Toddler Hitting – How to Handle It

Toddlers can get frustrated easily. They have big feelings that can seem overwhelming to them, especially since they have so little life experience and have not learned many coping mechanisms.

Sometimes, frustration and anger come out as hitting. What are you supposed to do? Being hit by their toddler can cause some parents to become quite angry themselves, making it hard to act rationally. So it’s a good idea to read up on what kind of things you can do in order to give you, the adult, something to resort to in order to keep from having a tantrum yourself.
Here are some tips and ideas as to what you can do if your toddler hits you.

Don’t Hit Back

While you may have heard that hitting your toddler in return shows him “how it feels” or just makes you, the parent, feel better, most experts do not recommend this approach.

For one thing, toddlers really don’t have the ability to feel much empathy yet, and a lesson in “this is what it feels like when you hit me” will probably be lost on him. For another thing, hitting your toddler in return sets the stage for inappropriate hitting on the part of the parent that may escalate into abuse before you know what’s happening.

And finally, hitting your toddler in return sets a poor example; it’s said that toddlers end up doing what you do more than doing what you say.

Identify the Feeling

Remember, your toddler is overwhelmed and may not know what is happening or what she’s doing. As the parent, your primary role is to stay calm and in control. Then, you can help your toddler identify what she’s feeling. You might say, “Whoa! You hit Mom because you are so angry. Everyone gets angry, but we don’t hit. Hitting hurts!”

Even though empathetic understanding is limited in toddlers, it wouldn’t hurt to underscore the example you’re showing by identifying your own emotions to your toddler: “When you hit Mom, it hurts and makes me angry. But I did not hit you just because I was angry. I said it instead!” This not only sets a visible example, but it also gives your child a key as to what she is supposed to do when angry – say it, don’t hit it!

Know the Signs

If your toddler has a tendency to hit you when angry, a little prevention can go a long way. Watch for signs that he is getting frustrated – maybe he can’t open something, can’t reach something, or can’t locate a favorite toy. He may begin to make frustrated sounds and gestures, and it often helps for you to step in and help before the situation escalates into an angry outburst with hitting.

Also, make sure meals are generally at the same time, and be willing to let your toddler have healthy snacks between meals to keep blood sugar even.

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