My Neighbor's Child Often Hits My Daughter! Help!

Filed under: Expert Advice: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Expert Advice: Big Kids

Dear AdviceMama,

My 3-year-old loves to play with our neighbor's child, but things often fall apart when the other child hits my daughter. What should I do?

Mom who wants a bruise-less kid

Dear Mom,

When our child is threatened or harmed by anyone, our instinct is to take action, and that's a good thing. Even if the threat comes from a 3-year-old, we instinctively know we need to do something.

Here's my advice:

Approach the parent of the other child to see if he or she is willing to collaboratively problem solve. In other words, find out if the hitting child's parents recognize the problem already, or are in denial.

If they are already aware of their youngster's aggressive tendencies, then you can work with them to arrange more supervision at playdates, or perhaps simply take a break from having the children play together until they can figure out what's behind their child's aggression.

If they are in denial, then they will tell you that their child doesn't ever hit other children (suggesting it's your daughter's fault) or that "all kids hit." They may even try to convince you that your daughter is the one provoking things, and that their innocent little one was merely acting in self-defense.

If the other child's parents are unwilling to work with you to solve the problem, then, as disappointing as that may be, you will at least know that it's probably best to reserve their play time -- if it happens at all -- to your home, so you can keep a closer eye on what's going on.

If your daughter generally enjoys playing with the other child and you're comfortable having the children play at your house, here are a few things to keep in mind to help minimize opportunities for the hitting to take place.

  • Make sure the playdates aren't more than an hour or so in length; in other words, build on success. At the end of the hour, walk the other youngster home and commend him or her on how well things went. End on a happy and positive note.
  • Make sure both kids are rested and well-nourished. Children become frustrated as a matter of course. That frustration turns into aggression more easily when they're hungry, tired, over-stimulated or running on lots of sugar.
  • Stay involved. Only arrange times for these kids to play together -- at least for now -- when you can be involved in their activities, or at least in the same room.
All children experience frustration. But for some, their inability to cope with not getting what they want unleashes aggression. Take these tips to heart, and see if things improve. If not, I would recommend that you avoid having your daughter play with this child for a little while, and then try again in a month or two.


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.