Toddler Hitting.... Make it Stop?


How can we get our toddler to stop hitting us? Even if we give her a time-out, she keeps doing it.

A., North Providence, Rhode Island

Thanks so much for writing in, A. I feel your pain. My daughter had a similar problem when she was a toddler. She went through a hitting phase. As parents, we were dumb-founded. We later realized that hitting was her way of “acting out” about missing us during the workday. After a lot of consistency on our part, she stopped doing it.

Toddlers often display behaviors such as hitting to test out different behavior to see how adults (or other children) react. Your daughter could also have some “need” that she’s expressing through hitting. Please keep in mind that you have done NOTHING wrong. It could be something simple that’s completely out of your control such as teething or growing pains, for example. Unfortunately, it’s an aggressive behavior and needs to be stopped.

My advice to you is to be strong and consistent. You CAN do this! You can help your daughter stop this behavior. To give you a head start, follow the tips below. You could see a difference in a matter of weeks.

 Tips to help your toddler kick the hitting habit:

  1. Your child gets your attention when she hits, so don’t react right away.
  2. Gather yourself. Take a deep breath. Count to 10. Don’t let your frustration take over because it only adds fuel to the fire.
  3. Pick her up and remove her from the situation. (Especially if it happens in public!)
  4. Go beyond “No”. Gently hold your daughter’s hands, look her in the eye and explain
    “We do not hit”. Block her hands from hitting in a gentle manner.
  5. When you talk to her, realize she is only a toddler and she is too young to understand everything you’re saying.
  6. Although she cannot express herself the same way we can, reassure her that the behavior is wrong. For example, when she hits, say, “Mommy wants you to stop hitting.” Or “Hitting hurts.” Although it may not stop the hitting right away, she will feel reassured that you acknowledge her.
  7. Feel free to use her language. Rather than say “hurt,” say “owies,” for example, so she understands what you mean.
  8. Show her a positive way to use her hands. For example, give her a high-five or wave “hello”. When she mimics this positive behavior, reward her with positive feedback and a hug.
  9. Be consistent. Every time she hits, be strong and follow these steps.
  10. If she still does not stop hitting, give her a time-out FOLLOWED by these steps. After her time out of about 30 to 45 seconds, stress that hitting is not nice.
  11. If she says she is sorry, reward her with positive feedback. Give her a hug and let her go back to playing.
  12. Be consistent and after a couple months, you should see a difference.

Jackie is a local writer and pr professional who blogs about her take on motherhood at and writes about it in her book, How to Spread Sanity on a Cracker. Join Jackie and the rest of the Listen to Your Mother Providence cast on Saturday, May 4, where local women give Mother’s Day a microphone. For ticket information and further details, visit