Ask Joanne: My Toddler Hits Me

24/03/2010 22:05 | Updated 22 May 2015

What's your dilemma about any aspect of life as a parent? Our experienced life coach Joanne Mallon is here to answer your questions. Send your questions in here and say if you'd like your name to be changed.

Ang writes:

My two-year-old daughter seems to always hit me when she can't get her way. She doesn't do this with anyone else. I tell her no and put her on the naughty spot for a couple of minutes, then I go over and tell her why she was put on the naughty spot: 'because you hit mummy'; but it doesn't seem to help.

When shopping I always end up having to come home because she starts screaming at the top of her voice, then starts to hit me. I can't understand why she hits me or has her tantrums when we are out, as she always has my love and attention. I'd be so grateful if you could help me, thank you.

Here's the life coach's reply:

Dear Ang

Many toddlers hit and bite, so this may just be a stage and not necessarily anything you are doing wrong. The main reason children of this age lash out physically is frustration: at this age, they can understand much more than they can say. Imagine knowing in your own mind what you want to say, but just not being able to get the words out. No wonder they get cross.

The 'naughty step' is very popular these days, but that doesn't mean that it works for every child. Another method to try is counting to three and letting your child know that they will be punished if they don't do as you ask before you get to three. Only threaten a punishment if you intend to carry through with it – children are very adept at recognising empty threats. Get down on your child's level and look her in the eye when you speak to her. You don't need to shout, but you do need to be firm.

Also, focus on what you want your child to do, rather than what you don't want her to do – this draws attention to the behaviour you want, rather than what you don't want. If you say no less often, then she will be more inclined to take notice when you do say it. So rather than talking about the hitting, talk about the kind of behaviour you want to encourage – smiling, gentleness, kind hands and so on.

Make sure your child gets as much physical exercise and running around time as possible – this will give her a safe spaces to work out her physical frustrations. I'm sure your daughter is not kicking off 24/7, so for the next few days look out for times when she is behaving well and praise her or give her a little sticker as a reward. If you're patient and consistent, she will learn that this is a better way to gain your attention.

Best wishes,


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