Lori Petro has a channel on YouTube called, Teach Through Love, and she is doing some really great things with parenting. Lori is a mom and a blogger who takes questions from her audience like we do at Live On Purpose TV. Lori has a video up about how to get toddlers to stop hitting.

I've got some ideas about that as well and I love what Lori said in her video about how hitting is age typical. Now I'm going to say age typical rather than age appropriate which is another term that you'll hear sometimes. It's an age typical behavior for toddlers, they do it, it's common. Now that doesn't mean that it's adaptive or it's what we want so obviously we are going to do some things to see if we can get that to stop. If you keep in mind that it's age typical though, it's a little easier for us to understand what to do about it.

Notice that your toddler, your child will go through developmental stages and phases when they are about to accomplish a new developmental milestone or task like talking or walking or one of these things that marks a real milestone for them in their development. It is very typical to see a little bit of an increase in irritability or aggressive behavior or crying, that's really common. Remember they are going through some changes and their little brain is trying to keep up with them but they don't have the developmental skills or expertise necessary to handle all of that stuff that's coming at them that causes new feelings.

This is true for all people, it's true for you too, isn't it? As you go through a stressful time or something that represents a lot of change for you, you start to feel a little more emotionally sensitive, and that's normal. Well, these little kiddos don't have the maturity to do the emotional regulation that is necessary for them to control their behavior in a way that you and I as adults hopefully are doing. Notice that this is a developmental process, it's absolutely normal, it's still something that we want to address and we will do that, but don't get too tipped over by it because this is kind of what we expect. If this has become enough of a concern that you're watching this video which apparently you are then let's give you some steps that you could use.

The first one probably is going to solve a whole lot of things right here and that is, put your own mask on first. Now if you're not sure what I'm talking about here, you haven't been on an airplane lately. When you get on an airplane and they are getting ready to take off, the plane is taxiing out onto the runway, the attendants will go through their safety routine because they're required by federal regulations to do this. You, incidentally, are supposed to follow along in your little laminated card, hope you're doing that. As you go through the safety routine they always get to this point in the presentation where they say if we lose cabin pressure, these oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling. They always say if you're traveling with young children or someone who needs assistance, put your own mask on first. Now why do they say that? Because our tendency as a parent especially is, “Oh, I got to take care of this child. I'm responsible for this child's welfare and safety.” Yes, you are. Why put your own mask on first? Because if you're out cold in the aisle, you're part of the problem. You are just in the way at this point. Put your own mask on first and that allows you then to step up and serve and help other people including your children.

I put this as the first step because if you've got a toddler who's hitting and you want to intervene and you come at it with an attitude or a feeling as a parent that you want to hit somebody too, pause, monitor your own feelings and behavior. You're going to be feeling things as well and for mom or dad to be out of control just means that we've got a big mess. Don’t become part of the problem, it doesn’t help anybody. Put your own mask on first means take care of you, take care of yourself. Put yourself into an emotional state where you are going to be able to handle whatever is coming from your toddler and sometimes that is gonna be pretty volatile because they don't have the maturity to regulate. Make sure that you do.

Just another thought about that, if you need to do some focus breathing or if you need to take a little walk or give mom a little timeout or whatever, go ahead and do that, it's more important to do what's right than it is to do what's convenient. Sometimes when we get into our fight-or-flight mode, we just react and respond to things instead of taking a very intentional purposeful present and conscious kind of an approach to it so this first step is huge. Even if I didn't share the other three that I'm going to share with you, that would be enough to put you in a position to really help your kiddo and model a more calm presence, which is what they are going to need some exposure to in order to learn something else.

After you have your own mask on, you can set a simple but a firm limit. Lori made a good point in her video, I appreciated this particular contribution. She says this is not the time to have an intellectual conversation with your toddler. First of all, they are not processing it. Second of all, they are emotionally tipped over a little bit in the time that you are intervening with them and they don't have any comprehension of where you are going with principles and what is right. We are going to instill those at appropriate times in appropriate ways, but in this moment, when they are hitting, it is not the time to reiterate all of the family values.

This is the time to set a simple and firm limit. I'm not going to let you hit me or I'm not going to let you hit, simple enough. Say that, remove the child physically because you are still big enough to do this, when they are 15 or 16 years old the game changes. We want them to learn it now, because you can move them and remove them from the situation where they are doing the hitting, set this firm and simple limit.

In the third step you present a very calm adult to your child. I love what Nicholeen Peck said about this. She is a parenting expert who's written a book called, Teaching-Self Government and Nicholeen said that you maintain a calm face, calm voice and calm body. Just my saying that should trigger something for you. Do you feel a little more calm just because I presented that? Calm face, calm voice, calm body. This is very important in the modeling aspect as you are showing an example to your toddler about what it means to have calm face, calm voice, calm body. It also allows you to do this next part more effectively.

You are going to connect with your child. There is some reason why they're hitting and remember toddlers don't have to have as good a reasons as adults might have. Toddler’s reasons could be something very simple like, “Oh, I'm frustrated that my sister took my toy,” or, “Oh, I don't like that mommy is holding my baby brother right now instead of me.” If you can figure out what the reason is that your toddler is hitting, you can see it's a strategy to try to meet some need. You may not agree with the strategy, that's fine, we are going to get to that in next.

Acknowledge their need with empathy using a calm voice, calm face, and calm body. You have already set the simple but firm limit and you have removed the child from the situation, now you connect with them empathically. Show them that you are tracking and you understand what their need is. Now you get to address the strategy.

We want to model for our kids some strategies that are more appropriate and more effective. Incidentally kids learn a whole lot more from how you do things than from what you say. Now we'll wrap the words into it too. “You know, sweetie, if you really want mommy to hold you, the best thing would be…” and then you can help to teach them whatever the appropriate approach would be, maintaining a calm voice, calm face and calm body. That is going to help with the hitting too, isn't it? Can you see that? It works with consistency.

Keep your own mask on first, set a firm but simple limit, use empathy and a calm voice to connect with their need and then model an appropriate strategy for them to get what it is that they want. Toddlers hitting, sure it's developmentally typical but let's see what we can do to stem that a little bit. I'm glad you’re here.