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We know you want to crawl under the table and hide when your child slugs another kid, but rest assured the behavior is not a sign that he's a bully. More likely, your toddler's just frustrated, because he has a limited vocabulary and can't communicate effectively, so he tends to lash out as a result. Another trigger is the fact that your toddler's mental abilities far outpace his motor skills; so when he can't pry his blocks apart quickly enough, for example, he may get upset and whack the child next to him. Fortunately, hitting usually stops as toddlers develop their language skills. That said, you still need to deal with the behavior. Take your child aside and tell him that it's not okay to hit. Say, "we don't hit, because it might hurt someone else." Encourage him to use words instead of fists to communicate and give him the right words, such as "I don't want to share right now." And when scheduling playdates remember that a well-fed, well-rested toddler is less likely to get riled up than a hungry, tired one. --Susanna Schrobsdorff
Copyright 2004. Reprinted with permission from the 2000 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.