How to Discipline a Child Who Hits

Hitting can be a normal part of child development, but you clearly can’t let it go unnoticed. It’s important for your child to learn that it is not OK to hurt other people. There are some parents who may spank their child as a response to hitting, but what kind of message is that sending to your child? Many experts, such as Dr. Jane Nelson, discourage spanking as a form of discipline. Instead, you should take a more positive approach–guiding your child to positive behavior is often more effective than punishing him for bad behavior.

Step 1

Set a clear rule against hitting. Your child should understand that you expect her to not hit others. When you make rules for the house, “No hitting” should be one of them.

Step 2

Catch your child in the act of hitting. Many children who hit are not yet old enough to reason with. If you try to discuss hitting long after the event took place, you may confuse him–he won’t understand why you are angry.

Step 3

Remove your child from the situation. If you see that she’s about to hit a playmate or that she has just hit the playmate, calmly pick her up and take her to a different location.

Step 4

Talk to your child about why hitting is wrong. Tell her that hitting can hurt others and that she should treat other people the same way that she would like to be treated.

Step 5

Empathize with your child. Recognize her anger and the reasons that she became angry and tried to hit. Children often hit when feeling frustrated about a certain situation.

Step 6

Give your child a timeout. This means that he must sit by himself for a certain period of time. It gives him time to calm down and think about what he has done.