At this young age, most children do not have the words or skills to get their needs met and they lash out (hit) because they simply don't know what else to do. Toddlers are short on language and social skills and when they play with other children, they can get easily frustrated misread the situation.
It is developmentally normal for toddlers to hit. It is a parent's job to supervise and handle toddlers kindly and firmly until they are ready to learn more effective ways to communicate. Kids will grow out of it if they get help (skills training) instead of a model of violence (hitting back or screaming).
1. Talk to them as you remove them from the situation, "It is NOT okay to hit people. I understand you are upset and feeling hurt. You can talk about it or you can hit this pillow, but people are not for hitting." You can add that "Hands are NOT for hitting, Hands are for helping.
2. Help the child deal with the anger by a. validating their feelings b. let them have some space to calm down c. state what the problem is...validating the situation d. don't choose sides e. let the children have the last words and ask them for opinions on how to make things better. (children are very creative)
3. Show children what they can do, instead of what they can't do. Give them a pillow to hit instead.
4. SUPERVISE closely. If you have a known hitter... you must watch them carefully and try to predict the situation. See if you can teach them the skills needed before they hit. Help them practice touching family members, animals, dolls gently. Show them how to pat.
5. Language skills maybe helpful for older children. Tell your child it's ok to have these feelings, but not ok to hit others. He can tell someone, "I'm angry because...... and I wish......." Help children brainstorm their own ideas on what to do or what they may need next time they are feeling angry.
6. With preschoolers ... if they hit you, decide what you will do instead of trying to control the child. Let her know that every time she hits you, you will put her down and leave the room until she is ready to treat you with respect. After you have told her this once, follow through without ANY words. Leave immediately.
7. Do not demand an apology. Invite it. You may tell the child, "That really hurts my feelings. If I have done something to hurt your feelings, I would like to know about it so I can apologize. When you are ready an apology would help me feel better."
8. You can get your child involved by creating a Time Out area. Talk to her about sometimes people need a quiet place to calm down and feel better in and ask if they want to 'make one' for them. Don't send them to time out, but tell her she can choose to go there if she feels upset. If she doesnt' want to use it, ask her if you can use it until you calm down.
9. Show them that hitting is never acceptable by NOT hitting your child.
10. Look into your routine, yourself, your behaviour. See if there is something about it that may be affecting this behaviour or something you can change to stop this behaviour. I realized that Geran was always hitting just before bed. I up'd his bedtime to 15min earlier and it did the trick... he stopped hitting at that time. Weird I know!
Life skills can be learned and we are the teachers.