Why Does My 2-year-old Hit?

By Jaime Vargas-Benitez
Two year old coloring on paper
Two year old coloring on paper

Two-year-olds are full of new behaviors, and not all of them are desirable. Hitting is one such behavior, and while it is a normal phase for a toddler, consistent action is called for to prevent physical aggression from becoming a habit. To effectively do this, parents and caregivers must first determine why the 2-year-old is driven to hit.

No Control

Two-year-old children are notorious for temper tantrums, which often include hitting. A toddler may hit because she has not learned self-control, says clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Markham on her website Ahaparenting.com. Parents should exert patience in dealing with the toddler's aggressive behavior, and avoid aggressive reactions, such as hitting the child back or yelling. A toddler learns to control actions as she matures and through consistent discipline. Parents should correct the child every time she hits by redirecting her attention and giving age-appropriate explanations about why hitting is not permitted. Tell your child, "Hitting hurts. I do not hit you, so do not hit me." If the child is hitting another child, first do what is necessary to protect and calm the other child, then discipline your child accordingly.

Mimicking Behavior

A toddler mimics behaviors he sees, so if he witnesses other children hitting or being hit, he may model that behavior. If you or a caregiver spanks as a form of discipline when he misbehaves, it can give the message that hitting is an appropriate response, says the website, AskDrSears.com. Speak with caregivers or loved ones to make sure your child is not being hit by other children when in their care; if your child is being hit routinely by another child, discuss appropriate ways to protect your child and stop the behavior. Examine discipline techniques used at home or when the child is in childcare. Instruct caregivers that spanking is not permitted; ask that time-outs be used as disciplinary action.

Exhaustion

Two-year-olds who are lacking adequate sleep may exhibit behaviors such as hitting, says Joan Simeo Munson, Ph.D., a psychological counselor writing for the website Empowering Parents. Consider your toddler's sleep patterns and adjust her schedule; a restful child is less likely to be irritable. Maintain a structured schedule with adequate rest periods for a toddler who seems to exhibit hitting as a result of lack of sleep. Toddlers should get between 10 and 13 hours of sleep per day, advises KidsHealth.

Lack of Verbal Skills

A toddler who resorts to hitting may not have the verbal skills to communicate feelings, advises Zero to Three, a website of the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families. A toddler who cannot verbalize feelings becomes frustrated and resorts to hitting for attention. Closer supervision helps parents and caretakers see when the toddler is reaching the point of frustration before the hitting occurs. Hitting due to lack of communication skills can be quelled as the child becomes more verbal or is taught alternate forms of communication, such as sign language. The more the child feels her thoughts and emotions are understood, the less likely she is to hit.

About the Author

Jaime Vargas-Benitez has been a parenting writer since 2010. She has worked in the child wellness field in various roles for over 20 years. Along with the experiences of raising her own kids, she has been privileged enough to participate in the raising of hundreds of other children as well.