6 Tips for Dealing With A Toddler Who Hits

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Mom of 3’s expert tips on how to discipline a toddler who hits you and others around.

You’re probably thinking that no child could possibly be as challenging as a 2-year old. After all, how much trouble can one little toddler possibly get into?

You’ll soon find out! Two-year-olds are fast learners and quickly master new skills. They also have short attention spans, which means they’re bored and frustrated with almost any activity within minutes.

They test boundaries constantly, which can make caring for them a real challenge.

If you feel like your life has become a nonstop juggling act because of your 2 year old, here are some ways to cope:

I’ve Had My Fair Share Of Toddler hitting

It was a typical day at the park. The kids were running around, playing on the slides and swings. My two-year-old son was toddling around after his big brother, who is five.

Suddenly, I heard a cry. I turned to see my two-year-old clutching his head, tears streaming down his face. His brother had hit him with a toy.

I scooped up my little one and comforted him. I asked his brother what had happened. He said that he was just playing and didn’t mean to hurt his brother.

I could see the remorse in his eyes. I knew he was telling the truth. I told him that it was okay and that accidents happen. I explained that we all make mistakes and that it’s important to apologize when we do.

I hugged both of my boys and kissed their heads. I was so grateful that they had each other. Even though they might fight at times, they always end up making up. That’s the beauty of brotherhood.

Why Does A Toddler Hit?

Whether your child hits you, his or her friends at daycare, or siblings at home, hitting is not normal toddler behavior.

Toddlers, who have not yet developed the language and communication skills to express frustrations or desires, often resort to aggression as a means to communicate what they want, feel or need.

Some children hit because of a developmental delay that prevents them from expressing themselves in a more appropriate way.

Other children hit because they are anxious or stressed. Whatever the reason, hitting is a sign that your child needs your help to learn other ways of getting their needs met. At this age, children are able to physically inflict more damage than when they were younger.

Because of this, it’s more important than ever to take action if you have a toddler who hits. If you ignore this behavior, you risk it escalating into a more dangerous pattern of violence.

discipline 2 year old hitting

Talk and listen

Engaging your 2-year-old in conversation can help you understand what’s going on in her little head, why she’s acting out, and help her get some of her feelings out.

Be sure to listen carefully, however, so you can respond appropriately (and avoid a power struggle). If you don’t understand what she’s trying to tell you, say so: “Hmm, I don’t understand.

What are you trying to say?” When you’re talking to a 2-year-old, however, use short sentences.

Don’t expect your child to be able to follow long, complex chains of thought such as, “What do you see outside the window? Oh, you see the birds! Birds are God’s creatures.

They’re very special to God because he put them on the earth to sing for people.” When you talk with your child, keep it simple.

Use time-outs effectively

Many parents mistakenly assume that a child who can’t sit still is a child who can’t sit still for a time-out.

But even a 2-year-old can learn to sit quietly in a chair for a few minutes. Incorporate time-outs in your discipline plan for misbehaving or out-of-control children of any age.

For a 2-year-old, though, a time-out is more likely to be effective when it involves a “quiet” activity—such as sitting on a chair with one’s hands in one’s lap (no rocking, playing with toys, etc.).

Time-out should last for 3-5 minutes. You can start with one minute per year of age and always increase the time if the misbehavior continues.

Be firm, but stay calm

Your 2-year-old is testing to see what you’ll tolerate. You can’t let your child bend your rules or break the rules and then just go on as if nothing ever happened.

But don’t fly off the handle every time you’re dealing with your child’s misbehavior. Stay calm, even if you feel like screaming. Take a few deep breaths, count to 10 if you need to.

Calmly and matter-of-factly tell your child what he did wrong and why it’s not acceptable. Then follow up with an appropriate consequence (see below).

Set boundaries and be consistent

Your 2-year-old has a strong need for order and structure. Find out what his natural limits are (what he’s comfortable doing and what he isn’t) and then set boundaries around those activities.

For example, if your child has trouble sitting still, don’t expect him to sit still in the car (unless you have him in a car seat or are driving with him in the back seat). If your child is always on the go, don’t try to make him sit down at a meal.

If your child’s restlessness is interfering with family activities, set up an area with toys or books that he can play with while the rest of the family is doing something together.

As with other aspects of caring for a 2-year-old, you’ll find that consistency will help your child feel more secure and less frustrated.

Don’t cave to demands

If your 2-year-old wants to watch TV when you’ve told her it’s time to eat, don’t just turn on Sesame Street.

If she wants a particular toy at the store, don’t buy it. If she’s tired but you’ve decided bedtime is 5:00 p.m., don’t let her whine and plead until she’s so tired she can barely keep her eyes open.

If your child makes a demand, calmly and matter-of-factly let her know that you have decided otherwise. If your child gets upset, calmly comfort her and reassure her that you love her and will do what’s best for her.

Give yourself a break!

Babies and toddlers are a lot of work. You’ll probably feel like you’re running nonstop, with little time to take care of yourself.

You may feel like you’re always behind on your housework and other chores or that you never have time to do the things you enjoy. If this describes your situation, you may want to consider hiring child care for your child.

It’s completely reasonable to expect that having a child will disrupt your life for a few years. During those years, you need to take care of yourself so that you have the energy and resources to care for your child.


You may think that you’re prepared for the challenges of parenting a 2-year-old, but you’ll soon discover that nothing can truly prepare you for what parenting a child this age is really like.

Your child’s rapid developmental changes, his constantly changing moods and desires, and his need for your attention at all times will put you on a roller coaster of emotions.

You’ll probably also find that you need to adapt your parenting skills and strategies as your child grows.

One day you’ll look back and realize that those challenging 2-year-olds have grown up and become amazing little people.

Toddler Hitting Frequently Asked Questions

Why do toddlers hit others for no reason?

There is always a rationale for what children do. There may appear to be no cause at times, yet there is. Consider which underlying need the child is trying to satisfy — power, experience, or connection – and you’ll be able to figure out the best strategy to help your child stop hitting.

Why do toddlers hit themselves?

Parents can begin by validating why their child is sad or frustrated. Parents can then intervene and assist the child in finding a different way to communicate their dissatisfaction without injuring themselves.

How to respond when toddler hits mom only?

To begin with, the child may believe that mom is a secure place to let down his or her guard and misbehave.

Toddler hitting at daycare?

My best advice is to work with your child at home using role-playing or doll play to assist them in practise dealing with upsets without hitting.

What do you do when your toddler hits another child?

It is critical to immediately walk between the two children OR place one arm between the two children. If your child is suffering with striking and it is becoming a habit, you should keep a tight eye on them so you can intervene quickly.

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