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Hitting Toddler

I have a 21 month old son who is hitting. We are at the end of our ropes with him and nothing we have tried has worked to stop it. He hits all the time- for no clear reason. It can happen in any kind of mood, even if he has our full attention. He seems to think it's funny. We tell him stearnly "no" each time he does it and put him in time out in a pack and play for a few minutes. We don't believe in "hitting back" which is the advice we often get. Do you have any other ideas of what we can do?

There is no magic cure for toddlers who hit. The bottom line is consistent negative consequences that occur immediately following his hitting should end his behavior.
While I think spanking has its role in discipline, I agree that with this issue it sends a mixed message. I also agree “time out” should work.

A few pointers on time out
1.) Every time he hits, say “time out” in a clear firm (non-yelling) voice.
2.) Pick him up backwards. Hold him so that he faces away from you. This hold should be unique to “time out” and should help him link his poor behavior with the consequences. If he hits the neighbor two houses away and you put him in time out after bring him home in your stroller, he will have no idea what he did wrong.
3.) He should not be able to get out of “time out”.
4.) While he is in “time out” you should completely ignore him. I often find parents that talk to their children or bring them toys while their kids are in “time out”. We want him to be upset (not like it) and you need time to calm down.
5.) You should only let him out when he has completely calmed down for several minutes.
6.) All of his caretakers need to be onboard with the plan and be consistent.
7.) When you are out of the house and he hits use his stroller or car seat as his “time out” place.

Look at this stage as a challenge, not a burden. Make discipline a priority, don’t let phone calls or visitors interfere with your consistency with this issue. Minimize his viewing of any play hitting in his life (older siblings or T.V. shows).

If possible, it’s best to start with a training session. When you begin, set him up. Get everything ready for “time out” and put him in a situation where he would often hit.

The bottom line is hitting is often a difficult situation to remedy, but it will get better with consistent consequences. I used to feel bad for the children that got hit, now I also feel bad for the parents of the hitter.

 

Written April 2010 by
Dr. Gordon, Orlando Pediatrician

 

 

 

 

 

gregorygordonmd.com is intended to help parents understand the needs and behaviors of children. The information presented in the site is the opinion of Gregory Gordon, M.D.and does not reflect the opinion of his partners. This website is owned exclusively by Doctors insights LLC. The advice in this site does not apply to all children. Always consult your healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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