I can't get my 2 year old to stop hitting!!!!

Kymberly - posted on 05/04/2010 ( 9 moms have responded )

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My third child will be 2 in a couple of weeks. He has been hitting everyone and no matter what I do he will not stop. He will hit in every sitution... if one of my other kids hits him first, when he wants a toy, or when a toy is taken from him.. The worst part is he will walk up to anyone, including my baby, and just hit for no reason! I put him in timeout everytime he hits but I am at my breaking point. I did not have this issue with my other kids. Any suggestions?

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Kimberly - posted on 05/05/2010

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I have a similar problem with my 3 year old. But instead of using a time out chair we use two safety gates set up in the hallway, he can't climb out and he can't go anywhere. Yeah, it's kind of inconvenient when we need to get past and he's in a time out, but it works better for us than a chair. He's in there for 3 minutes (1 min per year) and after 3 minutes I'll climb between the gates with him and ask him why he was there. If he can't tell me, I'll tell him why (ex. We don't hit, hitting hurts people, it makes us sad and makes us cry.) then I'll ask if he's sorry (but that's usually because it's me or his uncle that he hit) and if he apologizes I tell him he needs to give me a kiss to get out of time-out (I use the concept like a key) and then he would need to also apologize to whomever else he hit if it wasn't me. If he says he's not sorry, which he does sometimes, I climb back out and he gets another 1.5 minutes (I cut the time in half to compromise with my mom who didn't think he needed another full 3, I would have done another three otherwise) and I repeat the same process, if he still says he's not sorry he gets another 1.5 minutes and so on until he is, but he always has to give a kiss to get out. If we're in public or at someone else's house and I don't have two safety gates, I'll sit him on a bench, couch, or put two chairs together and I'll sit next to him with my leg over his lap for the 3 minutes, and since we're in public he usually calms down and says sorry faster so that we can get on with our shopping (in which he is forced to sit in the cart, when I would usually let him walk near me or just hold on to it, but again, I only have the one child) or he can go back to whatever game or person he was playing with before the time-out. I know each child is different, and this may seem a little extreme but my son doesn't do the whole "out of sight out of mind" concept and his half-brother's mom uses a time-out chair, but she doesn't use it effectively, so this worked for us.
To prevent him from hitting I typically just hit him back with a similar force that he hit me, or sometimes a bit less if he's accidentally hit or kicked me while playing to rough, (it's usually me he hits, sometimes the cat who will just bite him when he's sick of it. Then I tell him that if he was hitting or poking at the cat, the cat showed he didn't like it by biting him since he can't hit back.), I've been told over and over by my mom that hitting him back will only make him hit more, but I have found that it has actually helped. He feels that it hurts to be hit and it goes with the lesson of "Do to others what you want them to do to you." Now, I don't have the problem of his dad needing to be on the same page, his dad is in the military and isn't around often and won't be for the next three years, but I do have to contend to the parenting styles of my parents, who I live with, and sometimes my mom's and my styles clash or we bump heads but I usually tell her that we will try something my way first, because I am his mom, and if my way doesn't work after a period of time then I'll try hers.
As I said before, I know all kids are different but sometimes trying a different approach or getting a completely different view is sometimes needed rather than ways you've already been trying.
I hope this helps, or at least helps in the sense that you don't have to stick with traditional ideas just because they worked before. Just make sure both you and your husband are on the same page and both of you are doing discipline the same way, otherwise it is ineffective.

Kristin - posted on 05/04/2010

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I've got a 2, almost 3, year old who is currently acting up. Largely because I it's finally registered that he is about to no longer be the baby. I know that he is doing it for attention.

First, you and your husband need to be on the same page about hitting. It is either acceptable or not and this applies to Dad as well. Your son is not going to differentiate between being spanked and the fact that he was hitting to earn the spanking. He just knows that it's okay for Dad to hit him. And if it's okay for Dad, why not him? You also need to be on the same page about how to discipline him. This is how you achieve consistency.

Now, the time outs we use are one minute for each year (2 minutes for yours). Depending on the offense, there could be a warning. Hitting, kicking, biting, pinching, spitting, etc. are ALL automatic timeouts. There is no warning, no talking about it. I take my son, sit him in the designated seat, tell him why he is there, and start the timer. If he gets up, he goes back, no talking this time or any future times, and the timer is restarted. Timeout is NOT over until I get my full two minutes. At the end of the timeout, I ask him why he was in it. As he can talk now, he needs to be able to tell me why he was there. As yours probably can't, at least not that well, simply say you were in time out for hitting and that is not okay. Then let him go. If mine can't remember why he was there, I tell him and we do it again.

On the flip side, and I applaude your doing this, I also praise with hugs, kisses, special outings, any good behavior I catch him in.

I've also made an effort to get additional one on one time with him. So has his dad. Yours may be feeling a bit lost in the shuffle between the special needs child and the baby and the other child and your husband and your home and... and... and.... See what I mean, he's really attention seeking and any, positive or negative, attention is better than none or divided atttention. You may need to find an activity that's all about him and only him. It will also help if you start doing the whole emotional coaching thing. He needs help expressing what he's feeling and channeling it appropriately. You and dad get to teach him how to do this.

Good luck, I hope this passes soon.

Kristin - posted on 05/05/2010

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This may sound nuts or not, but have you tried some sign language with him? That preverbal period is just so frustrating for everyone. I only mention it, because it is amazing just how much they do understand. They've got a frightful lot of words in there, just not the control of the muscles of the mouth to get them out. I think you can find info online for ASL (American Sign Language). But, if there is an organization in the area, they may be able to provide you with a list of good books or videos you could borrow to get started. It could be fun for all of the kids to learn and the baby will get a lot out of it too.

I totally understand where you are coming from with the travelling spouse. Mine has been gone for about half of the last three months. It's like that in cycles throughout the year for us. It's really hard to find time to breathe, let alone find time for each child individually. And, on top of that, when do you get a minute to yourself? I'm guessing you don't.

The thing I have found is my kids start to get more challenging and act up more when I NEED that time to myself. It's very possible that fantastically frustrating 2 year old (almost) is picking up on your need for just a minute to yourself. It's stunning just how much the DO NOT want to share mom at that age, even with yourself.

I understand your finding childcare to leave difficult, but what about having a friend come over just to supervise while you take a shower or a nap. You are still there if needed, but you get a little bit of a recharge. We mum's have a really hard time asking for even the littlest bit of help. The reality is, we would help one another and our friends would help us too if we would just ask. It would likely take a little schedule negotiating/navigating, but your support system is there to support you through the tough spots too. Not just cheer you on for your successes. You can always shoot me a message if you just need a place to rant. I may not be where you are in terms of numbers, but I get it.

JJ - posted on 05/04/2010

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My son is 19 months old and he's completely different from my other children. He is so head strong, aggressive, determined....yes he does hit, pinch, etc. when he doesn't get his way. He throws mini tempertantrums and we ignore him and step over him as he lays on the floor.
What my husband and I do is; We say, No hitting, hitting hurts (in a very stern but calm voice) and hold his hands to his side, and look directly into his eyes and repeat several times if neccessary.. It's exhausting but it works. Then if it continues we put him in time out and repeat no hitting, hitting hurts and makes people sad. Try is and see. He'll resist holding his hands and arms down but it works.

Schyla - posted on 05/04/2010

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Yup I'm doing this with my two year old right now here is what we did. Hitting is unacceptable so when my daughter hits (no matter what the reason is) she gets a time out, (time out works like this as soon as she hits I remove her from the situation place her on a chair and as soon as she's been quite for two minutes I get down on her leval and I look her in the eyes and I say Grace we do not hit it hurts people we need to use our words. I then make her say she's sorry and I let it go) Now while she is in her time out I make a HUGE fuss over whom or whatever she hit (be it sister baby doll or dog) and I do so while ignoring her throwing a fit. The second part to this is when I catch her doing what I want (petting the dog nicely asking for the toy whatever) I make a HUGE deal out of it. this seems to be working as she has learned that she goes someplace not so fun when she hits and that she gets lots of love and kisses when she is good. best of luck to you.

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Kymberly - posted on 05/05/2010

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Kristin: I have not tried sign language. I have had the thought, but with my oldest sons speech therapist, they are recommending that we don’t show him any to improve his speech. So I would be afraid of my oldest catching on and start using it instead of his words. I know my 2 year old understands a lot. He has a lot of speech for a kid his age, but not enough to completely communicate what he feels or needs. It is a great idea; I think I will have to talk to my therapist for my oldest first though.

I wish I had even a friend to come sit and watch the kids while I take a shower. Once I got married and had kids, all my friends moved on. They are still in the partying stage. My parents I might see once every couple of months. And my in-laws help as much as they can, but have full time jobs and other grandkids that I only see them every other week or so. I find it hard to get to the store, and have a neighbor who will pick things up for me when I just can’t seem to get there. But she is a busy body and is rarely home, especially during the summer months. So I really have no support system, but I knew this before we had our 3rd and 4th child. The only time I have to myself come after I finally get the baby down which is usually after 10pm. I appreciate you offering to email you when I just need another idea or to vent. It is nice to know there are people out there who are going to similar things and can understand without being judgmental! Thanks so much!


Kimberly: Thanks for the suggestion. I have tried the hitting back thing, for a brief period, and with my child it only made it worse. He will sit in timeout; I do not have that issue. But he is a major repeat offender. He will say he is sorry, hugs and kisses, but will go right back at it again. He is a very strong willed child and I know he is very jealous of his baby sister so I am just trying to keep all this in mind and praying that is passes. And sooner rather then later!

Kymberly - posted on 05/05/2010

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Kristin: Thank you for taking the time to respond. I think the discipline issues come up from how we were raised as kids. My father was very abusive so I don't want to go down the same path, and my husbands parents used spanking but they used it the right way (or at least according to the time he was rasied). We are trying, and have been, to find common ground on discilipine. As amazing as it sounds, we have got through our first two kids without running into this! The way you handle timeout, is what i do to the tee. But with my 2 year old, it seems like I am putting him there every 30 min or so. I know he is acting out. He has had a hard ajustment to our last baby, who is 9 months now, and he gets jealous of her very easily. Does not make it any easier that my husband is gone most of the time working. His jobs requires a lot of travel. And I really do not have any outside help from family or friends. Which makes doing special outing with my kids very hard. And I can't just hire any baby sitter because of my oldest being special needs. I do my very best to have special moments with my kids everyday and for now that is all I can do. I am working on trying to explain to him out to express how he feels using words, but with him only turning 2 in a couple of weeks, this is still hard for him to understand. I appreciate so much all your advise! Thank you again!

Kymberly - posted on 05/04/2010

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Schyla: Your time out's is what I follow as well. It does not work with him. I have noticed with my 3 year old girl, time out work like a charm. The same can be said for my 4 year old boy as well, but he is old enough to get it now. But my 2 year old boy just no luck. He says his sorry and everything, but it can be a matter of minutes later, and he hits again. I use postive reinforcement a lot. I have got used to it b/c my 4 year old is special needs and postive reinforcement has done wonders for him. So I do this with all my kids. My husband and I view displine a little differently though. He is a firm believer in spanking, but I don't use it. Thank you so much for your advise. I will keep trying my best to break him of this.


Lilye: I don't hit back. My husband on the other hand believes that it will work. I know boys are much more hard headed, I have 2, but with me, it seems like the couple of times I tried it, it only made it worse. But thank you for trying!


JJ: I have been explaining the hitting, hitting hurts to him, but never tried putting his hands by his sides. Thank you for the advise!

Lilye - posted on 05/04/2010

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hit him back, not beat or abuse. but enough for them to know how it feels. he will fall out like you're killing him, but the only way they will understand is to feel it for themselves. it's not cute, either and will escalate to biting, scratching, screaming, etc. do you want to be publicly emarassed? "train up a child in they way you want him to go, he will not depart from it"

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