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please help with 2 y/o hitting strangers....

585 Views 3 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  Embee
i am getting so 27 month old ds has recently started hitting strangers. it can be anyone....our neighbor, someone in line at the grocery store, etc. it doesn't happen all the time and yes it definitely happens more when he's tired. it just seems to come out of the blue....he just walks up and hits them on the leg. needless to say, i'm mortified!!!

when he turned two he started hitting other kids his age (at playgroup) when they would take his toy or get in 'his space'. we've worked alot with him....talking to him, telling him 'we don't hit, hitting hurts'. we've tried time- outs and although we still use them on occasion what seems to work best is talking to him and explaining how hitting hurts and our friends won't want to be around us if we hurt them etc. etc. etc. the situation, although definitely not resolved, has definitely improved.

so why is he now hitting strangers? anyone else experience this?? i am soooo frustrated!!! i can't help but feel responsible for raising an 'aggressive' child when he acts out like this - i feel like i've failed in a way. please.... any advice is welcome.....
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May I ask: what is the "emotional tone" of the hitting? Aggressive, angry? Or does it seem more random as in, trying to get yours or someone's elses attention? I do wonder if sometimes kids this age start hitting rather randomly simply because they're looking to make a connection, and need help remembering the best way to do it. Moreover, when our kids are little like this, I think they can feel overwhelmed by strangers, especially adults. Often feel pretty small in a big people's world. I do wonder if this kind of behavior doesn't just stem from a very basic need to be noticed. And well as he's probably realized, a hit will get you noticed.

DS goes through hitting phases from time to time--no strangers as of yet, but DH and I or other family members. I look for the emotion behind the action, and see if I can't come up with a way to meet the need of the emotion. If it seems more or less random (no anger attached to it), I give him an alternative way to connect with people: "DS, are you trying to get Auntie's attention? It's not okay to hit her, hitting hurts. If you'd like to walk up to her and say hello or give her a hug, I know she'd appreciate it." If the hit is carried out in anger, I might say something like, "You're angry because... it's OK to be angry. But it's not ok to hit. You can tell your friend that you're playing with that toy right now. " DS is 3 1/2, and I've found that by playing with him (ala, Playful Parenting), I can detect and help him with issues he's having. Hitting has been a key issue that we've dealt with in this way. Very helpful.

I think you're doing just fine--talking things through is always good. Keep it up. Often, it's just a matter of time. Talk about emotions, name them as best you can and give him ideas for better dealing with/expressing them. Aside from that, prevention. If you know he's tired, avoid situation that can overstim, or make sure he's close by you and if he does go in for the hit with someone, try to get there in time to catch him before it happens. Often, the most effective way of dealing with aggressive behaviors is to make sure you get there just before or while it's happening--then anything you say can be directly attributed to the act itself... stopping DS mid hit and having "the talk" has been much more effective than having to address after it's occured... then you're dealing with the victims emotions as well and things can get muddled from the toddler's perspective. Of course, it's not always possible in which case, focus first on the victim ("I'm so sorry. Are you ok?") and then on DS...

I'm rambling... the best to you. And know you're not alone! I actually had a friend go through this very same thing (with the strangers) and it was really just consistency and a matter of time.
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thanks embee - your post was very helpful and reassuring. to answer your question....when he hits strangers it definitely seems to be in a very playful, let-me-see-if-this-gets-attention, kind of way. and yes, very random - which makes it even more difficult to predict when it will occur. when he was hitting other children his age b/c of a toy issue or an in-my-space issue, he was definitely hitting out of anger or aggression.

your post made a lot of sense to me.....i need to remember to try to find the reasoning behind the action or at least the emotion that is driving the behavior. it is still incredibly frustrating and upsetting to me....but i think i need to remember that 'this too shall pass' - with a lot of talking and guidance from dh and i. sigh......
You're most welcome, Jodi.

I totally understand that unpredictability factor! *sigh* It sounds like our DSs have followed a similar path... although when DS went through the anger/frustration phase it was biting rather than hitting. When it's so random though, it's not always easy to keep my thoughts in line in the moment (read deer in headlights!) A few weeks back, DS started hitting his Uncle. His uncle LOVES playing with DS but gets him really worked up and it's happened more than a time or two. I kept telling DS he needed to stop hitting, and he just kept it up. I was so frustrated. Then I rememebered to give him an alternative and DS took me right up on it, hugged his uncle and they continued playing. WHEW!

Hang in there!
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