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Help a Mom: Toddler won't stop hitting kids at preschool

Posted January 10, 2012

I recently ran into a Go Ask Mom reader at a local park, who was wondering how to handle an issue with her 18-month-old son.

Her very active little boy keeps hitting his classmates at the preschool he attends twice a week. It's become such a problem that the school is almost ready to throw him out.

He is only aggressive with other kids, usually those smaller than him. And it rarely happens in front of the mom, so she is not sure how to discipline him for something he did hours before at school when she wasn't there. The school attempts to steer the boy to another activity, but it doesn't stop him from hitting again.

Do you have any advice? Can you help this mom? Please share in the comments box below. (If you don't see the comments box below, you'll need to log in or sign up for a WRAL account. You can do that by going to the top of the page and clicking on either "log in" or "register").

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  • nickandtabby Jan 11, 2012

    as an inhome daycare operator, each child I have had from 4 weeks has gone through this phase, some more severe than others. Its going to require working with him/her until they get through it. Redirecting, discipline, but most important acknowledging his own actions and apologizing to the other child.

  • cinder572 Jan 11, 2012

    Really - give him less attention?!?! What if you were the parent of the child that had been hit? Would you appreciate that they didn't respond in any way? What in the world do you mean by "give him less attention"?

  • njacobs317 Jan 11, 2012

    Mom can use his favorite truck or stuffed animal to teach him about about protecting it from harm, that will teach him not to let anyone harm that item, teach him to hug this item not abuse
    when he hits encourage him to love this child and apologize, then take his truck or animal away if he refuses to to apologize

  • JAT Jan 11, 2012

    So he hits a kid and gets "redirected" to another fun activity along with attention from his teachers? Yeah, that's gonna work - NOT! The teachers need to give him minimum attention when he hits, not more attention!

  • hihuwatlu Jan 11, 2012

    If the school is willing, you could try having him put into the class for the next age group above him. He will probably outgrow the problem by the time his classmates get moved up into the older class with him. If not, punishments will be more meaningful once he is a little older.

  • capoppycox Jan 11, 2012

    My child was also a "hitter" when she was that age. It was very frustrating and stressful! She was slow to develop language (she is dyslexic, but very smart!). I eventually realized that she had a large personal space and would hit any child (smaller or bigger) that wandered in to her imaginary bubble. Child care providers might view the child as picking on smaller kids, but they may have a biased view.
    The good news is that she did outgrow this phenomenon before she was 3. Helping the child to develop language as well as learning about sensory issues may help, but time will be the best treatment.
    My daughter would have loved the 'punishment' of staying home, so that would not have been helpful for her.

  • kpeele Jan 10, 2012

    (continued from earlier post)

    I personally appreciated John Rosemond's book Making the Terrible Twos Terrific because he talks about how children of this age are developing, how to help them develop, how to proactively handle frustrating situations, and how to creatively manage their behavior (which can start at 18 months old).

  • kpeele Jan 10, 2012

    Along the lines of the previous posts regarding communication, if your son doesn't quite have the verbal skills to use his "good manners" yet you might want to consider teaching him some signs that can help him communicate. These could help him communicate his wants/needs and also help him take responsibility for his hitting (by signing "sorry"). I have used the Baby Signing Time DVDs to learn signs to use with my now 2 year old and he really started getting it around 18 months old. You don't have to buy books or DVDs, though. Just do an internet search for signs like please, thank you, sorry, yes, no, stop...whatever you think might help. I started making my son sign "sorry" before he could say it when he began hitting.

    But I disagree a little that kids aren't naturally aggressive. We don't have to teach children to be selfish, say no, or hit-- they do it becasue they are children and they are impulsive. I personally appreciated John Rosemond's book Making the Terrible Twos Ter

  • tbird Jan 10, 2012

    I agree with lilypony. He needs to be redirected but also reminded that this is not accepted at school. I am a preschool teacher in a one year old classroom for 7 years and can tell you that at 18 months he is on the line between not getting and fully getting what he is doing. If he continues to hit with redirection and conversation, try removing him from a favorite activity ie... helping with the laundry, walking with the teacher to get snack, picking out a favorite story for group time. I think the message will start to seep in especially if it is reinforced at home. Good luck

  • lilypony Jan 10, 2012

    (Continued from below) All in all remember that he is a baby. Punishment cannot effectively be carried out at home with threats or rewards. Simple conversation (obviously one sided at this age) does wonders.

    I have yet to see a child this young who is inherently aggressive. It is always a manifestation of something else such as being tired, hungry, need for attention, overstimulated (or under) and his lack of reasoning and language skills prevents him from doing something other than hitting.

    The school needs to be constantly on their toes to predict the issues before they can materialize. This is extremely difficult with a large group of children but an important part of the profession.

    I am a preschool director so am in this situation every day. it is hard but with proper guidance, calm routines at home, and diligence from the teachers, he will get better especially as his language skills develop.