My 1-year-old son slaps me and other people in the face. He thinks that he is playing with us that way. I always hold his hand tightly and look at him firmly and tell him this is wrong in a firm tone. It seems that my approach is not effective with him.

Do you have any previous experience or suggestions about this?

  • Persistence. You could also walk away. Mar 22, 2015 at 12:25
  • 1
    Thanks for your reply. Actually most of time he does this while I'm holding him. So, you see I'd put him down and just leave him for a moment?
    – Aya Raafat
    Mar 22, 2015 at 13:13

2 Answers 2


Welcome to your child having a mind of his own, but not so much in terms of empathy. This will be the next several years of your life, to some extent.

The best thing to do in my experience is to let him know that he's hurt you, and that if he does it again you'll have to put him down for a minute so that he doesn't keep hitting you. It won't always help - it will likely turn into a game, to some extent - but that's largely unavoidable. Yelling at him, grabbing his hand, hitting him back even lightly are all bad ideas - they tell him that violence or physical power is acceptable, which is precisely the opposite of what you're aiming for here. He also doesn't understand "wrong" at this point in his life; he needs to understand why it's wrong, hence focusing on the pain he caused you.

He won't fully understand what it means that you are sad, but that's the important message here. This is very similar to biting, which also is common at around 1-2 years old; a firm but not angry "No thank you, that hurts Mommy and makes me sad. Please don't do that again or I will have to put you down so you can't hurt me."

You can also try for "Hitting isn't nice, petting and hugging is nice but not hitting" redirection; I haven't had as much success with that, but it seems reasonable. That's similar to "Teeth are not for biting, they're for chewing, would you like a teether?" which did work well for us with our children (who were both to some extent biters).

There are some books that might also help; "Teeth are not for biting" is a classic, which has a corresponding "Hands are not for hitting".

  • "needs to understand why it's wrong": this has it's limits, sometime it's wrong, and there is no "why". If you think carefully, not peeing on your neighbour's flowers is wrong, but there is no reason for it to be wrong.
    – Guillaume
    Mar 26, 2015 at 9:53
  • It's wrong because you are doing something with to neighbour's property that the neighbour disagrees with. However, whether you can explain this to a toddler is another thing altogether.
    – Erik
    Mar 26, 2015 at 13:37
  • There's always a "why". Sometimes it is "because social convention is that we don't do this". Why we don't walk around in our underwear or naked, for example. Social convention is a valid reason, and one of the hardest to explain.
    – Joe
    Mar 26, 2015 at 14:54

When my 3yo elder daughter or her 15mo younger sister do that, they get one warning ("No! Don't hit!"), and if they proceed to a second slap or hit the reaction is an immediate, firm "No! Time-out!", picking her up and putting her in her crib for 15 minutes (or until she stops screaming in frustration and calms down, and if that transitions to naptime then so be it).

When the time-out is over, for our three-year-old we go in, look her in the eye, tell her we love her (which she responds to in kind with "love you too") and ask her what she learned ("don't hit"). A hug and kiss, and back out to join the family.

The 15mo is a little young yet for this full rigamarole, but we do still put her in her crib until she calms down, then explain to her that she can't hit other people.

Other offenses that merit an immediate time-out include hitting the cat or dog, throwing hard things at people or animals, biting, and similar levels of physical violence against other living things.

  • Why limit this to physical violence? In fact many bad behaviors are not physical but can be worse, no? For me a lie resulting in someone else being punished or in trouble is worse, for example.
    – Guillaume
    Mar 26, 2015 at 9:56

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