Each child is unique in their own way; they have their own preferences, likes, dislikes and personalities.  Similarly, they also go through phases such as saying no extensively, or being jealous of other children’s toys.  Another phase that can be common among children is the ‘hitting’ phase, but what happens when they start hitting other children or their parents and it lasts longer than a couple weeks?

Honestly, it can be a little embarrassing for parents (especially when you are in the check-out line and your child starts throwing punches because you didn’t get them that super sugary cereal).  Parents often feel judged by onlookers and encounter snide remarks ~ some from people who don’t even have children!  Phases are normal, but when hitting becomes all too frequent intervention may be needed in order to curb your child’s behaviour.  Here are some tips we use at Little Human Scholars preschool and playschool in Petaling Jaya that has worked wonders for us and our students!

  • Don’t demonstrate it at home or at school

My mother always used to say, “Children see, children do,” and I have found this simple methodology to be correct in raising my own children as well as looking over the students in our kindergarten.  Whatever the children see, especially if it is done over and over again, they will tend to do.


This can be an issue, especially if a child is around other children that hit and push.  I truly believe that children are a product of their environment; if they are around loving and nurturing children and adults, they will reflect this.  If they are around people who hit or slap them, they will reflect this behaviour instead.  In short, if you don’t want your child resorting to violence, make sure they are around others that don’t use violence as a means of getting what they want!


  • Avoid being aggressive when disciplining them~ teach and lead by example

Adding to the old “Children see, children do,” point mentioned above, children will follow their parents and guardians’ behaviour.  Finding different ways of disciplining your child without resorting to hitting, beating, threatening or yelling at them can benefit you and them in the future.  Some additional examples of discipline would include:

  • Substitution: if a child is getting angry, allow them to vent it in another way such as going to time out to feel their feelings as opposed to hitting.  After calming down you and your child can look at the situation again.
  • Talk it out: talk with the child about what is going on…especially when it comes to feelings and physical pain such as hitting someone.  Even if their vocabulary isn’t up to par, that doesn’t mean that they don’t understand what you are saying.  Use calm and gentle tones to talk to them as well.
  • Say no, but explain why: too often parents say “no” to their children without explaining why.  At the very least, explain why they can or cannot do something so that they understand why.  Then next time, if they start displaying the same behaviour again, ask them, “Why is this not a good idea?  Does hitting feel good or does hitting hurt?”
  • Redirection: Redirecting your child’s emotions can also support them in rationalizing instead of hitting other children or you.  You can support them by saying, “Are you feeling angry?  Tell me what it is you want.”  You may already know what it is that they want, but having them explain it and express it supports them by redirecting their focus from hitting to communicating.  They may say, “I want to play with that ball.”  You can tell them, “Well, ask the little girl nicely if she can share her ball with you.”  If the girl does decide to share, that is great.  If not, you can tell your child, “She doesn’t want to share her ball right now.  Let’s play with something else instead.”  By this time, your child’s anger has subsided.


Naturally, every child is different and certain disciplining techniques may work better for them.  The key would be to test out different modalities until you find one that best suits your child!


  • Ask yourself questions

If your child is resorting to hitting or beating you and other children, and you certainly don’t display it at home, it is best to discover where it is coming from so you can identify the issue at the root cause and settle it from there.  Asking ourselves questions can support us in identifying where the issue may be coming from.


Is it one particular child he or she hits?

Is it at a certain time of day? 

Do they hit only me or other people/children as well? 

What is my child communicating to me? 

What are his/her triggers?


If you find that your child gets sleepy and ‘grumpy’ after lunch then you can takes steps on how to set you and your child up for success so the unwanted behaviour stops.  If you find that your child hits other children only when they are close to ‘mommy’ or ‘daddy,’ then you know how to approach this issue more head-on as your child’s trigger has been identified.  Again, once the root cause is identified, it is easier to put a stop to the issue.


  • Step in at the first signs of this behaviour and stop it immediately

After you have identified your child’s triggers (those little things that set them off), it is ideal to watch for it and step in at the first sign of trouble.  For example, if you know your child is particular about a certain toy and will protect this toy even if it means resorting to kicking or hitting, then you have identified his or her trigger.  Whenever another child starts eyeing or getting close to that toy, or if you notice that your child is becoming territorial you can intervene before something happens.


  • Praise them when they get it right!!

Keep in mind that it may take some time for your child to adapt a new habit or behaviour.  One sure-fire way to encourage them to adapt this behaviour more and more would be to praise them when they do get it right!  You can clap your hands and say, “Good work” or “good job!”  Or you can reward them with additional arts and crafts time or a fun activity.  The key here would be to anchor a positive experience when they could have hit or pushed someone and they didn’t.  For best results, ensure both parents/guardians to this as well as the child’s daycare, preschool or playschool.  Consistency wins in the campaign for a child’s better behaviour!


In summary, there are several things you can do in order to sway your child from resorting to physical violence on the playground or at home.  The best would be to figure out what makes your child tick and use a method based on their preference that works best for them.  If a method doesn’t work after a week or two, it may be good to change tactics and adapt to the situation.  What works for one child won’t always work for another.

At Little Human Scholars playschool, preschool and daycare, we use a time-out system as a form of disciplinary measure.  However, there is one little girl who doesn’t mind time out.  In fact, it seems to have no impact on her behaviour at all.  What did we do?  We adapted.  Instead of using time-out as a means of disciplinary measure, we tell her, “Do you want me to call your mommy and tell her what you are doing?”  After readjusting ourselves and applying this new tactic, she responded well to our new and improved disciplinary system.

Again, give it some time and go easy on yourself.  We are all still on the path of learning!

Wishing you enlightening and fun parenting experiences!


Jana Moreno