Parenting Coach Reveals What To Say To Toddlers To Stop Them Hitting You

If you've been on the receiving end of a toddler slap recently, listen up.
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One thing they never tell you before becoming a parent is that at some point in their formative years, your little darling will turn around and belt you one.

They might even do it a few times. Much to your delight.

It’s hard not to take it personally, but hitting is often a young child’s way of communicating how they feel when they don’t quite have the words to express it.

As a result, they smack you one – or they smack their sibling. Perhaps they’ve hit another child at nursery recently, too? (Cue you feeling like a terrible parent.)

So what on earth can you do about it?

Well, according to parenting coach and social worker Gen Muir there are some dos and don’ts for tackling the issue.

In a TikTok video which has been viewed 1.8 million times, Muir suggested parents should steer clear of a few phrases, including “gentle hands” (because it’s not very clear) and “we do not hit!” because it might shame children, not to mention confuse them as they literally just hit you.

Another phrase parents might want to avoid is: “when you hit it makes mummy/daddy sad.”

“We want to teach our child that their actions have consequences,” the parenting coach explained, “but in a moment where a toddler is hitting, fighting or pushing they have lost the ability to regulate and they need you to do that for them – and we need to be in control in that moment.”

By saying their actions make you sad, you’re “handing the control and the power over to our toddler” which, she suggested, actually makes them feel less safe and more likely to lash out again.

So it begs the question, what are you meant to say to them if all these pretty normal responses are off the table?

Muir recommends saying calmly: “I won’t let you hit. I’m going to move me, the baby or you to keep us safe. You can be mad, but I won’t let you hit.”

She concluded: “I’m a mum-of-four and this works – and it is proven to have a much faster impact on stopping kids from using their bodies to communicate.”

Other parents flocked to share how they deal with their child hitting others. One mum said: “We always say ‘it’s okay to be angry/upset but it’s not okay to hit.’ I heard my four-year-old saying it to my two-year-old the other day.”

Lots of parents agreed that using “gentle hands” worked to stop their children hitting – but others suggested it might work as a quick behaviour stopper, but doesn’t necessarily teach them what to do with their anger if they bottle it up.

Also, some kids take the instruction pretty literally. As one parent explained: “We told our toddler ‘gentle hands’ so now he hits with his wrist.”