Over the last couple months, my two year old has started hitting and kicking my five year old in the car. He doesn't do it out of anger and asking him to stop does nothing. We have 3 children and therefore a full row of car seats. He was originally rear facing and only kicking my 5 year old, so we thought that if we forward faced him (which is earlier than we wanted to do it) that it would stop. But unfortunately for us, our two year old is crazy flexible and can still whip his little leg up and kick his brother in the face. I've thought about moving our infant into the middle to separate them, but the thought of a 6 month old baby getting hit or kicked scares me too much to even try. We've tried yelling. Taking off shoes (at least the blows are softer?). Calmly asking to stop. But nothing so far as worked. It makes going anywhere more than a 10 minute drive away a nightmare.

How do I stop my two year old from hitting/kicking my five year old?

  • 1
    You already know yelling doesn't help. (It rarely does.) I know this sounds backwards, but have you tried restraining his feet when he kicks? Literal restraints, not your hands holding them still. Two years is old enough to put an act and a consequence together. Jul 29 at 13:07

It sounds like your 2 year old doesn't understand that what they are doing is wrong. Or simply doesn't care that what they are doing is wrong. Most 2 year olds aren't interested in reasoning with you, at least ours never were. However, they can understand action and consequence as early as 6 months old. As they haven't really developed their own moral compass at the age of 2, that responsibility falls to you to be their moral compass.

Your two year old needs to understand that when he does something he isn't supposed to do, there are consequences that he doesn't like or enjoy. And he needs to understand that if he does something well, there are consequences that he does like and enjoy. In our house we call this principle Discipline and Encouragement. Though I'm sure a phycologist has more esteemed terminology.

When it comes to Discipline and Encouragement, you need to make sure that you and your spouse/partner are clear and together on what that looks like for each one of your kids and the stages that they are in. Have that conversation often as they move into new stages and seasons of life. And when it comes to the Discipline piece, make sure that your anger or frustration never get in the way. Sometimes that might even mean that you defer to your spouse/partner until you are able to calm down. (My wife and I often experience this).

It's okay if they cry. You can cry with them if you need to. The goal of parenting isn't to keep your kids from feeling pain (though we all try to avoid it when possible.) The goal of parenting is to help them become respectful and productive members of society as they begin to come of age. You obviously wouldn't want a 17 year old kicking his friends in the face every time he gets in the car with them. I have known some 17 year olds who do just that and it isn't very pleasant for anyone in the car, just as it isn't pleasant for you at this stage.

Momentary heartache that produces a lifetime of fruitfulness is infinitely better than momentary heartache that produces a lifetime of heartache.

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    This is good advice, but does it directly answer the question ("How do I stop my two year old from hitting/kicking my five year old?")? Jul 30 at 18:18
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    Can you please reference the claim that children understand consequences from 6 months of age? That's entirely at odds with the litteratur I've seen.
    – dxh
    Jul 31 at 10:23

Children do well if they can. Always ask yourself what skill they are lacking that causes your problems.

I'm guessing your child knows that they are not supposed to kick anyone, so reminding them generally isn't very helpful.

More likely, at two years of age, it's simply a matter of lacking impulse control. I would look for workarounds that are respectful and non-punitive. Could you not simply put him in the seat next to the driver? Surely, it is a passing problem.

Something else you can try is positive redirection. Instead of telling them what not to do, suggest what they may do instead. It's like that age old challenge "try not to think of a polar bear right now", which is as good as impossible to most people, coupled with a toddler's urge to act out whatever crossed their mind.

  • 3
    Toddlers in car seats are not "supposed" to be in the front seat (i.e. next to the driver), as it is significantly less safe. Considering he likes to kick, it's probably much less safe for the driver as well. Jul 31 at 23:27

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