My child hits others and snatches toys from others. How can I handle this?

Preschoolers are still weak in self-control. They may not be able to solve problems and consider others’ feelings. They will use hitting others or snatching toys as ways to solve problems. They may also express their emotions by attacking others when they feel frustrated or upset.

Provide opportunities for your child to learn how to mix with other children. Here are some suggestions you can try:

  • Talk with your child and set rules together with her on playing with other kids, such as “turn taking” or “be nice to other kids”. State the consequences of breaking the rules clearly such as “take away your toy for 1 minute” or “go to quiet time for 1 minute”.
  • Praise her if she plays with others in a friendly way.
  • Stop her immediately if she hits others, ‘Stop hurting Megan!’. Remind her the ground rules.

What can I do if my child does not stop fighting?

  • If she does not stop, remind her of the consequence of breaking the rule. Take her to quiet time to stay at the edge of the activity and tell her to stay quiet for a minute. Leave her there and do not give her any attention.
  • Wait till she has stayed quiet for a minute. Then ask her to join in to play again and remind her to follow the rules. You can prompt her to think of different solutions: e.g. ‘If you do want to play with the toy, what can you do?’ ‘Yes, you could ask nicely.’ ‘Do you want to exchange your toy for it?’ or ‘Waiting for your turn is a good idea.’
  • Praise her for being friendly.

What can I do if both kids do not give way to each other and make a scene?

If you are at the scene but missed what actually happened, don’t jump to conclusion. Blaming any parties cannot help children learn how to share or solve problems. Separate them and let them cool down. Be fair and objective in guiding them to tell the details of the conflict. Show them that you understand how they feel, ‘I know both of you want this toy so much that you must get hold of it.’ Guide them to think of other alternatives that won’t do harm to others. For example, you can say: ‘If both of you don’t give in, nobody wins. Let’s try to see if there are other alternatives.’ Get them to agree on alternatives like “take turns” or “play together”. Once they reach an agreement, praise them for their effort in reaching a solution.

Remember, when handling a child’s problem behaviour, don’t let her get away with it. Be firm and consistent. Use an effective strategy to let her learn about the consequence of being aggressive. The effect of corporal punishment is only short-lived and it will only set up a bad model for her to be aggressive. Your guidance is important to prevent the aggressive behaviour from developing into a habit and to help her learn to solve problems in an acceptable way.