Hitting is one of those unwanted behaviors in toddlers which is embarrassing and scary for the parents and it can also be very dangerous for the child and the people around him or her. I always thought that if a toddler is hitting then there must be something wrong with their parents’ parenting style (soo ignorant of me…) but when my youngest kid started to hit I realized that toddler hitting is a natural behavior some toddlers tend to have. As my elder kids were very calm and peaceful this explosive behavior of hitting was quite shocking for me. So I started researching for solutions and came out with some common causes and simple tips to stop a toddler from hitting.
Common Causes of Toddler Hitting
The million dollar question is why do some toddlers hit in the first place? The most common causes of hitting in toddlers are:
Toddlers Are Just Exploring The Environment with Their Hands
Children are on a quest to explore their environment from the moment they are born. Hands are one of the first parts of the body to be explored and after that babies explore the farther objects with their hands. In this journey of exploration, some toddlers start hitting things. Gradually this behavior of hitting things may move towards hitting people.
Toddlers Have Learnt The Behavior of Hitting From the Environment
Almost all the behaviors are learned behaviors in kids, hitting can also be one of those learned behaviors. If any child or adult hits in front of the toddler or if the toddler is exposed to violence through media then the incidence of toddler ending up becoming a hitter is obvious.
Toddlers Are Unable to Communicate Their Emotions Verbally
In the toddler years language is not fully developed in some kids. So it becomes difficult for such toddlers to communicate their negative emotions verbally. This lack of communication frustrates them and as a result behaviors like hitting, biting, slamming doors and throwing things becomes very common.
Emotional or Physical Needs of the Toddler Are Not Met
If the physical and emotional needs of a toddler are not met then the likelihood of negative behaviors increases. At times this negative behavior appears in form of hitting.
How to Stop a Toddler From Hitting
With proper guidance and conducive environment, you can teach your toddler to stop hitting.
Be a Good Example
If you want to stop a toddler from hitting the first and foremost step would be to be a good role model to follow. Do not hit back even if your toddler hits. Similarly, do not hit in front of your child and try your best to stay calm and composed. Young kids follow their parents unintentionally, give your toddler a good example to follow.
Use Distraction When Your Toddler Hits
If your child starts hitting the first step in handling the behaviors is to calmly distract the child. Hold your child’s hand firmly and take him or her away from that place. Try to divert the attention of your child, once their attention is diverted the hitting will stop.
Set Age-Appropriate Consequences and Follow Through
Every kid young and old must know that their actions bring consequences. Tell your toddler that if he or she hits there will be some consequences.
For example, if your child hits his/her toys then you will take away the toy.
After setting an age-appropriate consequence to make sure to follow through when your toddler hits. Once your child knows that you mean business hitting will gradually reduce to a minimum.
Watch Your Words
Toddlers are used to listening ‘No’ a lot. After some time they stop paying attention to that word. Use positive words to discipline your child. Instead of saying “No Hitting” try saying “Hands to yourself or Soft touches only”. These positive words are more likely to impact your child than the constant No Mantra.
Appreciate Good Behavior
Young kids live for the approval and appreciation of their parents. Once you observe that your toddler’s behavior has improved and hitting has reduced give a lot of praise and appreciate good behavior. By default, your toddler will try to behave well in future and try to receive that appreciation again and again.
Encourage Physical Activity
Toddlers are full of energy. They need to burn that energy to stay calm, happy and healthy. Encouraging a lot of physical activity like running, jumping and a lot of physical play help a lot in keeping the negative emotions of the child in check.
Help Your Toddler To Express Feelings
Lack of communication of negative feelings is a major cause of hitting in toddlers. Help your child communicate their feelings verbally.
If your child is angry about not getting a specific toy, and they cannot express their feelings it’s your duty to give words to their feelings first. Tell your child that you know that he/she is mad for not getting the toy and it’s ok to be angry but it’s never ok to hit when they are angry.
When you validate your child’s feelings the child will feel understood and the likelihood of hitting will decrease.
Teach Appropriate Behavior Through Role Play
When your child is calm and happy play different games using role play and teach the desired behavior through these games. You might use different toys of your child and subtly teach what your toddler can do instead when they have an urge to hit.
Monitor Your Toddler’s Exposure To Media
Ideally, the exposure to media for young kids should be zero but put in a reality check and most of the toddlers are very much exposed to it. There is a ton of crap in the media nowadays. Closely monitor the stories your child listens to, the video games he or she plays or the videos they watch. The violence shown in cartoons and video games teach toddlers to hit. Keep an eye on your child’s exposure to media and expose them to the beneficial stuff only.
10. Ensure That Your Toddler’s Physical and Emotional Needs Are Met
When physical and emotional needs are not met even adults become cranky and irritating. If your child is hungry, sleep deprived or feeling unloved they are bound to show negative behaviors. Make sure that your child is well fed and well slept. Show a lot of love by hugging, cuddling, kissing and verbally appreciating your child.
Some toddlers tend to hit. Parents can stop a toddler from hitting by properly training him or her. Ensuring that the physical and emotional needs of the child are met is the minimum threshold for good behavior in toddlers. Being a good role model, setting and following through age-appropriate consequences, and teaching appropriate behavior through role play helps in teaching toddlers not to hit.
Keeping an eye on the child’s exposure to media is a must. Distracting the child and using positive language when child hits may help in diffusing the situation and teaching the toddler simultaneously. Helping the toddler to communicate their feelings, encouraging a lot of physical activity and appreciating the good behavior helps in improving the child’s behavior and eventually stop them from hitting.
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