Why is My Baby Hitting?
Why Do Babies Hit?
In babies up to 12 months of age, hitting isn't a sign of aggression towards the person they hit. Aggressive hitting is normally only present in children aged 18 months upwards, when they often vocalise frustrations and anger by hitting. Babies under one explore with their hands and mouth and hit as a way of exploring their world. They enjoy seeing what happens when they hit things and people; cause and effect is fascinating to babies! Hitting things, people in particular makes a slapping sound, so that gives babies a bonus of hearing the effects of their actions!
What Can You Do About It?
Although babies initially hit as a method of exploration, if the person they've hit laughs or looks surprised, the baby might find this amusing and think its a fun game to play. Your baby isn't trying to hurt you, but play a game with you.
However, even if not meant in an aggressive way, flailing fists can hurt (babies are stronger than they look!) and they could hit other children too. What is innocent exploration in a baby can turn into aggressive hitting behaviour in a toddler. If you teach your baby from an early age that hitting is wrong, they're less likely to grow into a child who habitually hits adults and other children.
What Should I Do If My Baby Hits Me?
Don't laugh or put on your funny 'shocked' expression. Be firm with your baby that hitting is wrong. Be consistent with your response; sometimes being firm and sometimes laughing will make your baby very confused! Tell your baby 'no don't hit Mummy, hug Mummy instead', and then give your baby a cuddle. For older babies nearing their first birthday, you can explain that hitting hurts 'ouch! that hurt Mummy', and say 'hitting makes me sad'. You can also try to direct flailing arms and hands by playing clapping games, asking your baby to do a high five, or giving him a drum to bang. If you don't react to your baby's playful slaps, they'll soon grow bored of doing them.
If Your Baby Hits Other Babies
If your baby hits other babies with an object, such as the wooden brick he is holding, take the toy away from him immediately. If he's hitting other children with his hand, redirect his energies elsewhere by telling him to pat the baby's arm instead, while saying 'gently', so he understands that he must touch other babies and children gently.
Occasionally, a baby who hits might be doing it out of pain and frustration. If a baby has an infection, he might hit because is in pain and can't vocalise this to you. If your baby's hitting habits coincides with a change in behaviour, such as crying more and becoming irritable, take him to see a doctor.
Don't ever be tempted to gently hit your baby back, as a way of teaching him that hitting is wrong (or as a way of reprimanding him). This will make him think that hitting is right, if Mummy or Daddy do it too.