can try joining some play groups...mommy and mes so that You and he can identify with others that are in the same place and get some positive social time together. Hang in there!



answers from New London on

I totally understand where your coming from. My son is now 5 years old and had the same issue. Your child probably has so much energy and doesn't know how to realease it. So, like most 2 year olds, he hits and knocks over things, and trys to push and shove. He doesn't want to be mean or hurt anyone, that's probably why he's starting to feel a little guilty. We want to end this guilty feeling in him right away. Observe him and take note when he has to hit something or act naughty. When he's about to hit give him a sqeezy ball or play dough, or something that he can mold without hurting himself or others. This will help him get that energy out without bothering anyone. Good luck :)



answers from Boston on

My son went through the same thing and now and again my daughter will come home from preschool and say "I pushed Zoe". We ask her if Zoe pushed her and she says "Yes". We ask her if she likes it when Zoe pushes her and she generally says "No". We continue with "Well, I bet Zoe doesn't like it when you push her either". She looks at house and will say "No, she was sad".

She is punished at school with time outs, so we don't punish her at home. However, when she is at home or even when my son acts out, we explain to them that they need to use "Happy Hands and Happy Feet".

This is something my Godmother used to say to all her day care children. She ran her own day care for about 20 years before she passed away. My son was lucky enough to be taken care of by her and still remembers most of what she tried to teach him.

I too find myself getting a bit upset and yes, even yelling at the children. In my heart, I feel that I have failed them when the do something that isn't proper. I'm learning that it's alright for children to make mistakes and have bad days.

Try talking to your children and asking them why they did what they did and you will find it's easier to discipline when you know where they are coming from. But, remember that you can not discipline for something that has already been disciplined for by someone else.

I hope that this is helpful. I have a 16 year old daughter, if you ever need a sitter.




answers from Boston on

This may seem too simple... But.... Love him- like crazy, all the time. (Not for bad behavior - I don't mean that.) Otherwise:
2 words per year is appropriate for a toddler. A simple No Hitting, or No pushing is all you need. And then calmly remove him from the situation. Time out.


He'll learn.

He cannot grasp a whole sentence yet. Heck - he hardly know what "friends" are!

So be gently, but firm. Let him know you mean business and you are the boss.

In my house, the time out started when my daughter was quiet (no screaming, crying, etc.) and sitting in the chair (no jumping up and out, falling on the floor, etc.) Two may be a little young for that, but later it will help.

At two? Maybe sit in the chair the first time for 30 seconds - let him know the program. Then increase it to one minute. Pros say one minute for every age.

And while you're at it - one of the first commands I taught my daugher was DANGER. Period. Not that's dangerous, you'll get hurt or anything. One word.

Now that she's ten, the "danger" concept is still in place!

Good luck.

Next question: Missing My Baby