Your sweet, kind, innocent baby has now turned into a temper-tantrum hitting machine! What are you to do? Many parents feel at a loss when trying to decipher the appropriate balance of punishment and teaching their children that hitting anyone is absolutely unacceptable. Do not fret because there are ways to get your child to stop hitting once and for all. Toddlers are known to misbehave because they are learning right from wrong. But when it comes to hitting, it needs to be nipped in the bud immediately. Children typically will hit when angry or jealous and they need to learn how to direct their anger in a different way other than hitting. When your child hits, that is grounds for being immediately and sternly reprimanded and given some time to stop and think about what he or she has done. Explain why hitting is unacceptable and don’t give in to your child’s crying or fits of rage if given a timeout for hitting. If you cave on this, the hitting problem will continue.
Never punish your child by hitting them for hitting you or others. If you do hit him or her, you are showing your child that you are going to hurt them for hurting others. The message of not hurting others is lost and you are teaching them that it is ok to hit in certain circumstances. Be firm without using physical discipline.
Sometimes, it is easy to tell when your child is about to hit. Typically children raise their hand or hands in an obvious way to show they are planning to hit another. If you are able to, grab his or her arm firmly and say, “No, we do not hit.” Some parents teach their children that instead of hitting others, they can hit an object like a pillow or toy to express their anger. We don’t recommend this approach as it is still promoting violence to “release” anger. Anger emotions need to be dealt with in a controlled manner that needs to be taught by parents. We do recommend children 3 years old and up to use squeeze balls to “squeeze” out the anger they are feeling.
Teach your child that he or she needs to express with words what is bothering them, not with violent action. If your child is too young to speak, there are some incredible books out there that show other ways to express anger without hitting. Even if children are not old enough to speak, if they hit and continue to do so, a firm and stern “NO” used a few times should definitely do the trick. Stay strong…it will get better! Make sure to calm down before discussing any hitting incidents with your child.