Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What Do You Do When Your Toddlers Are Hitting Each Other?

As a mom of two sets of twins, a question posed to One Sassy Doctor about twin-twin toddlers hitting each other was familiar!

Hitting is normal amongst twins and non-twin siblings. Although it is distressing to see one child hit—and another child be hit—it is an expected part of development that becomes more salient when both of the kids are your own! You’re looking at one child thinking, “My baby is getting hit!” and another child thinking “My baby is hitting another child!” Where do you begin?
As a pediatrician and mom, I have developed a simple technique that should do the trick—for twins, non-twin siblings and classmates.
  1. First, define what a “hit” is to you and others who take care of your child; everyone should know what defines a “hit”. Personally, we let a lot of “hits” slide under the rug—if the other twin liked it, we didn’t consider it a “negative” behavior. Our boys clobber each other like cavemen and laugh hysterically—and they are now four! We only intervene when one is upset.
  2. Clearly establish that a “hit” is a “no-no” behavior. You can accomplish this by immediately responding when you see one of the children hitting.
  3. Remove the “hitter” from the play space.
  4. Say “no hitting” and move the “hitter” to an area without toys (a baby mini time-out). Unfortunately the other sibling will also be sad because his/her playmate was taken away!
  5. Consistently do this each time the hitting happens, progressing—if necessary—from one to two minutes. (Two minutes is a very long time for an 18-month-old!)