Why your baby is hitting and what you can do about it

There we were, at a baby shower, when I turned in horror to see a little girl crying on the floor. I felt sad for that little girl, but I also felt shame being the parent of the kid who hit her. I didn’t understand where my son could have possibly gotten it from. He hardly gets in trouble at home, and according to his daycare provider, he had never committed this behavior before. I was baffled, but mostly, I was embarrassed. It’s hard when your child lashes out by hitting.

According to well-known pediatrician and child-developmental specialist Dr. William Sears, hitting is a normal developmental stage for toddlers. He emphasizes the importance of not taking it personally or believing that toddlers’ hitting behavior reflects on what you are doing as a parent. Sears says, “Hands are communication tools, especially for pre-verbal toddlers.” Of course, that doesn’t make it any less frustrating when your little one starts sucker punching people.

Below are three courses of action for when your baby is hitting.

Search for cause

“Why?”  is one of the most common questions anyone asks in this situation. Naturally, if our children are hitting, we are going to wonder what the cause is. Are they copying behavior they’ve seen? Are they expressing themselves physically because they don’t have the verbal skills to do so? There are a ton of reasons why a child could be hitting.

Sadly, sometimes these reasons are not measurable. Do your best to pay attention to the environment your child is in, and see what ways they could have potentially been exposed to that behavior, but know that you may never completely figure out what’s inspiring the action.

Consistently and gently discourage

Whatever course of action you would like to take for your child hitting be consistent. For example, I try to hold my son’s hands, and say, “No we don’t hit,” every time he does this. Although our children are young, their comprehension is often better than we think. Consistently responding and making it clear that hitting is not an option is one of the best ways to avoid exacerbating the issue.

Understand that it might be a phase

As Dr. S mentioned above, hitting is something most kids go through, and this might just be another opportunity to exercise your patience.

Unfortunately, there are some things that we just have to be allowed to run their course. From conversations that I have had with other moms who have been there and survived it, hitting could just be one of those stages.

As we wait to complete this trying stage, it’s essential that we are mindful of everything we do and say. You do not want to reinforce the negative behavior. If things get rough, consider speaking with a child development specialist to see if they have any recommendations on how to make this stage more manageable.

About the author:
Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez is a writer who specializes in sociology, health, and parenting. Her work has appeared in Healthline, Yes! Magazine, HuffPost, Allure, and many other publications. Follow her on FacebookTwitter or check out her website.

  • William Sears. “Ask Dr. Sears: Toddler hitting.” Parenting. Meredith women’s network. Retrieved December 11 2017. http://www.parenting.com/article/ask-dr-sears-toddler-hitting.
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