From talking to other parents, it seems like most boys (children?) go through an early stage of hitting at around 1. I have a 14-month old (2nd) son who occasionally hits me in the face, and occasionally hits his big brother in the head with objects. His big brother is very good about not hitting back, and playdates have been pretty well monitored, so we're fairly sure no one is modelling this behaviour.

With the older son (who is now 5), we successfully discouraged this at the ~1-year-old stage by sternly saying "no-hitting" and grabbing his hand as soon as he did this. In retrospect, we believe our 1st seems to have been unusually well-behaved at this age (compared to our 2nd and anyone else's child we knew at 1 year old)

Our 2nd is perhaps a more typical boy, and shows much more signs of testosterone/aggressiveness, and challenges us and tests his boundaries much more often than our 1st did. The stern "no-hitting" doesn't seem to work so well, even when we follow up with a brief time-out (in the playpen, which is now almost strictly used for this purpose).

We've heard that all kids go through this phase, and that the more you make of it, the longer it lasts.

Does anyone have good advice on what do here to ensure this doesn't develop into something worse?
Should we just stay on track with the stern "no-hitting"/time-outs?
Or should we ramp up the punishment somehow? Or ignore it in the hopes he'll soon grow out of it?

Any research on this topic is especially appreciated.


2 Answers 2


At some point, in the myriad parenting books, articles, and magazines my wife and I read, somebody said that the best way to discipline a child under 2 is to do the following:

  • get down on the ground
  • grab their arms and hold them down to the sides of their body
  • keep them at a distance and look them in the eyes and say "NO biting" (or whatever) sternly and shake your head
  • look at them in the eyes for about 10 seconds, no letting them break free if they try
  • repeat the no and head shake again
  • ask for a hug and give them one if they're up to it.

Of course, sometimes they still go back to the same activity, at which time, the recommendation was to remove them from the situation and distract them with something else. You can do this by walking them into a different room and doing something different with them.

This has worked very well for us with all of our children.

  • 1
    That sounds like an effective method for many unwanted behaviours. Apr 3, 2011 at 17:24
  • It's very important to stop this kind of behaviour ASAP. We were not effective early and ended up resorting to cold showers for the offender, which worked (thank goodness). Starting out with Javid's method would have been smart.
    – nGinius
    Apr 4, 2011 at 23:42
  • 5
    OMG..@nGinius are saying you gave a one year old a cold shower as a punishment? Apr 27, 2011 at 13:46
  • I agree with @GarethDavis; a cold shower as a punishment for bad behavior is child abuse.
    – KeithS
    Jul 31, 2013 at 15:50
  • Holding them physically still for 10 seconds, and giving them a brief spray of cold water has the same effect - it causes them to stop thinking about whatever it was that was bothering them, and focus on the new thing bothering them. Of course each, if taken to an extreme (holding them for minutes, hours, etc, or showering them with cold water until their body temperature drops) would certainly constitute child abuse. But from the simple comment provided there's no grounds to go around telling people they are abusers.
    – Adam Davis
    Sep 9, 2013 at 18:42

With our three year old son, anytime he used to hit his sibling or someone, we would demonstrate a Shakespearean style stage drama full of intense agony and pain and callout to him letting him know how much it hurts us when he hurts his sibling.

Apparently toddlers care a lot about their folks and are genuinely concerned to help them put a magic bandaid that fixes the injury.

Overtime his hitting has significantly gone down. Albeit now at 3+ age, he know too well about the theatrical talent that runs in the family; so we just time him out..

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