Question: My 2 1/2 year old hits us when he gets upset. He gets really angry so sometimes we try to redirect or distract. We don’t want to spank but we also don’t know what else to do. How can we deal with this and is it normal?

Answer: Toddlers are a bit extra. When they are happy, they squeal with zero inhibitions. When they eat something they love, it gets all over their sweet face. And when they are upset, they are extra in that department too!

Some hitting is normal behavior. Young children explore by cause and effect. They want to see our reactions. They are experiencing independence and control. It’s a part of their growth. So rest easy, your child is learning!

With that being said, it can be frustrating. In an already tense situation, it’s challenging to control our own emotions. And as parents, we also need to take these moments as teachable opportunities to coach our kiddos. The earlier we start to help them identify and express their feelings, the better…

Here are the first steps:

  1. Stay calm. Adding fire to fire only makes the fire bigger. We are trying to bring calm back into the chaos, so that means modeling the behavior you want to see.
  2. Calm your child by helping him/her feel understood. Get down to eye level, give some physical touch if he/she is ready like a hug or shoulder pat, and say something like, “I see that you are upset because_______.” Help the little one put their feelings into words.
  3. When your child hits you, explain to them how it makes you feel. “That hurts me and it makes me feel sad.” We are human. It’s okay to express how it makes you feel.
  4. Skip the monologue. Toddlers have short attention spans. You might feel the need to start lecturing or you might not even realize you’re doing it. Stay brief.
  5. Learn tools to avoid power struggles with toddlers. I have several listed here in my article. Click here: Parent vs Toddler- The Power Struggle is Real

Spanking is never the answer. Physical force may or may not provide immediate results. But there are so many important reasons and benefits not to spank. For one, kids learn best from our actions. Using physical force to express their feelings is not how we would want our children to react in tough situations as they get older. Role-modeling this from the get-go is a great way to start.

Tune in before reacting. We cannot bring calm into a situation if we are feeling chaos from within. We all have it in us to parent with patience. We just need the right tools. I would love to help you and your young family enjoy more harmony and connection through coaching.

** Always seek professional guidance for personal matters. If a child is causing harm to himself/herself or others, get help immediately. This article is for informational purposes only.