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Let's Get Physical

When I was a kid, I thought Olivia Newton John's song, "Let's Get Physical", was all about aerobics.  Didn't you?  Then we came to learn that expressing ourselves physcially comes in many different shapes and forms.  Sadie writes:

i have a 21-month-old boy who is pretty easy on all counts. BUT.... (ha)...he has lately become somewhat of a hitter. he smacks people in their faces! i don't know what to do. it actually started when he was a bit smaller, and we used to laugh at it because, like everything little babies do, we thought it was cute. big mistake, obviously, because now he thinks it's funny. and clearly, saying "no" doesn't make a bit of difference. i am just confused as to where he learned this, since he doesn't watch tv and doesn't really hang out with other kids that much yet. and mostly i am looking for ideas on how to deal, and how to phase this phase OUT. do your babies hit? (again, he mostly does it to people's faces.) sigh...

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There were a couple things we did when our little guy was that age and hitting at faces. I think the main thing is the direct feedback... like you said, the giggles in response to the hitting definitely imprinted in his mind. First, we bought a book called "No hitting" (Really!) and it's a flap book that talks about using alternate ways to express yourself (happiness or sadness) than hitting, and why (because it makes other people sad - they don't really get this yet but it's a good "talking point"). The other thing was immediate and consistent response to the hitting. Stop whatever play is happening, make an ugly/hurt face, and then walk away until it it's obvious that your little one realizes the impact they've made (they made you not happy and they've lost their play mate). Andrew would typically fuss at this point and I'd wait a second and then come back to him and explain why I was making the sad face. Eventually he either caught on or it phased out, dunno which but I was glad to be done with it!

Oh, I feel for you! My daughter went through this about three months ago. She'd not only hit, she'd pull hair, pinch, bite, scratch, and kick her little friends. I was apologizing to other parents on a daily basis and feeling like a pretty crappy mother. I instituted immediate, no-explanation time-outs for any violent behavior and we talked about it afterwards. Like Shetha, I tried to emphasize that it made her friends sad when they were bitten, and it made their mommies sad too. Nothing seemed to work, I was very stressed about the whole thing, and then - POOF - four or five weeks later she was done with that phase and hasn't had an incident since. I think there's probably little you can do but be consistent in your discipline, try to make amends with the "hit-ees," and remind yourself that it won't last forever. Good luck!

Frustrating behavior, but alas, one that most toddlers go through. Even in homes where tv is limited and little ones haven't been exposed to other aggressive kids, it still surfaces.

I concur with Shetha on how to address the behavior: 1) Make a sad or somewhat angry face; 2) Make a short and firm statement such as "We don't hit").

If the hitting persists, consider using a time out (general rule of thumb is one minute for every year of age). The idea is to give them a natural consequence, ie, "when I hit my mom, I can't be near her." With consistency, the hitting should subside.

Good luck!

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