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Why is my toddler hitting!!

July 6, 2023

Is your toddler resembling more of Rocky Balboa than the sweet little baby they were a few months ago???? We hear you, it can feel frustrating when hitting seems like it is happening ALLLL the time!!

It can cause parents a lot of anxiety and stress especially if it starts happening on play dates or at daycare

The first step to handling undesirable behaviours is to understand WHY it happens in the first place!! Let's dive in and discuss why your toddler is prone to hitting!!

Hitting may be how they communicate when they don't have the words to say what they are feeling or how frustrated they are. Can you imagine how frustrating it is when people don't understand what you are saying (I am sure people who have travelled or moved elsewhere where they don't speak the common language can relate to this - Toddlers are still developing their communication and language skills, which can lead to frustration and difficulty expressing their needs, wants, or emotions.

Toddlers are still learning to regulate their emotions. When they feel overwhelmed, angry, or frustrated, they may resort to hitting as a way to release their intense emotions or assert control over their environment.

Testing boundaries!! Hitting can be a way for them to test limits and gauge the reactions of others, as well as assert their own power and autonomy.

Some toddlers may hit for sensory stimulation. The physical act of hitting can provide a sensory input that they find interesting or stimulating.

So whaaaat to do???

Validate the FEELING but NOT the behaviour.  All feelings are OK to have but behaviour needs boundaries!!

  1. Model and Teach Gentle Behavior:
    • Teach your child appropriate ways to express their feelings and resolve conflicts without resorting to hitting. Explore with them how they can move their mad feelings through their body!
  2. Provide Alternative Outlets for Physical Expression. This is a HUGE one. Without other coping strategies they will continue to utilize what comes to them.
    • Toddlers often hit out of frustration, pent-up energy, or a need for sensory input. Provide alternative outlets for physical expression, such as encouraging active play, dancing, or engaging in sensory activities like squeezing stress balls or playdough or drawing and colouring.
    • Create a safe space for your child to release their energy, allowing them opportunities for gross motor play and physical activity. We are going to have another resource on creating a calm place soon!

So setting the boundary is going to require a lot of consistency. Don't be surprised when they push back the first time, but repeated actions of setting and holding the behaviour will teach our kids that we WILL hold the boundaries and that they CAN get rid of their MAD feelings other ways (just not hitting!!)

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