Why do kids hit?

Many parents have asked themselves this question and the answer isn’t always an easy one. Hitting doesn’t mean your child is mean or a bully. Sometimes kids hit because there is an underlying issue that’s causing them to hit.

Below are three reasons your child might be hitting.

They Haven’t Learned How to Share Yet

Preschoolers are still learning how to share! They don’t necessarily know how to play with, instead of just next to, other kids. At this age, expect your little one to play side by side with another child but not necessarily play with them. Just by playing nearby, they are still learning how to be social and play together.

When hitting happens redirect their behavior right away. That’s how they learn that it isn’t okay. You can say something like, “We don’t hit. Instead, we can ask for the toy back,” to explain that hitting is wrong, model the correct behavior, and offer another option of what to do if they are upset.


They Are Upset

Sometimes your child may use hitting as a way to show anger or sadness. For example, if your child tends to hit after they lose a game with family or friends, talk it out ahead of time. Ask them how they will feel if they lose the game or how their friend will feel. Talking ahead of time can help prepare them to feel certain feelings. This leads them to be more understanding and react appropriately when things don’t work out the way they wanted.

When kids hit, it’s important to look for what is causing it. If you’re able to see trends, such as hitting when they lose a game, you can address that directly. When the cause is addressed, the hitting will likely stop.

They Are Frustrated

Hitting and biting can often be signs of communication issues and feeling frustrated because they are unable to express themselves. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider if you notice that hitting is becoming a regular problem or if you feel it is tied to frustrations with speech or communication.

What to Do If It’s Happening

Hitting does not mean the child is mean or a bully. Usually they are just frustrated and unable to express themselves appropriately. When kids are overtired or have had many sudden changes to their daily routine, they are more likely to act out. The important thing is that they can consistently behave and play politely. If hitting is becoming a regular problem or if you suspect it is resulting from frustrations with something else, like speech, please talk to your health care provider.

The skills your preschooler is developing through play will help them throughout their life. Learning how to take turns with others and stay in control of their emotions are two foundations of executive functioning skills, which will be very important as they enter grade school and beyond.

Hitting is Never Okay

By determining the cause and addressing it, you can make organized activities, play, and everyday tasks task more enjoyable.

Children hit for more reasons than the three listed here. If you are unable to determine why your child is hitting or if they still hit after you have tried several solutions, talk to your child’s healthcare provider.