Help me get my 21 month old to stop hitting.

Becky - posted on 07/29/2010 ( 8 moms have responded )

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Ok ladies, I need some fresh ideas. Aiden is a little hitter, and all my ideas aren't working. He mostly hits his brother, but he will hit me too. Its just whoever is closest to him when he gets frustrated. I've tried holding his hands and telling him no, hands are not for hitting, yada yada, and as soon as I let go, THWAP. He does it again. *sigh* So I tried a version of rest time. I put up a gate in the hallway where he only had about half the hallway of space, put an elmo couch and books/toys in there, and he went to rest time for hitting. My point was to remove him from the situation and get him see that he can't be playing with the family if he's hitting, he has to be alone. Pffft, he liked it there. Didnt' phase him one bit. Next up, I tried time outs. Obviously he wouldn't stay seated, so I put him in the high chair, but he wormed his way out of that too. Lastly, I've tried time-ins (sitting away somewhere with him on my lap and explaining to him that we do not hit). Not working! He gets right back up and does it IMMEDIATELY again. I'm being consistent. He gets in "trouble" for it every time, but nothing is deterring this little booger. Gavin was NEVER the aggressive type, so I'm confused. Please help.

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Connie - posted on 08/03/2010

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Simply in response: There is a huge difference between punishment, which means controlling the child, and discipline, which means to teach, in this case teaching the child self-control. JuLeah is correct in that you can not create a punishment sufficient for a child to chose to not express himself. However, at 21 months, it is age appropriate for the child to have consequences for inappropriate behavior choices and to be taught that self-control is expected. If hitting is strongly discouraged, as it should be, then words will have a stronger appeal. Unfortunately, hitting, biting and tantrum throwing, if allowed without consequence, can become habits that are difficult to break. If the child is given the consistent message that hitting is unacceptable, then when alternate behaviors become available, they are readily embraced, and the hitting never becomes a conscious choice, but remains an unconscious, involuntary reaction that quickly dissipates.

Connie - posted on 07/30/2010

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Unfortunately, he's found something that works. And if it works, he won't stop doing it until the consequences out way the product. When he hits, he gets his message across, he gets attention, and so far, he has no incentive to stop the behavior. This is just a phase and is absolutely normal. It could just as well be biting, screaming or some other behavior. He is old enough for time out, and the hallway, without ANYTHING in it, is appropriate for 2 minutes. He shouldn't be able to have contact with ANYONE or ANYTHING for that 2 minutes, including being able to see anyone, even if you are right around the corner. Watching you, is still a distracting activity. I would also deny him access to whomever he has hit for a little longer than that, say 10 minutes. He can understand that he can't play with his brother, or the toys, if he can't behave properly. When I have a child that hits, I always hold their hand firmly down and say in a low, firm voice with my eyes severe, "NO HITTING!" then I get my happy face on, smile and take their hand and run it softly down my face saying, "NICE TOUCH, we give NICE TOUCH", then repeat it. It is surprising how much difference it makes if you use your voice, expression and words together to convey the message. You didn't mention how old your older son is, but he should be able to assist in firmly saying, "NO HITTING, Aiden!" and walking off. If it's the older one's toy, then he should be able to walk off with the toy. Possibly, by involving you in every altercation, it is extending the problem. Hope this helped a little. Just know that it will go away once he starts talking better.

[deleted account]

all i can add is to try to focus on getting him to use his words. with my 18month old he rearly uses any words so im working on it. ive started with something simple like when he wants to be picked up he has to say "up". for a whole day i ignored him when he wanted to be picked up and told him he has to say the word. and i was plesantly surprised when by the end of the day he came up to me and said "up" :) it took about a week of persisting with this patern with each day getting better and just needing a reminder every now and then and now he uses the word with out me having to remind him to use it.
hope this story helps you :)

JuLeah - posted on 08/02/2010

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He is the younger child, I take it? Well, he has a working system and won't soon give it up. He wants a toy, hits, gets it. He is upset, can't express himself, hits, and WOW, you all know how he feels.

He is making an effort to communicate; using the only 'language' he has for the big feelings and ideas filling his head.

Whatever trouble you come up with for him to get into, won't lessen the desire to communicate his feelings and ideas.

Well, you might come up with a punishment so painful, he will stop hitting like he is, but still lacking language and tools to communicate and still wishing to communicate, he might come up with something worse.

Give him language - "Can I have that when you are done?" Praise him BIG for asking, for waiting .... At first, make sure the wait is not long.
Look at why he is hitting, what is he attempting to communicate? Help him find words.

Stay near him and watch. When it looks as if he is getting upset, intervene before he hits - pre-correct, so he can learn the value of learning words and using them.

When words start to work better then hitting, he will use words.

[deleted account]

Hi Becky!

Have you tried offering him something he CAN hit? A pillow or a special stuffed toy that together with him you can designate for those particularily frustrating moments when he feels the urge to hit. At first you'll have to do much re-direction....every time he hits give him the "punching bag" and show him that it's ok to hit it.

Children are like little adults but without the understanding and coping skills to deal with those frustrating situations......we all need an outlet and it's our responsibility as parents to teach our children what is appropriate and how to deal with our anger in those frustrating moments!

Good luck, sounds like you're doing everything else I would be. Perhaps it's just a phase and ignoring it to a certain extent might work? I wouldn't normally recommend that BUT if you're at a total loss it might be worth a try. Is it possible he's hitting for the attention? Eliminate the attention and eliminate the hitting? I dunno?!!

Good luck!

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Becky - posted on 08/03/2010

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"Whatever trouble you come up with for him to get into, won't lessen the desire to communicate his feelings and ideas."

I understand this and you are completely right. My goal is not to "get him into trouble" but to show him that there is a consequence for hitting and to teach him how to express his emotions in the appropriate way.

"Well, you might come up with a punishment so painful, he will stop hitting like he is, but still lacking language and tools to communicate and still wishing to communicate, he might come up with something worse."

I realize this was probably an "in general" response and not directed at me, but of course I would never even try to come up with a punishment so painful that he will stop hitting. However, I do have to teach him that hitting is a big no-no here and he must find another way (then I'll teach him another way). Hitting, yelling, biting, and other such aggressive, disrespectful behaviors are not tolerated; but I don't just punish my kids for it. Thats not my way, but they DO receive a consequence for that kind of nasty behavior, usually a couple of minutes of rest time to break up the situation (hitting usually causes an argument between the 2 obviously) and then explanation and teaching. :)

[deleted account]

Well, sorry I couldn't be more helpful.....let me know what works out?!! I'm curious about the clapping...

P.S. One of my favorite sayings with Roxanne is, "Use your words....calm down, mommy can't understand you!" but Roxanne talking quite a bit. We've been working on it for a couple months and the FEW (and they are very few) times she throws a tantrum and I say that she's actually stopping the tantrum and thinking about what I said....you can see the wheels turning and then she'll say something in this quiet little whiney voice.....I still can't totally understand her sometimes but it's definitely progress.

Good luck

Becky - posted on 07/29/2010

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I have. I gave him this big car pillow and told him he could whack that. He does, but only AFTER he's smacked his brother. I read a tip in a book tonight to teach him to clap when he's angry. I'll give that a try.



I don't think its an attention thing. I think he just gets frustrated and is impulsive. Its always when him and Gavin are after the same toy or when I grab him from climbing up in chairs or something. Everything I'm reading says "teach him to use his words" which sounds fabulous, but he's not quite there yet. He can repeat any word, but he's not really communicative beyond "mommy, ba-ba peeeeez." lol. I might would tend to ignore it for a while if it were just me he was hitting, but I can't let him beat his brother up :D Gavin comes running "Moooooommmy!!! He's hitting again!" lol. Fun times.

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