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Children and Hitting

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 15 Feb 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Behaviour child’s Behaviour hitting

Children may hit others for a variety of reasons in order to gain attention and possibly even to self-soothe. Adults should take note of when and where children tend to hit others, as well as who the children hit, in order to get clues about why this behaviour may be occurring. Disciplining children who hit immediately following the behaviour is usually the best course of action to nip such behaviour in the bud.

Find a Pattern

If adults look closely enough there may be a pattern that emerges from children who suddenly decide to start hitting. Where hitting occurs may be a clue to the emotional state a particular setting provokes in a child. For example, if a child hits only while at the nursery there is likely something in that location that is upsetting the child. When hitting occurs may also tell adults more about the child’s state of mind when (s)he engages in this behaviour. For example, if a child only hits when (s)he is clearly tired then the behaviour may simply be due to frustration or even confusion. Who the child hits may also be very telling. Children who hit other children often due so out of aggression, while children who hit their parents or other adults tend to do so because they are looking for attention or trying to test the limits. Children may also hit themselves, which can be incredibly upsetting for adults to watch. Sometimes self-hitting may be a child’s method of self-soothing, but if this behaviour continues and/or puts the child’s own health at risk then getting an expert opinion is a good idea.

Discipline Immediately

Regardless of why children hit others, these episodes should be immediately followed by a method of discipline in order to teach children that this behaviour is inappropriate. Parents should give their child a clear warning and stating “No hitting!” when the behaviour does occur, and children who do not heed this warning should be removed from their activities immediately. Putting a child on the Naughty Step or in Time Out are options that allow the child time to reflect on his or her hitting and at the same time regain control of themselves. Before being allowed back to their activities children should apologise to those who were hit and they should also be able to explain to a parent or other adult why hitting is wrong.

Discipline Consistently

Even if a child hits others frequently (s)he should be disciplined each time the behaviour occurs. Saving discipline until a number of different behaviours are included, or saving discipline until later if the hitting occurred in public, risks both the child and the adult forgetting why (s)he is being disciplined. This means that the message that hitting is inappropriate may be lost. However, children who hit others should never be disciplined by being hit, smacked or swatted. Not only does this mix the message that hitting is inappropriate, but it may also actually reinforce the behaviour since children may remember that they were hit so it still must be fine to do the same to others. Non-physical discipline, rather than physical punishment, is the aim in order to help children stop hitting.

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My 2 year old has started to have speech therapy as she gets really frustrated a lot because she can't tell us what she lots a lot of the time and we are having a really hard time with her at the moment When ever she gets frustrated and can't get what she wants she starts to smack me in the face really hard! When I tell her 'no that hurts' she starts to do it even harder, I try to hold her arms so she can't hurt me but that makes the situation really worst. Help
Claire c - 15-Feb-17 @ 4:57 PM
LuLu - Your Question:
My daughter is 4 in 2 weeks and a boy in her nursery class hits her ever Monday and Wednesday when they are both in nursery. They used to play well but my daughter is afraid if him and wishes to stay away from him, I no longer talk to his mum. As she refuses to see the issue saying that her son isn't spiteful, he dosent hit my daughter he only pushed her??? Lol we are aware he has "needs" however his needs do not met to become my daughters issues or burdens. He hits most of the children but it's almost always her. His parents refuse to accept he has needs although he is almost 4 and does not speak. Funny thing is when there's were both 3 and my daughter hit him once his mother went crazy lol and we stopped speaking. Yet she doesn't mind her son hitting my daughter every day. I feel the nursery are being very lazy with the situation by just saying oh he got s but excited today and "tapped" her with his fist. Or he didn't mean it he was excited. I'm thinking to move her yet it's a private nursery and I'm probably the only one paying for her to attend. I sjways feel sad leaving her there and anxious collecting her. As there's always some story or bump note being given

Our Response:
Tell the nursery staff that your daughter is becoming unwilling to attend and ask them if they can do anything to resolve the situation. If necessary ask to speak to the manager. If the situation does not resolve itself then at least you have the option of moving her to another nursery.
KidsBehaviour - 5-Jan-17 @ 2:08 PM
My daughter is 4 in 2 weeks and a boy in her nursery class hits her ever Monday and Wednesday when they are both in nursery. They used to play well but my daughter is afraid if him and wishes to stay away from him, I no longer talk to his mum. As she refuses to see the issue saying that her son isn't spiteful, he dosent hit my daughter he only pushed her??? Lol we are aware he has "needs" however his needs do not met to become my daughters issues or burdens. He hits most of the children but it's almost always her. His parents refuse to accept he has needs althoughhe is almost 4 and does not speak. Funny thing is when there's were both 3 and my daughter hit him once his mother went crazy lol and we stopped speaking. Yet she doesn't mind her son hitting my daughter every day. I feel the nursery are being very lazy with the situation by just saying oh he got s but excited today and "tapped" her with his fist. Or he didn't mean it he was excited. I'm thinking to move her yet it's a private nursery and I'm probably the only one paying for her to attend. I sjways feel sad leaving her there and anxious collecting her. As there's always some story or bump note being given
LuLu - 4-Jan-17 @ 10:45 PM
Laura - Your Question:
Hi over the past 4 months my 2year old has started hitting we have tried the naughty step, telling him no and this guy toys of him that he hits us with and we're not getting anywhere, any advice would be greatful.

Our Response:
You need to be really consistent. As a two year old it's more difficult to explain consequences, but put several practices in places and stick with them:
Make sure he is praised enthusiastically for good behaviour, try and see if you can pin down the reason for him hitting. Is it because he wants a particular toy, or can't get what he wants, or doesn't want to share? Explain some different, simple ways to ask for things and to get pleasure from seeing someone else with his toys etc. Distract him if you see he's getting angry, so that he makes a different choice.
Don't get cross with him or display too much anger when he hits. Simply say "no" and move him gently away from the situation. Give him examples of positive ways to behave in these circumstances rather than just being negative..."Be gentle" etc. Get him to confirm that he knows this rule on a regular basis.
Consistency is key! React in the same positive way whenever an event occurs.
If you're still concerned after trying this for a few weeks, seek help from nursery staff, a GP or your health visitor etc
KidsBehaviour - 15-Dec-16 @ 12:41 PM
Hi over the past 4 months my 2year oldhas started hitting we have tried the naughty step,telling him no and this guy toys of him that he hits us with and we're not getting anywhere, any advice would be greatful.
Laura - 14-Dec-16 @ 1:50 PM
Hello my son 3 years old at nursery start to hitting another child. I'm so worried,upset. I'mtrying to speak not listening me.Ewery time I'm go to pick up son I'm worried what tell for my staff. If I'm go to gp maybe help me psycholog ? What i need to do. ..
Ane - 11-Dec-15 @ 5:03 PM
Charlie- Your Question:
Hi I've got a 8 year old that refusing to got back to school he had last week off because off tonsillitis he was not will so my husband try taken him back last Thursday he kick off say I don't want to go to school he cannot get on with his work when children are been noisy so the school told me to take him home and let se what he like today he still refuse I had two teacher at my house trying to get him in and there cannot do that I don't know what to do could you give advice on it please

Our Response:
Your local education welfare officer, together with a liaison teacher from the school will be able to provide you with individual advice on this. (The EWO will be contactable via the local council's education department)
KidsBehaviour - 1-Dec-15 @ 2:30 PM
Hi I've got a 8 year old that refusing to got back to school he had last week off because off tonsillitis he was not will so my husband try taken him back last Thursday he kick off say I don't want to go to school he cannot get on with his work when children are been noisy so the school told me to take him home and let se what he like today he still refuse I had two teacher at my house trying to get him in and there cannot do that I don't know what to do could you give advice on it please
Charlie - 30-Nov-15 @ 12:58 PM
My grandson is 3years old heis hitting children in the nursery he also hit out at me ,I said no it not right to do it but dose not listen.
May - 18-Nov-15 @ 10:53 AM
Confused - Your Question:
I just started working as a nanny for a family with three children. The children's age range from 4-7. When they do not get their way, they hit their mother or myself. They also call their mother and father names at these times. The oldest is quite manipulative and lies constantly. I really don't believe this is normal behavior and wondering if it appropriate for me to step in since I am not their parent. I also don't know how to talk to the parents about it because they are very aware of what is going on but I don't think they realize it is not normal.

Our Response:
Do you drop the children off at school/nursery? Is it possible for you to have a word with a teacher to find out whether it's happening at school? If so they could address this with the parents. If not, they may have some suggestions as how you could approach it in a professional manner.
KidsBehaviour - 28-Aug-15 @ 9:47 AM
I just started working as a nanny for a family with three children. The children's age range from 4-7. When they do not get their way, they hit their mother or myself. They also call their mother and father names at these times. The oldest is quite manipulative and lies constantly. I really don't believe this is normal behavior and wondering if it appropriate for me to step in since I am not their parent. I also don't know how to talk to the parents about it because they are very aware of what is going on but I don't think they realize it is not normal.
Confused - 27-Aug-15 @ 12:32 AM
@Sam. This sounds like a classic case of jealousy. Be sure to make your daughter aware that behaviour like this is not acceptable and do not give her more attention because of it. However, you must make time to do things with together your daughter - get your partner or a family member/friend to look after your son so you can spend some time alone with your daughter. Be sure to include your daughter in lots of play with your son, to make her see the fun side of him too. Also ask her to help you with his basic care requirements and explain that he's too little to do some of things that she can. Make sure to have cuddle time with your daughter and if your son becomes clingy, just say to him "No it's our (use your daughter's name) cuddle time, you have to wait" so he knows he cannot hog your attention all of the time. If the problem persists after a few month of this, try and speak with a professional - your GP or someone at your daughter's school/nursery will be able to advise you.
KidsBehaviour - 27-Apr-15 @ 11:56 AM
My 4 year old daughter often hits or pushes her 2 year old brother. Recently she has started throwing things at him (eg a heavy kids chair), and screaming at him. I think she does this because he is quite a clingy child so is on my knee or in my arms a lot. When she hits or shouts it causes him to cling to me even more. I've tried explaining that I love her and that the hitting is making her brother frightened, but she doesn't understand. I can see a sadness in her eyes during this behaviour. How can I reassure her while also tackling this behaviour?
Sam - 22-Apr-15 @ 11:25 AM
@Kel. It sounds like you need to seek help from a behavioural psychologist. Ask your GP where you can find some help for this sort of problem.
KidsBehaviour - 16-Feb-15 @ 10:57 AM
My 6 year old is very aggressive if he doesn't get his own way. He has been excluded 4 times for hitting stuff and children. He says he hates school, and every fink about it. He can be very aggressive toward me his mum, brothers and often says i will kill u.
Kel - 12-Feb-15 @ 10:23 PM
@dee. Before speaking to the boy's mother, you should speak to the staff at the nursery. They should not be allowing this behaviour. Ask them how they intend to deal with it and then take it from there. It's really up to the nursery staff to speak to the boy's mother in the first instance.
KidsBehaviour - 14-Oct-14 @ 10:02 AM
Can anyone help me with a child at nursery who has started hitting my child . The hitter is a boy of 2 yrs and my child is a 22month girl. The boy has gone fron hitting her to now Ive caught him putting her in a headlock. How do Iapproach the mum who is not seeing it and how do I help my little girl whos confidence has dropped at nursery. I want to be able to teach her to "stand up for herself" for lack of better words. eg scream out when it happens or say no real loud. with very little vocab at the moment Im scared it will scar her.
dee - 13-Oct-14 @ 9:58 PM
My son is 3and6mths and is being assessed for autism he has very little speach and is very slowly developing most of The time he iswell behaved but lately he has been very aggressive at nursery towards other children and the nursery staff have complained to me About his behaviour which was a shock to me because they always said he was great .can a child with autism change their behavior so quickly?
jon - 30-Aug-13 @ 10:42 AM
My 4yr.old grandson started punching himself in the mouth til he was crying n sobbing out of the blue this has never happened before.
Sherry - 28-Aug-13 @ 4:13 AM
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