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My 26 month old has begun hitting us when he doesn't get his way. When he realizes we are upset by it, we tell him that he upset us or we give him time out, he cries and tries to hug us and kiss us and says I am sorry and I won't do again. But inevitably repeats the cycle.We also tried ignoring him when he hits. But he continues to repeat this behavior. How shoudl we address?

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I read the title quickly and I thought your 26-year-old son was hitting you... this is a lot less fun of a read. Your kid is 2. –  blankip Apr 22 at 6:46

3 Answers 3

Don't ignore it. Ignoring works okay for some things, but aggressive actions it doesn't tend to work well with. 26 months is old enough to understand that he's doing something wrong, and to be doing it for a reason.

It sounds like you're generally doing the right thing; correct him when it happens, give him a time out, and afterwards tell him that you still love him, but he needs to not hit. You may need to be more consistent; the consequence should be the same every time (at least for the same level of problem). You should make it clear that he hurt you, that you're sad - not mad or angry - and that he needs a time out to calm down so you can continue discussing whatever led to it with more calmness.

At 26 months, this won't work immediately. That's okay. Keep up the consistency, and it will change over time - probably in a few months, but it could take longer depending on the child. Stick with one consistent approach though; don't switch back and forth, and don't have multiple different possible consequences.

You might also try to figure out if there are things you can do to make him feel more comfortable with not getting his way. Do you redirect choices, so if he has to do something, but you can give him another choice? For example, he has to eat dinner with the family, but he can pick which plate he gets, or his seat, or his drink? The more he feels under control of his life, the more comfortable he will be with the times when he doesn't have control.

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+1 for the last paragraph, especially. Little kids tend to be so much easier to handle when they have some sense of control. You may be able to take it even a step further and let him help set the table. On another note, 26 months is also an age where the mind may have outpaced communication -- the hitting may be a sign of other frustration. If you can, try to find out why he's resorting to hitting and address it. –  Shauna Apr 23 at 2:17
  1. Normally you stop calling a kid by months once they've reached 2 years of age. Your kid is 2 years of age. Recognize that they are an infant and not a baby anymore.

  2. Kids mimic actions. Are you and the wife playing around and hitting each other? He doesn't know the difference. Is he watching shows that show hitting in them? I actually don't watch TV around my kids because of it. I wait until night when they are asleep. Once they are a little older, I'll consider it.

  3. Reinforce positive behavior in specific examples. I personally got the belt as a kid, but I've been doing timeouts and they seem effective. If your kid is upset when you put them in timeout, then it sounds like it is effective. Kids take a while to learn so don't lose hope, just make them take the timeout immediately and don't endure the bad behavior until you are super stressed. Kids will test their bounds and their bounds are when you snap. If the behavior starts, immediately put them in time out. Your kid is 2 so he gets 2 minutes of timeout. I prefer to put them in a room and in a corner where they can't see me or the toys. Isolating them. I think the effect is maximized that way. I dont care how much he/she cries or whatever, dont go hug them or make up until those 2 minutes are up.

  4. When timeout starts and ends, get down on their face level and explain, you are going to timeout because you hit mommy/daddy and that is bad behavior. The timeout is for being a bad boy.

Just my .000002 cents.

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Cheers for "get on their level". Sound advice. –  ChristopherW Apr 22 at 3:50

Not sure if you guys have tried any sort of positive reinforcement on him? So basically you promote good behavior by rewarding him with things he usually loves to play with. For example, you give him a toy truck to play with because he's simply being a good boy. However, when he's hitting you guys, you don't acknowledge it, and you act as if it's no sweat. Next time around when he's just being himself and not hitting you, then you should "reward him" again by giving him with another toy or item and you make sure to state: "mommy (or daddy) is giving you this because you're being such a good boy!" More on positive reinforcement http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinforcement

Also, make sure you check his environment and who is influencing him to hit. I'm not sure what you're situation is at home, but if everything is peaceful then check his day care or any sort of care provider if you're not at a stay-at-home parent. Check what tv shows he's watching as well and limit them if possible.

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While positive reinforcement is well and good, it should be for specific behaviors, not for generically "Being A Good Boy". That's not specific enough, so he doesn't have a good idea of what to do (or not do) to continue getting that reinforcement. It's like your job; if you randomly got a salary increase "for being good", you'd smile and be happy, but would you necessarily continue whatever it was that motivated it? No, because you don't know what motivated it. You'd do whatever you were going to do anyway. You get a pay raise for doing something specific well; so should children. –  Joe Apr 21 at 20:26

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