My 3-year-old niece sometimes behaves very violently. She so much enjoys hitting me with tab/doll/spoon/bottle or whatever she has. She hits very hard. I try to take the things away from her. But she is very stubborn and won't give those items to me. She is very intelligent otherwise. She is very witty and quick to reply. She has very good observation skills.

So, unwillingly, I would threaten her with a slap, she still doesn't relent. So I feel a little irritated at my inability to handle such situations. Also, she has a tendency to spoil things. She would tear the newspaper/books. She would keep throwing things away. She is not at all obedient.

Once she was hitting me very hard on my head with a water bottle. I tried to take the bottle away but she didn't let me. I tried telling her how it hurts me, she still didn't relent. Then I picked another bottle and hit mildly on her head (not at all out of frustration, just to make her aware that it's not good to hit others. I admit my method was wrong.), but she still kept hitting.

Then I was about to go out of the room to call her parents when she immediately hit my nephew on the head. I saw that she hit very hard. Immediately, I slapped her on the face. She cried for about 20 minutes. I felt very bad. Now I always keep my room shut so that she doesn't enter. Because she would spoil everything in the room. I really wish somebody could help me how to deal with this situation. I just want her to behave properly.

I feel very very sad when her mother keeps slapping her daily. I have told her not to slap the child but she wants the kid to obey her. What are the ways to teach such kids, surely slapping is not one of them? Because anyways it's not working.

1 Answer 1


When my children were growing up we had several mantras, and one was "we don't hit". You really cannot teach a child not to hit by hitting them, nor not to scream by screaming at them etc.

Dealing physically with a hitter is easier when you have been picking them up and holding them your whole life. A toddler can be very strong and squirmy, and you can't be sure how firm you can be without hurting them. Taking thing from them is also hard.

Learn how to pick her up in a way that makes it hard for her to hurt you. This usually means from behind with your arms around her waist, and holding her reasonably close to you so she doesn't have enough room to kick you really hard. Say to her "don't hit me! We don't hit." The first sentence can be in an agitated or excited tone, but the second should be calm.(You can also say "I won't let you hurt me" in a way that reassures her you are protecting her from doing something wrong.) Now walk her somewhere slightly different. Another room, another part of the same room - you're just changing her environment. Put her down, and remind her of your confidence in her. "I know you can play without hurting me." Or perhaps "it's more fun to play without hurting anyone."

Next, direct her specifically to an activity. "Would you like to colour now?" or "Here are some blocks to build with." Toddlers really can't process "don't X" very well. They do much better when you tell them what to do instead. If she was hitting for a reason - for example because another child took her toy, or because you gave her something she didn't want - tell her a better way to express her feelings. "Use your words, not your hands" is the most common phrasing here.

As for the matter of possessions. It's a lot to ask of a toddler that they live surrounded by things that could be broken or ripped, and never touch them. These things don't mean the same to her as to you. She doesn't read the newspaper. Its value to her is how cool it feels when it crumples and rips. Keeping your room closed, and keeping things you don't want her to touch out of her reach, isn't something to feel bad about. It's how to protect her from doing something wrong that she can't understand.

  • This is excellent. Out boy is 3, and very physical. One thing that I have found helps, besides all the advice in this post, is to focus on bad and good behavior, not bad and good kids. He drives his truck into my leg (hard) I tell him (after initial warning): 'That really hurt, you know you can't do that. The truck is not letting you make good choices. I am sorry, I have to take the truck away. I wish you could play with the truck, since I can see you have fun, but it is making you make bad choices. You need a break from the truck until tomorrow.'
    – Ida
    Jul 2, 2014 at 18:01
  • I usually focus on the behavior (specifically in the situation) if it is bad for example "Hitting the kitty was not a good choice, I need to move the kitty out of the way until you learn not to hit" and the person if it is good "Thank you, you are a great helper!", I want my son to take the good to heart and be given clear feedback as to how to improve the bad.
    – kleineg
    Jul 8, 2014 at 14:20
  • 2
    @ida By making the truck the cause of the behavior, you are also teaching him to redirect blame instead of taking responsibility. Bad behavior does not make a child all bad, but failing to accept responsibility is the cause of more issues down the road.
    – pojo-guy
    Feb 23, 2018 at 21:08

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