Mommy SOS : Hitting

I'm so cute I think I can get away with anything..

This is a disturbing new development.. whenever I tell Jasper “No” or not to do something, or pretty much anything he doesn’t like he hits me. It’s almost instinctual, I don’t see him sit there and think about it and then do it anyway, it’s like his hand darts out to kind of swipe you quickly if he doesn’t like what he’s hearing.   Because we’ve emphasized how he should be nice and hug us and say he’s sorry if he’s done something wrong he immediatlely runs over and tries to hug you after he’s hit you, as if he can get away with anything so long as he hugs you afterwards (truth be told, it’s pretty hard to resist that hug/apology!)

When I dropped him off at daycare this morning, the class bully was exiting the bathroom and ran by Jasper and Jasper gently swiped him and the bully swiped back harder.. it was then that I realized EXACTLY where Jasper learned this behavior!  It’s funny because I had worried about the bully BULLYING Jasper, but hadn’t even thought of the fact that Jasper might also start to learn and emulate this type of behavior himself.  Obviously it’s nothing serious (though I did see the bully trying to push another toddler backwards down the little steps up to the indoor slide!) but it IS an annoyance because it happens so often that putting him in time out every time he does it gets exhausting and doesn’t seem to be having any effect.  Lately I’ve been trying to just escape him and tell him that “no one wants to play with someone who hits” but if you can’t physically keep him from you he comes running over and tries to give you a hug!  What do you say to that??

I’m all ears!

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Nicole says:

I just checked this book out at the library! Great read about toddlers and understanding them!

Alison says:

Licia – thank you so much for the “over-praise the good” suggestion! I will definitely give that a try and see if I can ignore the unwanted behavior while encouraging the good stuff.

michelle says:

Jack has been hitting alot lately too… when we were at church on Sunday, he just wouldn’t stop. But, this hitting is not out of anger, he thinks it is funny… he slaps me in the face and laughs (sounds a little evil, huh?) and I find that it is with me. By no means am I a pushover mom, but I am wondering if he thinks so since he doesn’t do it to my husband. I don’t put up with it, at home, I put him in time out. But at church there wasn’t a great place to do this. So I just took him outside, gave him a talking to and tried to redirect, still slapping. I have noticed he does it alot more when he is ready for a nap or night night. Any advice would be appreciated… the time outs aren’t really effective yet, but I am hoping he will realize soon enough that it is wrong.

Sara B. says:

We have this problem, too. I generally do a timeout and remove myself from the situation (leave the room). Marino generally hits when he is frustrated about something, but he needs to learn he can’t abuse anyone (including Mommy) just b/c he is upset. As the mama, we usually get the brunt of the frustration, but even if they aren’t hurting us, we can’t let them do it.

Anyway, I’ve told him about 876 times now he can’t hit or kick things b/c he’s mad and he now sometimes kicks the air when he’s frustrated, and he’ll tell me he’s mad and wants to kick (whatever he is mad at). It seems as though he is at least thinking about it before he does it more and more.

ariana says:

Very interesting about looking for something stressful in the baby’s life.. it could be true in our case as well.

But, I think the problem is that he thinks that gentle touch is a game – he KNOWS how to use “nice hands” and the difference between that and hit.. which is why he’ll immediately run to hug me or “pet” me on the head right after hitting me.

I just got great news that the bully is leaving daycare!

April says:

I second Ava’s “Gentle Touch” approach and I can relate to Licia’s post. I’m a SAHM to a 16 mo girl and once a week we attend Little Gym. Last month she started pinching, pulling, hitting and kicking every tot that crossed her path. I was so embarassed and frustrated bc I spent the entire 45min class apologizing for her. Another mom brought it to my attn that I was constantly saying, “No Harper. No! No!” and suggested to try saying “Gentle touch” while showing her a soft touch. It worked! I also realized, as hindsight is 20/20, that this behavior occured while I was transitioning her from Mama’s Bed to Harper’s Crib…we no longer co-sleep. I didn’t realize how stressful it was on her. Now that she has made the transition, her aggressive behavior has disappeared.

ariana says:

Great advice everyone (as usual!) I’m going to reply to each in a moment, just wanted to pop in and say I’m listening and THANK you for taking the time to share your experiences!

Yvonne says:

Hi Ariana:
Zacky gets a time out (sitting on the bottom step of our staircase) immediately when he hits. After a minute or 2 he says, “I’m ready to listen!!!” and I let him leave the stairs. I have him look me in the eyes and I ask him why he was sitting on the step. I wait for him to tell me that it was becasue he was hitting. I ask him to apologize and ask the person if they are ok (usually Serena!) Now, he is three. When he was two, I would just have him sit on the step and I would tell him that hitting hurts people. But what made the difference for us was that I was extremely consistent–every time he hit, he was on that step faster than his head could spin. I think eventually he realized that IF he hit, he could count on being put on the step. It worked proactively too: if I saw him raise his hand, I would say, “Do you want to sit on the step?” and he would think about it, and usually stop.

Heather says:

My son who is 2 and 2 mo. went through this same stage. What I realize now is that it happened for just a few months before he really started talking. We did put him in his crib for about 2 mins. when it happened. BUT, now that he does talk more, when he does something a little naughty, he says, “my go crib”…and he wants to! So, that plan has back fired a little!

In short, I think it’s just a stage, he’s not a bully, and it will be replaced by some really cute chats in a couple months! Stay tuned!

Licia says:

We had the same issue with our son this year and all the time outs, scoldings, long-winded explanations and short remarks had no significant effect on him. We met with the school psychologist and she offered some sound advice: try to figure out if there is anything going on that might be upsetting him. Nothing big, it can be a small change in schedule, daycare, etc. Something that is making him feel out of control and he’s just taking it out by hitting. In our case, we couldn’t really pin point anything but it’s worth a try.
Now, about the behavioral changes that did work for us. We realized that every time he hit he got attention. Negative attention, but attention afterall. We started to give him more attention (is that even possible? LOL) and to “catch” him doing things right. “Wow, you are being such a good boy sitting and eating your cereal.” “What a great job you are doing right now reading quietly”… Granted, catchin a toddler doing something good is hard but within three weeks the issue was nixed. Now, he only pushes every once in a while, especially when he’s around his cousins who are of the same age, but he has stopped doing so at school and with other children in general. A big improvement! I hope this helps.

nanette says:

I don’t have any words of wisdom, but just had to chime in. I was talking to my gal’s daycare peeps last week as I was wondering if she was “touchy,” as in more sensitive than other toddlers. I feel like she gets upset and offended more easily than other tots. They said that no, she’s quite calm most of the time, but if another tot does anything to her, she gets really loud and mad, backs away and doesn’t retaliate. Instead, she seems to be making a mental list, like she KNOWS that tot is no good. Daddy was kinda proud to hear that. HAHAHA.

Ava says:

Ha! I just did this exact same post last year :

Good news is that G has gotten MUUUUCH better. He still hits, but very rarely, and only when already in a bad/tantrum state where communication is clearly the problem.

I do do timeouts (S not so much), but only on more extreme cases. I did use the bumbo although I have to reposition him in it since he can get out.
Also we’ve worked on “Gentle Touch”, which is something daycare showed us. Pretty much when he hits, you take his hand, and you pet your face with it, saying “gentle touch”.

It’s also good that our daycare won’t stand for hitting either so they work through it with the kids too. Since this is behavior you OBSERVED in another child (as well as you own), talk to them about it and ask them how they are handling hitting in the classroom.

Good luck — you’re DEFINITELY not alone.

Alison says:

My son is doing the exact. same. thing! That’s not entirely surprising, since they’re practically the same age (around 20 months, yes?).

Here are my two cents: I like the “active time-out” where you re-direct your misbehaving toddler into some positive behavior/activity that you know s/he loves and when s/he decides that s/he is done, so is the time-out.

It teaches them that a) the behavior is unwanted and leads to alone time but also that b) alone time is good and productive and useful at helping them gain some self-control. Hope this helps!

ariana says:

Thanks for the thoughtful responses everyone! At least I know I’m not alone.

Jen, I think you’re right (also along the lines of what GiGi said) about non verbal communication.. I also wonder if he’s just too young to understand that it’s bad? I mean REALLY understand.

Tiffany, I so wish I had an enclosed area like a pack and play to keep him in for time out… we use a pillow that he’s supposed to sit on, but he invariably either lays down or tries to get away, which means I basically have to hold him there. Not ideal!

Katie, good to know it’s normal at least!

GiGi, I will have a really hard time with raising a boy when they “roughhouse” with each other.. it definitely makes me nervous :)

LOL Alicia.. that’s one way to do it!

Alicia says:

Owen’s not a hitter but a thrower. he throw anything at anyone when he gets hacked off.

But I always liked Bill Engvall’s take on hitting. When his son hit the little neighbor boy, he thumped his kid hard on the head and said, “Hey, Boy. We don’t hit.” :-)

GiGi says:

We did pretty much what Jen has already suggested … staying calm and having some kind of consequence. Sometimes we just plain walked away and then explained (like you did) that no one wants to play w/ someone that hits. We just tried to be calm and consistent and to also stress the importance of using WORDS to communicate frustration, etc.

That aside … on how he’s interacting w/ the school bully … remember that boys relate differently that girls. I can’t tell you how many times DH had to stop me from over reacting when Loli and the boys in his class started hitting, pushing, and name-calling one another. It *bothered* me. But on some levels, it’s how boys relate to one another. If the hitting is not done at scolding, disagreements (like over toys), etc. then it may well be a form of communication. Just a little something extra to add to your observations.

Good luck!

Katie says:

My daughter just started to hit when she is being told no also. I believe the daycare provider said that most children go through this phase because they can’t always express their feelings through words so they hit. I am not really sure how to correct this behavior except to tell her “no hit” or “no hitting”. You are a wonderful mom and I think you are doing a wonderful job.

Tiffany says:

We are having a similar problem with Elizabeth, 19 months. When she hits at home, we immediately place her in a pack and play we have set up in the dining room as a “time out” place. We leave the room for two minutes. When we put her in time out, and when we take her out, we remind her that she has to go into time out when she hits, hitting is not nice, etc. Her pediatrician recommended the pack and play b/c she won’t stay sitting on a chair. We just started a few days ago. We’ll see. We also used it to stop her from throwing her food off the table, and it worked after less than one week. Don’t know what to do when we are not home, though.

Jen says:

Hitting is a really tough one that you will probably deal with in various reincarnations over the next year or so. I certainly don’t have any magical answers for you on this one, but patience is a virtue when it comes to toddlers and hitting. I think one of the biggest things is keeping your cool and talking him to him down on his level quietly and calmly about what is not ok about hitting. We didn’t consistently use time outs when our son was Jasper’s age and just starting the hitting stage because we knew he was only trying to communicate and didn’t have any other means to do so. Now that he is almost 3, he gets a time out immediately for hitting since he knows very well that it is not acceptable. But we still always (try to at least!!) remain perfectly calm and talk to him on his own level about why he is having a time out. We also remind him that we never hit him.

Good luck and hope you get some other help :-)