12 Effective Ways To Stop A Kid From Hitting

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Knowing how to stop kids from hitting, biting, or kicking their peers and others helps the parents control this unwanted behavior early. Unfortunately, hitting others is a common unpleasant behavior found in various stages of childhood, and many children may continue it even though parents discipline them. However, pediatric psychologists advise parents to keep calm and understand it as a poor way for young children to communicate their feelings. You may seek medical care to look for any underlying reasons if they do this in later childhood.

Read this post to know how to stop a kid from hitting, biting, or kicking peers and parents.

In This Article

Why Do Children Hit?

Children might show acts of physical aggression to communicate their feelings. This could also be a part of their general development. Some reasons why children might hit include the following:

  • Physical aggression, such as biting, punching, throwing tantrums, etc., could express their anger and sadness, or it might indicate that they are unable to communicate their concerns. For example, when your child has lost a game, or things do not go as planned, they may turn aggressive (1)

    Physical aggression, how to stop a kid from hitting

    Image: Shutterstock

protip_icon Research finds
Aggressive behaviors and temper tantrums, such as throwing things, hitting, and screaming, are most common in children between two to three years (11).

  • In younger children, hitting someone may be due to a lack of self-control, understanding that hitting someone is wrong, an inability to process feelings, or a desire to test limits (2).
  • A child may also hit their siblings or others for showing their power and domination over others (3).

Sometimes, unfavorable events during childhood can cause a mental scar, leading to aggression and violent behavior. They include (4):

  • Exposure to violence at home, in the community, or through the media.

    Exposure to violence at home, how to stop a kid from hitting

    Image: Shutterstock

  • Stressful family socioeconomic variables, including poverty, extreme deprivation, divorce, single parenting, unemployment, and lack of extended family support.

Sometimes, there can be a neuropsychiatry reason for the aggressive behavior of children. Disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome (ADHD), autismiXA neurological and developmental disorder that may impact the way they socially interact, communicate, and learning , subnormal intelligence, head injury, rage attacks or episodic controls, and confusion, may cause aggressive behavior in a child to hit or bite someone or throw tantrums. Also, neurometabolic diseasesiXA group of conditions that cause problems with metabolism and brain function. , such as Wilson diseaseiXA genetic disorder characterized by the deposition of excess copper in vital organs such as the eyes, brain, and liver. and Huntington's diseaseiXA progressive brain disorder that may occur due to faulty genes. , can result in aggressive behavior in children (5).

A community sample study examined the relationship between language and temper tantrums, and the graph below depicts the results. The findings highlight that late-talking toddlers between 24 and 30 months had significantly higher temper tantrum scores than the same-age toddlers who were not late talkers. These results suggest that a toddler’s ability to express themselves relates to temper tantrums.

Relation between late talking and temper tantrums

Source: Relations between toddler expressive language and temper tantrums in a community sample; Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology

How To Stop A Child From Hitting?

Here are some behavioral management strategies that could be helpful in preventing a child from hitting:

  1. Act early: Observing your child’s behavior can be helpful to act early. Intervene when you think your child is about to hit someone (3).
  1. Tell it is not okay to hit: Telling them that hitting someone is not good and talking about it beforehand will help them anticipate how they’ll feel. This way, they will understand when things don’t go as planned (1). You can also show them “gentle touch”, especially to a young child who cannot understand.

    Talk about hitting beforehand

    Image: IStock

  1. Plan one-on-one time: This helps build a positive child-parent relationship where a child gets comfortable talking to you about their problem (6). It is an effective strategy if your child is bullied at school or is a victim of physical or sexual abuse (7).
  1. Establish rules: Consider teaching household rules, such as respecting others and not allowing physical violence or abuse (biting, kicking, hitting) at home to help deter such behavior (8).
    1. Use consequences to enforce rules: Using some methods to educate your child on the consequences of their actions can reinforce responsibility and nurture good behavior. For instance, if your child continues to hit, taking away their privileges (end of playtime) can provide them with a warning and an opportunity to change their behavior. On the other hand, praising positive behavior, appreciating and rewarding children for their good behavior will further encourage them (6).

      Appreciate positive behavior

      Image: Shutterstock

  1. Responding at the moment: Behavior experts suggest that if a child is hitting and throwing tantrums for a specific reason or thing, remaining calm and refraining from giving it will teach a child that such behavior is not acceptable (7) If the child is older, the parent may have to physically restrain the child by holding them but without hurting them.
  1. Welcome the meltdown: Do not try to reason with a child when they are upset or angry. Try to empathize with them and acknowledge their feelings and validate their reasoning. You can talk and reason with them once their anger subsides (7).
  1. Using alternative behaviors: When your child is about to hit someone, you can dissuade your youngster or communicate with them to teach them alternative ways to resolve their conflicts (8).
  1. Do not beat your child: Hitting and scolding the child will encourage them to use aggressive behavior. Toddlers and young children mimic an elder’s actions and behaviors (3).

protip_icon Expert says
Elizabeth Gershoff, a professor and expert on the effects of corporal punishment on children, states that physical punishments, such as spanking, may make a child to follow their parent’s wish for the moment. However, it may harm the child (12).

  1. Seek professional help: Parents should seek counsel from a psychiatrist or other mental health specialist experienced in examining and treating behavioral issues in young children if their child has persistent aggressive conduct and poor social skills (3).

    Seek medical help to examine and treat behavioral issues

    Image: IStock

  1. Join parent training programs: These programs are intended to improve and strengthen the parent–child relationship while also attempting to enhance the parent’s skills to manage a child’s negative behavior. The programs are directed by psychologists and social workers and are evidence-based, through rigorous studies, and proved to be effective for many families (7).
  1. Use medications: Medications are sometimes combined with behavioral therapy, particularly if a child has an underlying disorder. In children with developmental disabilities, certain drugs, including anticonvulsantsiXDrugs that help prevent seizures by normalizing the way nerve impulses work. , antidepressants, or beta-blocking agentsiXPrescription-only medicines that work on decreasing cardiac activity to help manage several cardiovascular issues. , could control their aggressive behaviors (5).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is aggression learned or inherited?

Scientific studies suggest that aggression may be learned or inherited. It was found that genetic and environmental factors contribute almost equally to human aggression. However, the effect of environmental factors on persons with a genetic predisposition may vary (9).

2. Why does my child keep hitting his head with his hands?

A child hitting his head may be seen in developing children when they are tired or frustrated or as a part of a temper tantrum. This may mainly occur due to a child’s inability to express strong emotions, such as anger, through the appropriate use of language (10).

3. Is hitting a symptom of ADHD?

Yes. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)iX A neurodevelopmental disorder affecting the child's ability to pay attention, control impulses, and manage energy levels. is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impulsive aggressive behavior. Hitting is a form of aggression, which could also indicate ADHD in children (13).

Parents and caregivers need to know how to stop a kid from hitting. Young children may show physical aggression to communicate their emotions. They may not know that hitting someone is bad behavior. Aggressive behaviors are common in young children exposed to bullying, abuse, trauma, or violence. It can also be seen in children with neurodevelopmental disorders. However, parents can stop a child from hitting by encouraging good behavior through positive reinforcement and rewards and enforcing rules. Nevertheless, do not hesitate to seek professional help from psychologists if required.

Infographic: Things To Do When A Child Has Cooled Down After A Tantrum

Now that your child has calmed down after a mini explosion, you can heave a sigh of relief that the worst is over. In addition, you can use this time to teach them some valuable lessons. Go through the infographic below to learn the best ways to handle your child after a tantrum.

how to handle your child after a tantrum (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

Download Infographic in PDF version Download Infographic
Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • Young children may hit you or others to express powerful emotions such as anger, grief, or disappointment.
  • Exposure to domestic violence or any form of abuse may sometimes lead to aggressive behavior in children.
  • Establish home rules and teach your children that hitting someone is not a nice thing to do.
  • You must understand that hitting or scolding your child will not help.
  • Distracting your child’s attention with other activities may discourage them from hitting someone.

Are you worried that your child is pinching, hitting, biting, scratching, and throwing things to express themselves? Help your child learn better ways to express their emotions with this video.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. My Child Hits. Why?
  2. Toddlers and Challenging Behavior: Why They Do It and How to Respond.
  3. Fighting and Biting.
  4. Violent Behavior in Children and Adolescents.
  5. Gosalakkal JA Aggression rage and dyscontrol in neurological diseases of children 2003.
  6. How to discipline your child the smart and healthy way.
  7. Complete Guide to Managing Behavior Problems.
  8. 10 Tips to Prevent Aggressive Toddler Behavior.
  9. Catherine Tuvblad and Laura A. Baker Human Aggression Across the Lifespan: Genetic Propensities and Environmental Moderators 2011.
  10. Jane Summers et al.; Self-Injury in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual Disability: Exploring the Role of Reactivity to Pain and Sensory Input.
  11. Sisterhen LL and Wy PAW; Temper Tantrums
  12. Physical discipline is harmful and ineffective.
  13. Brittany L. Manning et al.;Relations between toddler expressive language and temper tantrums in a community sample
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