Toddlers hit other children all the time, but it’s hard not to be embarrassed when it’s your kid on the playground terrorizing the others. When you understand why she’s hitting, it becomes a lot easier to take care of the situation. Fortunately, the reasons for hitting rarely indicate sociopathic tendencies. It’s just kids being kids.
Lack of Communication Skills
Little ones don’t yet have the words to say, “She pushed me!” or “I’m angry because I can’t get my own way.” When the feelings they have are negative ones — anger, frustration or sadness, for example — they may resort to hitting to get their point across. You’ll certainly be able to read those signs. In these cases, try empathizing with your child, letting him know that you understand how he feels, but that it’s not OK to hit other people because it hurts.
Tired and Hungry
Toddlers become particularly overwhelmed by their inability to communicate when they’re tired or hungry, making it prime time for tantrums and hitting. Shifting the play schedule might solve your problems. For example, instead of going to the park just before lunch, try going just after breakfast. Avoid pushing your child too far when you know she’s going to be sleepy, and try to keep a few snacks on hand, just in case.
According to Zero to Three, toddlers are starting to understand the concept of “mine,” making them particularly territorial about toys and play space. When another child tries to invade that area, he might let the child know that this isn’t acceptable by hitting. It may also be a proactive attempt to stay away from a child who hurt him in the past. Work with your child on sharing his toys, but you don’t have to make him share everything. Another child may want to play, but real sharing means that everyone gets a proper turn. If yours hasn’t had a long enough turn yet, let him continue playing.
To See a Reaction
Little ones are learning about actions and reactions. Unfortunately, this means they’ll sometimes test inappropriate behaviors like hitting. For example, if daddy plays a game where he’ll tickle the child when she hits him, the child might think that everyone will behave in that way. She might also be testing the idea that hitting the child will make him give her a toy, or whether she can make him cry by hitting.