How to Handle a Child with a Hitting Problem

Wednesday, July 20, 2016 @ 11:00 AM

Have you ever thought to yourself, “my child has a hitting problem.” It is not uncommon for children to express themselves through aggressive behavior. What is important to note is when a child is consistently responding to situations and people with aggressive and defiant behavior. As the parent, it is important to recognize the situations in which the hitting takes place, your child’s emotions in the situation, their actions (hitting and other responses), whom aggression is directed, and what might be triggering aggression.

As a parent, it is valuable to understand the limits and boundaries your child needs, to promote and encourage positive development and individual thriving.

According to Patty Wipfler stated, “Odd as it may seem, children who hit are children who are afraid…To manage the fear, the frightened child develops aggressive behavior that flares any time she feels scared when her fears are triggered, she tightens up, can’t ask for help, and lashes out.”

If a child hits, and is doing so because of feeling scared or vulnerable, it is especially important to address the behavior calmly. A child needs to feel safe and connected with you as the parent in addition to providing consistency when teaching and training a child in how to or not to engage with others. According to Dr. Joan Simeo Munson, for children between the ages of 18 – 20 months keep the instruction simple, while holding a child and telling him or her, “we don’t hit and it hurts”. Dr. Munson continues, for children 3-7 years old, they can begin to verbally communicate more of their experiences. Parents need to establish clear boundaries with their child and clear consequences, such as time at the park ends as soon as hitting happens. Children need to recognize hitting another child is severe and serious and results in loosing a privilege and consequence for behavior, especially if it places other children in a vulnerable situation.

Parents need to remember to not take personally the emotions of the child and to react emotionally and impulsively. Take time to recognize how the child is feeling and empathize with the child. Dr. Munson stated, “It’s easy to respond to your child’s aggression with yelling or anger, but remember, your child is looking to you for cues on how to control his impulses and have good behavior.” One method is to take a child’s hands, hold them, and focus on what his hands are for (helping, hugging, being gentle and kind to others, etc.) and not for harming and hitting others. It is important for the child to know they are connected with and that they are unconditionally loved.


Wipfler, P. 3 Tools to Stop the Hitting. Retrieved from

Munson, J.S. Hitting, Biting and Kicking: How to Stop Aggressive Behavior in Young Children. Retrieved from
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