My toddler hits me. How can I stop this behaviour?
You do not say how old your toddler is. If he is under 12 months, then hitting is not necessarily a sign of aggression as at this age babies explore their world with their mouths and hands. However, whatever the age, it’s not acceptable, and it can come as quite a shock when your baby hits you. Here are some tips as to what you could do.
1. Stay calm. Whatever you do, don't hit back. You'll simply be reinforcing the message that it's ok to hit to make your feelings heard instead of using your words. Now is your chance to set the example. Take his hands, hold them gently and look into his eyes. Tell him "we do not hit in this house." You will have to repeat this again and again with each hitting incident. And remember consistency is crucial; don't laugh one day, and show anger another.
2. Acknowledge feelings and encourage him to talk. Children should feel free to express their emotions even negative feelings such as anger, frustration and disappointment. Help your toddler to examine and verbalise his feelings: “Why did you hit mommy? Are you angry with me? What made you so angry?” Provide a safe alternative to physically show frustration, such as stomping feet, or hitting a pillow. Offer to do it together and show him how.
3. Role models. Read stories to show the merits of handling disputes by negotiation. Avoid TV shows that show violence as a means for dealing with differences - cartoons are notorious for this.
And finally, learning not to hit takes time for any toddler to master, so repeat, repeat, repeat, and repeat again.
References: www.babies.co.uk; www.parenting.com; What to Expect – The Toddler Years