Any suggestions for getting a 3 1/2 year old girl to stop hitting when she is upset with a friend? I immediately remove her from the situation, reprimand her - telling her we NEVER hit; she has time outs - and will do it again anyway. She is a member of a playgroup with 4 others of her age - she seems to be the only one who expresses herself this way.

While toddlers are more often prone to biting, hitting seems to be more a vice of slightly older preschool children. Often the children in the group will handle the situation themselves by hitting back before adults have a chance to intervene. But if the hitter is the biggest or most aggressive member of the group, parental intervention may be needed.

  • Make not hitting a Being a Big Girl project. It is one of many aspects of being a Big Girl (or boy) that you will be noticing and talking about.
  • Discuss not hitting before play with other children. Talk about the fact that we sometimes get a little mad, but we just cannot hit people.
  • Watch her while she plays, and intervene for a short reminder if she seems to be getting frustrated and might hit.
  • After play group, review her behavior. Try to be positive - "I only had to remind you twice," or some such. Mention the negative but quietly praise the positive.
  • Discuss her progress at the supper table with Dad so that he can be proud of her and remind her as well that hitting is not something that Big Girls do.
  • You might do a very short term star chart (5 days?), with a special trip or something at the end, but in my experience these are less useful and only helpful as part of a more comprehensive effort.
  • Never, ever say "If you don't hit today I will take you to McDonalds," or similar bribes (see my thoughts on rewards vs. bribery). However, if she has a good day and does not hit, it is perfectly fine to reward her with McDonalds (or whatever you think appropriate).
  • If she did hit and asks to go to Mickey-D's anyway, just be sorry and sad about it: "I am sorry you cannot go to McDonalds, dear. You know the rules about hitting. I know you will do better next time."

With kids, as in life, negativity only gets us so far. It is a general focus on the positives that pays off in the end.

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