Why your toddler hits you

Last week my brother visited us. We see each other much too seldomly to be appropriate for our deep relationship. Clearly we wanted to do something special, so we visited a very nice vegan family eating spot to hang out and give J the opportunity to run around wildly and play with wooden toys. I am not a big follower of fixed times throughout the day, but I know, that J normally gets tired around 12:00 and that he has to sleep somewhere at around 12:30. So we sat there and waited for our food at 12:30 and it was delicious and J was playing wildly. I know he prefers to sleep in his bed instead of the stroller, but I thought today he could just do with the stroller and that we would just manage it, if we stay relaxed. You know how days get planned and how it really works in the end…


When we left the restaurant he was so groggy, he yelled and screamed. I tried to put him into the ergo carrier and held him close. He stopped screaming and started scratching and biting me. He is quite good at scratching- and faster than I can protect myself. As soon as we reached the next meadow, I lay down and nursed him to sleep. All was well. Except for my décolleté that was covered in red welts (I am not exaggerating here).

I think you know where I am getting at. Your toddler always has a reason to hit, scratch or bite you. He never wants to hurt you on purpose. For him it is the only way to release tension. It is a catalyst for stress and pain.

So if your toddler hits you right in the face or pokes you in the middle of your eye, don’t say:  “What is wrong with you?!” “Are you kidding me?!” “You can’t just hit me!” “What was that supposed to be?” “Are you nuts?” “Don’t do that again!”

First: He won’t understand the content of your words. All he will understand is: I should suppress my feelings and I shall not show it, when I feel bad.

Reasons why your toddler hits you:

  • he wants attention and love
  • he wants to release tension
  • he is hungry or tired
  • he needs to move and play
  • he is curious about the effect

Instead: calm him down and breathe for a second. Take a step back and give yourself time for the right reaction. “I have a feeling that you are aggressive?” ” You have tensions in you, don’t you” “Please don’t hit me, I don’t like that” “How about you hit right on that pillow?” “You are really tired honey?” “I understand you want to say something?” “You feel uncomfortable?” “You need some running, let’s go outside?”

Protect yourself as good as you can, but understand that the little soul in front of you just wants to give you a portion of his bad feelings. And that he feels incredibly relieved when he is done with you.

Sometimes it is us who produce the whole situation. We stayed inside all day to relax, although the little ones want to run and move outside. We decide for a long exhausting day in the city, because we want to go shopping. Or like myself: We just want to do something special and delay expected rituals. And please don’t stop doing the things you like and that fulfill you, not even that long shopping tour with your toddler.

But afterwards don’t be mad at him, if he has bad feelings and if he doesn’t know where to go with them. Your toddler vents his anger on you because he knows he can trust you. Be thankful for that.


When my brother was gone in the evening that day, J and I were quite exhausted of the long long day. So I just lay close beside him in our family bed after I nursed him to sleep. I lay with my hand on his quickly moving belly and with my face close to his. I felt his breath on my forehead. I lay there and I thanked him silently for spending the day in my way.


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