Someone shared this article below in the Mommy Stories discussion group last week. I love it! I wanted to share it here, as I've struggled in the past to find good information about what to do with a child who is hitting.
I've shared the story about my son who hit for a long time as a toddler here in this blog post:
Fast forward almost two years later and we have a second child, my daughter, who is branching out into her toddler years. She's now 22 months old, probably at 20 months old she started throwing her hand out there to see if it would do anything. You could tell she was trying to see if it would get her a reaction. She'd throw out her hand - not hitting anyone, just the air - when angry, when something was taken away from her, when we said no, it was not dinner time yet, etc.
This time, I was determined not to have the same awful situation as we did last time around. So, when I found her doing this, I decided I'd be quiet, lay low, not react or overreact in any situation. I do not blame myself for my son's hitting phase two years ago, but I do believe we as a team (daycare, me, my husband, etc.) all reacted strongly to him doing the behavior, which provided him attention he wanted. So, this time, I was determined to not let it phase us, act like it was nothing... as best as we could.
So when she went to hit the air, I didn't respond. I moved away physically and tried to redirect her. "Hey, come play with the trains now with me."
I tried saying what I thought she was feeling, empathizing. "I know you really wanted that toy, didn't you? And your brother took it away? You can tell Owen, 'That's my toy, give it back.'" She started saying these things and we'd then move on from the hitting the air incident.
If she actually hit me, I would say "no," in a calm voice, not loud. I would look in her eyes as I said it. I'd move away from her. This is different from what I used to do with my son. With him, we said "no" loudly, and then went on a tangent about not hurting people, being nice, not using our hands, etc. He tuned me out and got attention... that did not work for him!
If she hit her brother, that's a different story... This is one of those "two kids things" that I had no idea how to tackle because it was so different from when our only child was hitting a couple of years ago. When she hit him, he's 4 year old, he knows hitting is bad (Good Lord he knows this after we drained it into him!!!!) so he comes to us immediately and says, "She hit me!" giving her the attention I was trying to avoid. It's hard to tell him, "Oh, just ignore your sister, it's fine, let's move on, she gets no consequence because we are trying super hard not to go down the same awful path we did with you and we're ignoring her behavior." That doesn't work with preschoolers.
So when he hit her we'd calmly say, "Addisyn, do not hurt your brother." Then we'd tell our older one, "It's not OK that she hit you, are you OK?" He always said yes. So then we'd tell him to "use his words" like we say often about everything anyway, and next time Addisyn hurt her he's to say to her "No hit," and walk away from her, no tattling unless she did it again, only say it once.
When he'd move away from her, that would settle the situation, because she just wants to be playing with him all the time.
I have no idea if this is the right thing to do, but it seems to be more positive this time. She doesn't hit anywhere but in our home right now and they are isolated incidents, maybe once a week we've seen it, knock on wood. We're working on teaching her to say "I'm mad" or "I want my toy back," because I know a lot of why kids hit like this in the toddler years is due to not being able to express their feelings or words.
I'll write more in a few months when she's actually two years old.... oy vey.