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What I do when my 2-year-old hits is jump in immediately and take his hands in mine. I say, “Hitting hurts. You may not hit. Your hands are for gentle touches,” and then I apologize to the child (and parents if there) who was hit. Modeling apologies teaches sincerity in apologizing, but forcing apologies can teach a child to lie if they aren’t really sorry. I teach my children the words, “I’m sorry,” and talk to them about what they mean, but I never force the apology. I might ask, instead, “Do you feel bad that you hurt them? If yes, you need to apologize.” I also say, “You need to make this right,” and they might offer an “I’m sorry,” or a hug, or something else like giving the toy back to the child.
I also address the issue of why my child was hitting, though, so that he knows he is protected. If another child took his toy, I would gently take it from her hands while I said, “He was angry that you took his shovel. He was playing with it. You may have a next turn and I will make sure you get it.” I might also try to get my child to say, “Next turn.” By the time they are verbal, my children can tell someone they may have the next turn, and ask for the next turn.
It sounds like he’s typically hitting because he doesn’t have the words to express himself. By addressing both aspects of the situation, you will deal with the aftermath of the hitting and teach him what to do next time.
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