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What to Do When Your Child Hits at School

What can parents do if their child hits at school? Here are tips on how to collaborate, understand and intervene in aggressive behaviors at school.

If your child hits at school, you are likely experiencing a range of emotions. You may feel embarrassed, frustrated or helpless. To make matters worse, your child may be well-behaved at home, but become a different child when in the company of other children. What can you do? 

Here we will explore what you can do to uncover the cause of the misbehavior and ways you can collaborate with the school and intervene at home to bring an end to your child’s physical aggression towards others.

Ask for a meeting

Once you receive a report that your child is acting aggressive at school with other children, ask for a meeting with his teachers. Tell them you want to address the issue head on, but you need their help. 

Ask them what has worked in the past with other children with this problem. Share what works at home. Ask how you might stay informed on a daily basis. Would email be best? What about a notebook that travels between home and school and contains notes on aggressive incidents, triggers and what is working and what is not? 

Create a partnership with your child’s teacher so that you can approach the issue as teammates, not adversaries.

Look “under” the behavior

Generally, children misbehave for a reason. Finding out what is fueling your child’s aggression towards other children is your first step to finding a solution. 

If your child is only hitting in the school setting, have his teacher monitor the acting out incidences and give you his or her impressions of what types of situations are most triggering. 

Is he being bullied or picked on? Does he hit when he is provoked by a more aggressive child? Is he misinterpreting social cues (thinking something is aggression when it is in fun)? Does he get angry when he attempts to enter a social group but is rebuffed? Whatever it is, there is likely a theme. Accurately identifying this underlying theme is a very important preliminary step toward resolution.

You may need to look at your mornings as well. On those days when your child hits another student, has he had a good, restorative night sleep? Has he eaten a breakfast high in protein and with complex carbohydrates? Was there conflict in the morning routine? Did he leave the house angry or upset? How we send our kids off to school impacts their behavior at school. Take a hard look at your home environment for clues as to what might be creating a spark of anger that later gets fanned into flames at school.

NOTE: Anger outbursts can be a sign of depression in young children. It can also be their threat response to a trigger if they have a trauma history. Both of these will likely require professional help of some kind.

Create consistency across environments

It is important to evaluate any disparities between school and home. Are there expectations at school that are not reflected in your home? As much as possible, you want to make the two environments in which your child spends the majority of his time to be as congruent as possible. 

Do you expect him to wait his turn to speak? Do you make sure he has ample opportunities to share, ask for what he needs and express himself with words? Do you make attempts to distract him from mounting frustration instead of teaching him to face it head on? You want your child to have safe opportunities to experience and deal with strong feelings. Furthermore, you want these incidents to occur at home, where you have the opportunity to train in real time.

Even if you have one child, you can change the environment to better reflect the school’s. When it is game time, tell him that it is your turn to pick. When playing outside, tell him you would like to shoot some baskets with him. Encourage problem solving and cooperation during times of competing desires. These interactions can teach important social skills that are essential in a school setting.

Teach anger management skills

We all have our innate bent when we are threatened or stressed in some way. Some people retreat, some freeze, and some lash out. Kids who hit other children are predisposed to a fight response when they feel threatened. This threat can be real or perceived. Also, children who live in homes when anger is expressed without restraint, are more likely to model that behavior in the “real world.” These children need tools to help manage their anger. Here are some tips:

  1. Teach your child to recognize the early signs of an explosive outburst
  2. Teach them words to express their feelings
  3. Practice self-regulation strategies
  4. Help them learn to walk away
  5. Teach them cognitive strategies that will enable them spot thinking errors
  6. Provide a lot of positive feedback when he uses one of these tools when angered

Apply consequences

Consequences should be logical, fit the “crime” and happen in the venue in which the behavior took place (such as missing recess if the incident happened at recess or being a helper for part of the day to the child who was hurt). Whatever you and the school decide for discipline, make sure that once the consequence has been fulfilled, that you do not engage in “double jeopardy” – if he has made amends and fulfilled the consequence, the board is wiped clean. By approaching every day as a new opportunity for success, you will help him focus on mastery of this issue rather than failure.

Communication, understanding, consistency (in environments and discipline), and celebration of success are the key elements in working toward resolving this issue for your child. 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.


  • Hi Laura,
    Thanks for your article. I found it helpful. Is this aimed at young kids or also pre/early teens or would you suggest different steps for an older child?
    Thank you

    • Hi Kate,
      Good question. I think the general principles apply for any age child. For older kids I would be more mindful of a few things: 1) if this was a sudden new change in behavior which can be indicative of other factors at play 2) consider possible neurodivergence (limited emotion regulation is a hallmark sign) 3) consider impact of fluctuating hormones on behavior 4) seek resources within the school system such as social skills groups.

      I hope that helps!

  • Hi Laura! My son is 9 years, he has been involved in lots of hitting and beating kids. Lots of suspensions from school. I relocated to new environment because of the constant calls from the school about his bad behaviours but it’s never change in his new school . Please what should I do because I’m tired and frustrated. Kindly advice me on what to do please

    • Hi Cynthia,
      I am sorry you and you son are going through such a hard time. It sounds like the change in environment did not help but that was a good first step to see if it was environmentally dependent. Has he ever had an evaluation by a psychologist, occupational therapist or learning specialist? If not, I would start there. Hopefully the school can provide you with recommendations for what would make the most sense for him and provide you with references. In addition, he might benefit from individual therapy or group therapy so he can have a space to explore what might be going on underneath the anger.
      I hope that helps,

  • Hi Laura,
    My 3.5 year old son started preschool in September and had a rough time adjusting. He was crying everyday (we reduced his time so he now goes 3 days a week for 3 hours). The crying has lessened (either no crying or a few minutes when he gets to school). However, lately his teacher has been reporting behavior such as hitting other kids, pulling a student’s hair, spitting, kicking a door, and throwing a chair down. Can you offer any insight on how we can stop this behavior? Every night before school my son says he does not like school and he wants me to stay with him (this is his first time away/apart from family).

    • Hi KC,
      First off, kudos to you for making adjustments for your son to help him with this transition- not every child is ready for a full school schedule at 3 years old.

      I am curious if the behaviors your teacher is describing seem like your son or quite unlike him? If these are not behaviors that he is displaying anywhere else, then I would dig a little deeper into the school environment. Was there a change recently that triggered this change in behavior? A new child in the classroom? A new teacher? A new routine? His behavior is communicating something to you, it’s just a matter of figuring out what that is. I think trying to get to the bottom of “why now?” would be a great place to start.
      I hope that helps,

  • Hi Laura,

    My son just turned 5 and is in PreK. He has issues sharing friends and when he gets upset he hits. I’m not sure how to handle this, I’ve tried practicing calming exercises, telling him to use his words, taking away privileges but it keeps happening.

    • Hi Sam,
      It is hard for kids that age to be able to access emotion regulation skills in the moment of a highly activating situation. It might be helpful to focus more on the sharing than the hitting. You could try intentionally creating opportunities for sharing at home. For example, you could play together, taking turns as you play. Verbally note every time he shares with you (ex: “Thank you for sharing your toys with me! It’s fun when we can play together with the same toy.”) Also look for any moment when you see him sharing and point it out verbally to him. You want to magnify the behaviors you want to see more of. If he is having a hard time sharing at school too, you could also give him practice in real time by having a play date at a shared space (such as a pubic library) where you stay involved and again give him a lot of verbal encouragement for sharing when he plays. When you notice he starts to look upset, you could empathize (“you’re feeling angry he is playing with that toy. What can you do with those feelings?”) Then encourage him to continue to share the toys that are there for everyone or take a break if he needs it. As an aside, when playing with friends at home, it can also help children to know that there are certain toys of theirs that they don’t have to share and those can be put away. Knowing that there are certain things that are “just his” may help him let go of a perceived sense of ownership over shared toys.
      I hope that helps,

  • Good morning
    My daughter is in kindergarten which the school said that she should of been in preschool this year but how her birthday falls she turned 5 before school started so they had to put her in the proper grade for her age anyways she is going to school every day and is hitting and pushing her classmates she thinks she is playing because she has three older brothers and that’s how they play but the classmates wants to be friends with her and the teachers have even said that but they are scared of her we have tired getting onto her at home and taking away things at home and also at school and we don’t know what else to do or how to go about doing what is next

    • Hi Wendy,
      I hear your frustration. It is possible that developmentally she is not ready for a full day kindergarten environment and could have used an additional year in preschool. I am unsure what social supports your school system offers but connecting her with the school social worker might be a good option. Some schools have social skills groups as well. In addition, because she has been socialized to play in this more physicalized way with her brothers, she may benefit from some social skills training at home. You might start with reading picture books about “kind hands” or similar topics in order to increase her awareness of how she is using her hands in social situations. You could also start to encourage play among your children that is less physical in nature to help her learn to to differentiate between gentle and rough play and in what context it is safe and appropriate. For example, you could set the parameter that they can play more physically outside, but not inside. Or you could teach them to use a cue word that others need to respect when they have had enough of rough play. These interventions could help increase her self awareness and empathy for others that could translate to the school setting.

      I hope this helps,

  • Hi Laura I have twins. One is ASD and the other is ADHD. Both of them have started school this month however the one with ADHD start hitting and pushing kids in school environment. I can not solve this issue and the school has informed me that he will be terminated from school. I need your help and support in the matter. I have tried different medication on him but nothigs works. Other thing is that he is also non verbal through he speaks a word or so when he needs to

    • Hi Mariam,
      Thank you for reaching out. I would highly recommend that you look for a provider who specialized in ABA therapy (applied behavioral analysis). This is very targeted treatment that looks at the functions of behaviors and creates a concrete plan for addressing them. They are specifically trained in treating children with neurodiversity.. You can search for a provider here: Or you can do a search for “ABA therapists in my area.”
      I hope that helps. Take good care,

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