To stop a toddler hitting, firstly, have a rule about hitting.
Children’s brains think in pictures. So if you say ‘don’t hit!’ Your child has to imagine themselves hitting and then try to picture themselves not hitting.
So word it positively -have a rule like…

  • Being angry is ok but keep your hands to yourself.
  • Keep people and property safe.
  • Say what you’re feeling with words.

That way your toddler can picture what it is they need to do.

Secondly, help your toddler really understand what they can and can’t do.
Several times a day ask lots of questions about it.

  • So… what’s the new rule about hitting?
  • What can you do if you’re upset?

Yes, you can tell us how you’re feeling.

  • What should you do if you feel like hitting?

Yes, you need to keep your hands to yourself.

  • What can you do instead?

Yes, that’s a good answer; you could say how you feel.

  • Is there anything else you could do?

Yes you could hit a pillow –that’s ok

  • Why’s hitting a pillow ok?

Yes, it means you’re not hurting anyone or breaking anything.

  • What would happen if you try to hit Mummy?

Yes, Mummy will stop you by holding your arm.

  • And if another boy or girl try to take what you’re playing with, what can you do?

Yes, you can say in a loud voice-‘Please give that back, I was playing with that.’ Shall we practice that now?

  • Is it ok to hit them?

No, that’s right we have to keep people safe.

And finally: If your toddler hits, get them to make up for it by caring for the person they hurt.
So if they hurt another child, don’t shout at them or send them away. Instead, give lots of attention to the child who was hit.

  • Get your child to go and fetch a damp cloth to put on the hurt
  • Or find a toy or something to cheer the child up.
  • They may like to stroke the child gently or pat them.
  • Or they may like to say sorry.

Afterwards, talk to your child calmly. Ask what they forgot to do. Ask what they need to remember next time. And do a role play where you pretend to be the other child, and they respond the right way. And then move on, and don’t mention it again.

So to stop your toddler hitting 3 tips are:

  1. To make up a new rule about hitting, such as keep your hands to yourself.
  2. Ask questions to help your child understand what they can and can’t do,
  3. And if they do hit get them to make up for it by caring for the person they hurt.

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If you need more than three tips on this – or you’d like to discover the secrets you need to have happy well-behaved, children – please contact me by clicking here. You can arrange a free 20-minute (no obligation) chat to find out if working with me personally (by phone, Skype or face-to-face) would help you and your family. Contact Elizabeth

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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