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My 17-month-old has slapped my face twice in the last week when I was doing something he didn't like -- namely, putting on his jacket and changing his diaper. He yells, 'No, Mommy, no,' and wham! Right across the face. I've never hit him and he hasn't witnessed hitting at home. Where did this come from and more importantly, how can I stop this behavior?


Trish Booth, MA Replied: Your son could have seen someone slap another person outside your home, like in a store. Or, it could have been a spontaneous gesture that he has repeated because he got reaction from you. Your son is starting a normal developmental phase of exploring and testing limits.

The challenge for you is that this phase can be quite frustrating because, as part of the testing, children repeatedly do the things they aren't supposed to and become provocative. That being said, it is important that you set a limit and forbid hitting.

The next time he makes a move to slap you, try to avoid the contact and immediately say in a sharp, stern voice, "NO. No hitting." Then calmly proceed with what you have been doing. Many parents try to do a lot of explaining about why not to do the unwanted behavior. However, at 17 months, a short "NO. No hitting." is more effective. You have quickly and simply announced the boundary he is not to cross. Don't be surprised, though, if he immediately tries to slap you again as you resume the behavior he doesn't want. If he tries to hit again, simply repeat, "I said no hitting."

After your reprimand, it's best to give him some control within the behavior you are continuing. For example, offer him a choice, such as, "You need to have a clean diaper. Do you want a diaper with ducks or bears on it?"

As your son gets older and more verbal, you can work with him to use words rather than hitting to express his feelings. But, for now, you are helping him understand the boundaries of acceptable behavior.

Posted On 2010-06-08 23:07:05
Brenda Nixon, M.A. Replied: Great question. Even when tots grow up on a peaceful, non-violent home they often go through a stage of aggression. It's most common around the age of 2 yrs (24-months). My suggestion is to watch out - if you see his little paw coming toward your face reach out and intercept it. Hold his hand and firmly state, "I am not for hitting." Then continue your work with him. If he repeats, you repeat. He must learn there are boundaries. If he insists on slapping at you, then I'd suggest a brief moment of passive time-out. Simply look away (no eye contact) or turn his body away from you. This sends a brief message that his consequence for slapping is no contact from you - the most important person in his universe (for now). Best wishes!
Posted On 2010-06-06 18:59:13
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