What to do When Someone Hits Your Child

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Boys fighting in the Park

Few things trigger us more as parents than when someone hurts our child. If someone hits my child, many moms and dads have thoughts of wanting to return the favor. But what if the person who hits your child is a child themselves?

Your child is playing with the kid next door, or the child in the playground. You’re watchful, but not too watchful, as you are pretty sure all is going well, until it’s not. You see another child take a swing at yours, and the tiger mom or dad in you comes out.

Before you leap in with both feet and hands, think about what is going on here. It’s not usually a case of “someone hit my child” out of the blue. There’s always more to it than that, and how you react is more important than a presumably minor physical injury.

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A sad intimidation moment Elementary Age Bullying in Schoolyard

Why did someone hit my child?

Is there any chance it was accidental? If so, make sure there are no injuries, get the children back to their happy place, and leave it there. That may well be the end of it.

If it wasn’t an accident, then why did what seemed like a harmless, happy game turn into a physical scrap? Were the children arguing, and you never noticed, or did the hit come out of left field? 

It’s probably fair to say that no physical violence (however minor) just happens – there’s always more to the story.

Remember that children are young, and they don’t have the same control over their emotions that adults have. You are probably angry, seeing your child has just been hit, so how is your emotional control right now? How likely is it that the three-year-old will have even less control if you are angry and losing control?

If you see a child hitting yours, you are probably going to react in a primal way, leaping in to defend your little one. But remember, the other child will also have a parent who is likely to be as protective as you. Ultimately, the situation needs to be sorted, but at the parent level, not at the child level.

Why do children hit each other?

It’s not that uncommon, even in the most well-behaved of offspring. Young children lack the verbal skills to express anger and frustration, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t feel these. So they will lash out at anyone they see as being the cause of that anger and frustration.

The bonus is, that it seldom means that the child has any underlying issues or problems. Kids don’t really have that many deep layers, which might infer that they hold grudges or have anger issues. More often than not, their anger or frustration passes quickly, and the kids will go back to playing happily together.

Mom or Dad might still be angry, though, and why not, you might say. Someone hit my child! I want heads to roll! It cannot be stressed enough that this is not the way to handle anger issues in kids. 

There are tricky issues when dealing with kids hitting kids. The first, of course, is why this happened. But the second, and often more delicate, is what about the other parent or caregiver?

If the child doing the hitting has a parent or caregiver nearby, what are they doing about it? Are they calling out their child, trying to resolve the situation? Or are they ignoring it, or worse, blaming your child for provoking their child into lashing out?

This is where things will really get sticky. Bad enough if the child is a total stranger, and you’re calling on that child’s parent to “do something.” What if it’s a friend or relative whose child is violent and they are ignoring it?

There are no prizes for guessing who the bad guy will be in this situation. No one likes having their children attacked, physically or otherwise. And telling your friend or family member that their child is acting up is still an attack on that child.  

On the other hand, you don’t want to let things go. Hey, they may be your relative or friend, but your child was still attacked! And unless it’s a one-off incident, this behavior on the part of the other child won’t go away unless challenged.

Young girls fighting, pulling hairs isolated in white

So what are your options?

The simplest thing to do is to talk, to the child, to your child, and to the parent. Find out what happened, why, and whether there is anything that could have prevented the hitting. Make sure that everyone gets a say, and that the situation doesn’t descend into name or blame games.

Just as important as talking, is staying calm. Easy to say, sure. But remember, that anger is the enemy of clear thinking and rationality. Don’t take your anger out on the children or the other parents, because this will solve nothing.

Think about whether or not you are overreacting. This situation could genuinely be a one-off, meaning an extreme reaction on your part will give it too much importance. If no one is hurt and you are fairly sure it’s not going to repeat, maybe just let it go.

Consider spending extra time teaching your kids how to be inclusive. Often, fights emerge when kids feel left out or threatened.

What if it happens again?

The first responsibility toward disciplining the other child remains with that child’s parent. It is emphatically not your call to make unless there is a real risk of danger or harm. If that parent does nothing, and your child is at risk, your only option may be to end the relationship.

 If you can’t, or choose not to, end the relationship, then try to minimize the chance of recurrence. This could mean recognizing when the offending child is warming up to anger and diverting that anger. Keeping that child entertained may distract them or stop them from feeling the frustration that led to the hitting.

Two young brothers fighting and hitting on grass in park, with older boy sitting over the younger

Kids that play together stay happy together

Fortunately, Twin Cities Kids Club has entertainment options for even the most hard-to-please or discerning child. Join the club and take advantage of the discounts on offer, from horse-riding to paintball to hours of skating fun. 

You can relax, knowing that the children are too busy to even think of fighting among themselves.

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