How Do You Stop Your Toddler from Hitting?

My son hits.  He hits when he is frustrated, he hits when he doesn’t want help with a task and he hits when he wants someone to back away.

This behavior is new but completely unwelcome.

Johannes is starting Montessori in a couple of months and I do not want him hitting any of the other children, or teachers.  So I am adamant to put an end to this behavior as soon as possible.

When Johannes hits me I crouch down to his level right away, I take  his hands and look him in the eyes and say in my sternest voice, “You do not have the right to hit me.  You are allowed to be frustrated, but you cannot hit.”  Generally this works to stop the behavior.  He buries his head down in shame, and sometimes even cries a little.  But a day will pass and its as though he forgets.  I’m hoping by continuing to address the behavior right away, this will end.

Truthfully I understand why my toddler hits.  I understand that he is trying to communicate with those around him and no one understands him.  I understand and empathize with his frustration.  However I do not condone hitting.  I want to express to him that he is allowed to be upset and that he has every right to feel like he does, but he must channel it some other way.

How did you deal with hitting?  Or is my toddler the only one who hits?




  1. says

    Our Andrew is in the exact phase.
    It has been for a few months now.
    We kneel down at his level and say please no hitting. Be kind.
    Hoping it passes with our consistency.
    Once I swatting him back lightly and I was devastated and still regret doing that.
    Stay the course. They will learn kindness as your parenting is so very clearly kind.
    I love these quick life posts you do btw!!
    THANKS for keepin it real!

  2. says

    Oh I remember that phase, and I honestly don’t remember much about it – isn’t that terrible? It was pretty fast I think. I think I would do like you – get down on his level and say NO – we don’t hit. And then I’d walk away for a minute. Kind of like my own time out. The separation from me was usually enough to nip it in the bud. Oh and now with his sister I tell him we use our hands for love and I rub his face with my hands so he’ll do that to Caroline sometimes and it’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!

  3. Silje says

    All toddlers (or at least every toddler I’ve ever known) go through this phase due to frustration and not being able to communicate…hitting, biting, grabbing toys….COMPLETELY NORMAL. Davis came home many times with bite marks or apology notes from kids who had hit him. Sometimes Davis was the one doing the hitting…he even bit a child once 🙁 It’s hard but it is a phase they go through….and the teachers at the school are probably very used to it (So don’t be embarrassed or ashamed…they know that it is a normal development phase) and know how to deal with it…Davis’s preschool has guidelines on how they deal with hitting and biting and I am sure the Montessori has the same. There are a lot of things you can do tackle hitting…rather than write you a novel…here is a link to some ideas that I use:

  4. says

    First of all, J is definitely not the only toddler that hits! And brace yourself – because it’s pretty likely J will hit and be hit when he starts Montessori too!

    I was going to suggest the same PhD in Parenting link. This is another good link

    We’ve also had success with the kids book ‘hands are not for hitting’ ( It gives a bunch of examples of what hands are for – hugging, saying hello, waving goodbye, etc.

    Good luck!

  5. says

    It’s very common, and definitely annoying. I do think though that the language you’re using is too complicated for his age. Simple phrases are understood and comprehended much better by a toddler at his age with his limited understanding of vocabulary. He’s reacting more to your tone of voice than what you are saying now. “No hitting. Hitting hurts mommy. Ouch!” will, I think, be more effective (at least, it has been for me). When kids are that frustrated their logical side of the brain shuts down and they can’t process all of our words, which is why – even for advanced talkers like my son – simple is best in the heat of the moment. You are definitely doing a good thing by getting down to his level though and looking him in the eye.

    Something else that’s worked for us is redirecting. “We don’t hit, we hug!” This works best when my son is hitting simply to get a reaction vs. reacting to being mad about something.

    I’m reading “Happiest Toddler On the Block” right now and it has some very helpful suggestions for communicating with toddlers when they’re frustrated to curb negative behavior.

  6. Brandi says

    Hi! There is LIGHT at the end of the tunnel, promise!! We just walked out of that phase, thankfully. It’s stressful and mortifying. It lasted about 2 months, but we would hold my sons hands, while looking him in the eye, using a stern voice and say “No, that is not nice.” It didn’t always work, sometimes we used time out or we would pretend crying to let him know that it hurt us. One day, I went to bed and thought to myself, Wow Landon hasn’t hit in a few days. Two weeks later we are still going strong! Persistence pays off. 🙂 Good luck and stick to your guns!

    • says

      Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions. I really like the idea of “hands are for hugging” or “hands are for love” hehe that’s so cute!i used it yesterday actually. And Yes I will try to be consistent and hope it stops at some point 🙂

      Sara, I think if the mom just stands back and doesn’t do anything to try and correct the behavior that I would definitely bring it up to her. But if she’s trying to teach him not to do it then its not much she can do in addition to that. I tell my son “not to hit” but he still does it. It doesn’t mean I’m not aware of it. 🙂

  7. says

    Oh boy, at least he’s not biting! It must be so frustrating for wee ones not to be able to communicate. Being that I’m just the aunty and definitely don’t like getting hit, can I say something to mom about this?

  8. says

    You are definitely not alone. Wren just started doing this as well.
    She mostly does it when you get in her face and it is not welcome…although sometimes she does it out of frustration. I am usually already on her level when it happens. I tell her “no hitting, hurts Mommy, ouch.” Sometimes she does it again and other times she stops and hugs or kisses me. When she does it again I use a firmer voice. Sometimes this leads to her putting her bottom lip out.
    I hope this stage passes, I am sure it will as most do:)

  9. Yifat says

    sometimes it helps when you put words into what you think your toddler feel.
    For example, after he try hitting you hold his hand – just to stop him from hitting – and say: “don’t hit, I understand you are angry because /disappointed /you want to do this on your on…. ”
    Since he can’t yet express himself it helps him to know that you understand him and he learns off the variety of feelings he might experience.
    Hope I expressed the idea well enough since english is not my native tongue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *