Toddler Hitting

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How to cope with toddler hitting

Toddler hitting and Biting.  As a first time mom, I am now experiencing for the first time my 20 month old daughter hitting me, mostly on my face.  It happens at different times, whether she is angry that I did not give her something or if we are just laying around on the couch watching TV (something we already try to limit but have given in more than we’d like to).  My husband and I have tried everything, from ignoring her to sitting her down and talking about how hands are not for hitting, to even spanking, something we regret right after.

Well according to what I have read and been told by our pediatrician, many toddlers go through this stage of hitting and biting. Most tell parents to not take it personally (easier said than done).  I try to remind myself that it’s nothing that I am doing wrong and to try to stay focused and calm when the hitting arises.   With that said, any parent can find this stage sometimes overwhelming to handle.  Here are some tips I found on Dr. Sears website that has helped me and may help you as a parent or even as a nanny caring for a child.

Don’t spank!

In Dr. Sears’ opinion, spanking is the number-one no-no when disciplining a child that hits. You’re simply reinforcing the message that it’s okay to use your hands to resolve a situation. Using spanking as a consequence can be confusing, because you are trying to teach that hitting is wrong in the first place.

Track the trigger….

Keep a diary of the situations that seem to trigger hitting episodes. Is your child tired, bored, hungry or angry? See if there is a pattern, and once you’ve identified the trigger, try to address it. Also, take inventory of your current family situation—could a recent change in family dynamics be causing the aggression, such as a move, marital discord, a change in daycare provider or other upset? Or, perhaps your child has been recently exposed to a new group of peers who hit, and is learning to use hitting as a form of communication, or a way of getting attention? If this is a possibility, spend a day at your little one’s daycare, or other social group setting, and observe the behavior of the other kids, and how your toddler reacts to them. Also, purposely arrange playdates with less-aggressive children who use their hands appropriately.  Since a usual target is the face, also take steps to ensure that none of your toddlers playmates or caregivers are striking your child in the face.

Make communication fun!

Some children simply have a natural tendency to use their hands as communication tools. If this is your child, teach  fun, alternative gestures that channel this impulse appropriately. For example: As soon as their hand starts to go toward your face, quickly intervene with a cue phrase and gesture, such as, “Give me five!”

Give more touch time…

Spend as much time as you can holding and snuggling your daughter. Try giving your little one a baby massage. Modeling appropriate touch helps them learn how to use their hands in a more gentle manner.

Offer alternative means of communication….

In most cases, children don’t hit out of anger or frustration—often, it’s just a confused way of getting your attention. The key to quelling this type of hitting is to showthem how to communicate with their hands using more gentle gestures. Try to substitute a positive behavior for an annoying one: Next time she’s about to hit you, immediately distract her with a more pleasant interaction, such as playing a game she enjoys or giving her a favorite toy to hold. If this doesn’t work, then, when she hits, tell her: “We don’t hit, we hug.” You can also take her hand and show her how to pat your arm or face gently while talking about it. Continually demonstrating and discussing alternative gestures requires patience; this concept may take some time to sink in.

By using such techniques and others that may seem desirable puts us, as caregivers, on the right track by not giving to the negative behavior. At this age toddlers gradually get the message that hitting will be followed by an undesirable consequence, such as walking away, or being sent to time-out. Don’t give in to the hitting, and continue to positively reinforce a behavior when the child may hug or kiss you before or after the hitting arises.  Soon the child will learn that hitting never wins the prize, but hugging often will.

Hope this may help a little as it helped me.  If you are a Nanny needing some support in how to deal with toddler hitting or tantrums, please feel free to contact us via our website or via (305) 77-3816.  We can provide helpful educational literature to guide you in providing the best possible childcare.

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