Why Is A Three-year-old Child Hitting And What To Do?

Posted by on the TCS List on Tue, 22 May 2001 at 08:03:23 -0700

Sue Cvach

A poster wrote:

Not knowing the child or the situation it is hard to know what is behind it. I don't think it is very unusual for three year olds to hit, particularly if they didn't hit much when they were two-year olds.

In any situation, a person cannot know for sure what is in another's mind, what their true motivation is. Even when a person tells you what they think, you can't be sure they aren't mistaken. A person can only go on their best guess of what might help.

Hitting, by any age person, could be in self-defense, or it could be a way of exerting power (might makes right theory), a way of getting what they want. Hitting might be an effective means of self-defense, or there might be better ways to defend oneself. There are better ways of getting what a person wants, and that is what children want to find out, I think, is the best way for them to get what they want. Parents – though often quite confused themselves about how to get what they want! – can be a child's best advisor and helper in figuring out good ways (for everyone involved) to get what each person wants.

First, I would assume that the child is doing what is normal in two and one year olds, i.e. they are aware of themselves as people but they haven't yet extrapolated the idea of conciousness onto the other children they are coming in contact with. I have even seen this in four year olds, if they haven't had much time with babies, for example, when they do get to spend time with one they may not realise that they can't just poke their fingers in the baby's eyes. The concept of the baby as a person like themselves has not necessarily entered their awareness.

I think that this can apply to people of any age. I think there is more to developing empathy than age. How the individual is treated by others, for example, especially by their parents, I conjecture.

The step from awareness of self to awareness of others as selves is not always completed by three.

or age 20, or age 70. ;-)

Sometimes a child that has spent a lot of time with grown ups (who are not interested in helping the child get what s/he wants) and not so much time with other little children will have the awareness about grown-ups. But they may not yet have extrapolated that awareness onto the funny little bodies running around that look kind of familiar and may be some kind of dog or animal so lets give it a whack and see what happens.

Oh, dear.... I don't think I am buying this theory.

If you find that responding to the child in the way you would respond to a two year old isn't the approach that is needed, then perhaps the anger theory is a good next step.

I would respond to any child of any age (as a parent to child, that is) by trying to figure out what they want, and doing everything I can to help them get it. If the child is angry, I'd keep helping them get what they want. Trying to figure out why the child is angry might be intrusive and make things worse, I think.... children often can't answer the questions of ‘why’ that parents/adults pepper them with, not having the words to explain what is in their minds or whatever. We make our best guesses and keep at it.

If the anger theory doesn't seem to make sense

Oh, I think it makes perfect sense!

then I would just do my best to make sure that other kids don't get hurt and wait for it to pass.

It is important to protect children from being hurt, physically, emotionally, mentally. And it is important to help children get what they want.

I have found that all the things that drive me crazy for a time end and then you forget they even happened. I always remind myself of this as the next frustrating aspect of my children arises.

Chalking up children's behavior to ‘a stage’ and waiting for it to pass, without helping them to accomplish their ends, is not helpful or right, imo.

It's as if we are conditioned to do this as parents.

I agree that we are conditioned by memes to act in certain ways, but they are not always moral or right ways. I think it is very important to recognize when one is acting-out a harmful meme, and put in the required thought and action to replace it with a better theory.

Whatever is causing the hitting it is probably arising from frustration and frustration is the basis of learning. Both for you and your child.

I disagree. While frustration might be a motivation to change things, it is not necessary for learning... in fact, it can derail learning. Frustration is a sign of coercion at work, imo. Conflicting theories fighting it out in one's head. Conjecture and refutation is how learning happens.


My Three Year Old hitting all the time!

Hi, I really dont know what to do because I two kids with the same father, and he has two kids with other person. The ages range from 6-1. My son is 3 and my daughter is 1 1/2. My son is hitting the older two all the time, and we just got Child Protective Services called us because he is hitting his two older sisters all the time. I really dont what to do because im getting so frustative and he starts school this year. I have told the his teacher what is going with him, and she is going to get me some help so we can help him to see what is going on with him. But Im to the point I dont know what to do anymore. I guess what Im doing is asking for some tips in helping me understand why he is hitting all the time and I cant control it. I mean i put him in time out and that doesnt seem to work anymore. Now that we have child protective services here and they found everything unfounded now we are going to court about this matter because my bfs ex wife thinks its nesscary to bring a 3yr in the middle of this whole mess. I mean he never hit before now he is hitting all the time. He sometimes hits his little sister, and I just get so frustative i just dont know what to do anymore. So Im ask you for pointers or am I doing something wrong. I just dont know what to do anymore. I am crying for help. My bf works out of town all week so its just me and the Jakob and Abbigail, and he still hits her. I get the other two on wednesdays and when they walk in the door Jakob starts hitting them. So i dont know what do anymore. I NEED HELP PLEASE HELP ME!

Thanks Danielle

My 3 year old kicks , hits , Says a constant NO

My 3year old son who goes to preschool recently.my son has never been in a day care , i took care of him all the time so he ws less exposed 2 bigger kids group .The 1st day the teacher said he's hitting everyone , the 2nd day she said the teached was kicked , the third day she said he threw his shoes off and it fell on some one . The first week was soo bad i thought it ws just the begining and he'll get used to it but its the 2nd week and today the director called me and i ws puzzled i askd her " what would you like me to do ? " she said pls pick him up. I was soo shocked . My son whos a Hugger , a kisser the one who says soo many thankyous and please and sorriess , is a bully in school. i have been talking to him , today took away his toys but nuthing seems to be helping , i wish supernanny visit us ... we r first time parents and am starting to feel we have failed parenting. We want to have more kids but am soo stressed with my son nuthings hppening. Pls help someone

My 4 year old child hits children at school

My 4 year old boy hits children in his class, enjoys throwing toys, rolling on floor in his school,doesnt wants to sit and write but this kind of behaviour is not seen at home or anywhere else. His teacher fails to handle him. Why is he different infront of me and in his school?

4 year old Grandson is mean to his little sister and to animals

My grandson who just turned 4 is always mean to his baby sister who is 9 months old. We cannot leave him in the room for one second because he will shove her over, pull her arms, or just lay on her so she can't move. He is also very mean to dogs. He was mean to dogs before his little sister came along. Just yesterday, he was at his cousins house and tried to hang thier puppy with leash. My daughter is going to talk to the pediatrician about his behavior to see if he needs some form of counseling. Other than that he is the perfect child, is is always so loving to everyone else and is so smart. He does go to daycare and for the most part does okay there. He is not allowed to spend much time watching TV unless it is an educational program or Disney. We cannot figure out what is going on in his little mind to make him be mean. He actully started being mean to the dog when he was 2, he would kick her or pull her hair. We have to keep the dog in another room from him because we don't want him to get bit. HELP

this might help!!!

what i do with 3 year olds in asks them what is wrong.if they dont talk then tell him that he will get a treat afterward,they always tell me afterwards, after he tells you get him a treat,of course, then help him with the problem. but if he still doesnt tell you then drop it but dont give up,ask him everyday until he tells you.

what ever you do ,dont show any kind of violence in front of him and be nice to him and dont especally give into him so he doesnt get his way until he tells you.

i hoped this info helps and good luck!!