My three-year-old son is always hitting me. How do I stop this behaviour?
Hitting is like biting; it needs to be addressed immediately and consistently. Hitting and other forms of aggression often occur in toddlers because they cannot express themselves verbally. They may hit when they become frustrated, angry or overwhelmed. If not nipped in the bud, aggression may develop into more serious behaviour.
The next time your son hits you, turn him towards you and get down to his level. In a firm, strong voice, say, “Hitting is naughty.” This tone of voice will let him know how upset you are. Tell him that hitting carries consequences, such as a timeout. The timeout should last for one minute per year of your child’s age. Your son is three years old, so three minutes it is. The timeout should be in a place where you can see he is safe, but alone and away from other people.
Now, if the hitting extends to another child, including a sibling, first turn all your attention to the child who was hit, showing sympathy. Then address your son once again with that firm voice, saying hitting is not accepted and give an immediate consequence such as a timeout. When the timeout has passed, take your son by the hand and tell him he needs to apologize.
Published June 2010