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How to Teach a Toddler it is Not OK to Hit

If a toddler is hitting does that make them aggressive? How do you teach a child not to hit? And how long will it take? And why do some children never struggle with this behavior?

1. No. Though it doesn't change that it hurts the receiver. Hitting in toddlers is a sign of lack of impulse control and can be triggered by anger, exhaustion, an unmet need, or even excitement and happiness (slap 😊 happy!). The more understanding you have about the "why" the easier it will be to help them work towards another coping skill.

2. You teach them the skills they need to manage their reactions without hitting.

3. This can take a few times of teaching or a very long time (as in a whole developmental stage type months and months and for some kids years)

4. Kids are all wired differently. And have different environments too.

Kids who are sensory-seeking tend to struggle with this behavior more than sensory-sensitive kids. It's not aggression, it's expression and they are struggling to verbalize and tend to physicalize their communication.

(If this is overwhelming to you, find an Occupational Therapist to help you identify tools and goals to help)

Kids who have trauma may hit more out of a chemical fear response in their brains.

This doesn't make your toddler bad or out of control, it makes them a developing kid who is learning how to communicate their needs.

Stay calm.

Remove them from stressors.

Teach coping words/strategies when they are calm (not in the moment).

Hang in there. It. Gets. Better

One of the most common questions I get is, how do I help my toddler know that it's not okay to hit? My name is Eli. I'm a licensed therapist, and I help parents learn how to use connection and guidance instead of control and punishment. First step in helping a toddler learn not to hit by pinch, spit, kick, whatever.

It's understand they are not doing it out of violence or aggression, even if they're doing it in anger. It isn't aggression, it's lack of impulse. Say this because I know a lot of parents get freaked out and think this, this behavior means their children are headed for a life of crime and violence.

Second thing you wanna do is you wanna ask yourself the question, why was my child hitting? Were they hitting out of frustration or mania? Like they're overtired and they're kind of slap happy, and so they're slapping you, hitting repetitive, which is often the case for kids who might have undiagnosed autism spectrum or some kind of sensory seeking.

did they learn the behavior after their cousin came over and showed them how to be rough and tough? Once we understand why our children are doing what they're doing, then we are far more prepared to figure out how to help them do something different. Let's say your child's hitting out of anger. Then you can go to your child and say, Hey, we stomp our feet when we're angry.

You're mad. You feel real mad. But we don't hit cuz hitting hurts. We set a limit though and remove them from people when they are being harmful like that. Something like, I'm gonna keep you safe and move you out of the situation right now. I want you have the expectation that it will take years for them to develop the skill of managing their.

And not lashing out physically doesn't mean you failed. Means there between the ages of two and five.


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