Each one of my 3 kids has gone through a hitting, kicking, and/or biting phase as a toddler. Believe me, it’s normal!
Toddlers are growing and learning. They don’t really know how to express themselves. But, they do feel strong emotions.
I like to think of them as mini teenagers, with anger, happiness, sadness, and frustration raging through them.
…and often times it’s Mom, Dad, or an unsuspecting sibling that will face the brunt of their anger with a toddler tantrum that includes a good bite, hit, or kick that really hurts!
Is hitting a toddler phase?
Yes! Hitting is definitely a toddler phase because your toddler is frustrated. This is how they are trying to express to you or the family dog that they are frustrated or angry.
Research supported by The UC Berkeley Institute of Human Development explains that infants and toddlers have a poor regulation of their frustrations.
This phase will pass because your toddler will grow into a child who can better regulate their emotions and express them in better ways than hitting or biting.
How do you stop your toddler from hitting?
Stopping your toddler from hitting or doing other outward harm is very possible.
This can be done with positive parenting strategies that don’t involve harsh punishments like spanking.
Here are some positive steps to take to stop your toddler from hitting:
- Find out your toddler’s hitting and biting triggers. Is there something that repeatedly makes them upset? Is it a fight over a toy between siblings, leaving your child with a baby sitter, them not getting a treat they want?
- Try to remove any triggers you are able to. Minimize the stress and frustration from your toddler. Don’t buy snacks or watch shows that cause tantrums. Make leaving grandmas house a more positive and rewarding experience. Take away a toy that is always a source of contention between siblings.
- Pinpoint any changes or stress. Did you recently move? Start a new job? Is there anything at home that could be stressing out your toddler. Toddlers are sensitive to change and they could just need some extra reassurance through more one on one time or cuddle time.
- Use positive reinforcement. Really praise your toddler for doing well. Tell them you are so proud when they react appropriately. Toddlers really love attention. You can even come up with a sticker or reward chart.
- Let them know it hurts. Make sure your toddler knows they are hurting you by giving a loud ouch or telling them “You really hurt mommy when you hit me”.
- Get down on their level. When talking to your toddler get on their level. Make sure they can make eye contact with you and talk in a calm but firm voice.
- Give short timeouts with a clear reason. Timeouts should be short. (1 minute per age) Give them a clear reason why they are on time out. Don’t interact with them while they are on time out. After have a short to the point conversation. “You were on a time out because you hit mommy and it really hurt”.
- Show an increase in love. Make sure your toddler knows you still love them after any time out or discipline. Give them a big hug and kiss after your talk and tell them you love them.
- Know when it’s too much. Are you worried your toddler’s tantrums are too much with excessive crying, hitting, and biting. It might be time to talk with a pediatrician, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional.
How can I prevent future biting and hitting from my toddler?
Eventually you and your toddler will get to a point where you can prevent and stop biting and hitting all together.
- Learn their triggers and stop what you can.
- Keep your toddler busy with fun toddler activities.
- Limit screen time (Screen time can be a big toddler tantrum trigger)
- Teach your toddler healthy habits, so they have more things to do besides hitting and biting.
- Talk with your toddler about personal space. Keeping their hands to themselves. Especially when it comes to family pets.
Toddlerhood is tough! There is a reason they call them the terrible two’s.
But, with a good positive parenting plan, positive reinforcement, and getting to know your toddler’s frustrations you can definitely stop hitting and kicking for good.