What do you do when you find out that your child has been hitting other children at his day care or preschool? First and foremost, don’t overreact! Realize that hitting, like biting, is a pretty common behavior for young children. Boys tend to be more aggressive than girls, although every child is different. The good news: While many children go through a hitting stage, they quickly grow out of it when they are able to start expressing their needs, wants and feelings verbally.
WHY KIDS HIT
Toddlers who haven’t quite mastered talking or are unable to express themselves verbally may hit as a means of communicating their frustration or anger with another person. Older kids may use hitting as a way of intimidating other children so they can get their way.
Hitting usually takes place when kids are arguing over a toy or playing rough. Children hit for a variety of reasons:
HOW TO REACT WHEN YOUR CHILD HITS
It can be helpful if you can get to the source of when and why your child hits. Does he always hit the same child? Does it only occur at day care and not at home? Does the hitting happen when your child is tired? Hungry? Over stimulated? If you can figure out when the hitting is likely to occur you may be able to avoid the situation altogether. If your child and another child always want the same toy, buying a duplicate might solve the problem. Watch your child at play and determine when he may need to be redirected to other activities in order to avoid a hitting episode. Talk to day care providers to determine what might be the cause of the hitting away from home. Parents and caregivers can work with the child and teach him to use his words when he is unhappy, e.g., “I wanted to play with the trucks, but Max won’t share.” It’s also important to praise your child when you catch him being good or using appropriate behaviors. Acknowledge him when you observe him sharing, being patient, taking turns and using his manners.
WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR
Factor in the circumstances in which the hitting incidents occur. If it only happens sporadically and your child is otherwise getting along well with other kids, don’t be too concerned. However, be consistent with discipline and remind your child that it is wrong to hurt others.
A child who continues to hit other children or adults at home, day care or preschool and who exhibits other problem behaviors may have a more serious issue. If you can’t control your child’s hitting, contact his physician.
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