All Articles Parenting Kids Ages 0-4

What to Do When Your Baby or Toddler Hits You

Limited language, sleep deprivation, poor frustration tolerance . . . any of these can be an underlying factor for an act of aggression toward you by your little one.  Slaps from babies and toddlers may be more reactionary than intentional, but don’t let that keep you from addressing it.  Here are our tips on how to nip this behavior in the bud:

1) If you are holding the child during the incident (the most likely scenario), say, “No hitting,” put him down somewhere safe and walk away.  What to do when baby hits

2)  After a few minutes, return to where he is, sit next to him (do not hold him during this interchange) and say, “Hitting hurts.  You need to show me gentle hands.”  As you say this second part, stroke him gently to demonstrate.

3) Have him show you gentle touch and then say, “Thank you!  That touch feels very gentle.”

4) Do not simply say, “That’s not nice.” Words mean very little at this age, actions mean everything.  Take it seriously (even if it didn’t hurt) and so will he.

5)  Do not allow him to hit you more than once.  Swiftly follow the aggressive act with steps 1-3 above.

6) Don’t hit back to “show him what it feels like.”  This will only muddy the waters and confuse the little one.

7)  Repeat this process as often as necessary.  For some children, this behavior may take some time to dissipate.

8 ) Point out gentle hands whenever you notice them.  Kisses, hugs, gentle pats are the kinds of touches you want to encourage.  Verbally label them as “gentle touches” when they happen so he knows what they are.

About the author

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in children and families. CfP is the place she combines some of her very favorite things: writing, parenting and God's word. She loves encouraging parents to build their families upon Jesus, the one true Cornerstone. She is happily married to a wonderfully supportive husband and is the mother of two delightfully inspiring children.

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