Children may hit other kids if they have no other way of resolving a problem or can't express their needs. Fighting can also be a child's method of getting their own way, e.g. to get a toy that another child is playing with. Children can also learn to fight by watching others fighting or quarrelling.
Further reading: Baby's first playmates and friends
How to get your child to stop fighting
If your baby's method of hitting other children in order to get their own way works, they will probably carry on hitting. Children need guidance in learning to resolve problems and agreeing matters peacefully or asking an adult for help. See also our article on fighting siblings
Eight tips for helping your children to play and get on together
• Young children cannot understand rules and work together. As an adult, all you can do is be present and make sure all goes well for everyone, while talking about how to behave.
• Playing with other kids is good. Children need friends in order to learn how to play together. Stay nearby and intervene if you need to help out.
• Supervise and help your child resolve a conflict before it turns into a fight. Older children also struggle to find the right words at times. You can help by saying something like: “Julia says you've had your turn and now it's her turn.” Or also that it's your child's turn. Be observant.
• Praise your child when they play nicely, share their toys or work together, and explain what they've done well.
• Establish some simple rules for your child about how to play with others. Talk about the rules together and try to be as specific as possible.
• Tell your child how you want them to behave: for example, you want them to share things, wait their turn, be careful and keep their hands and feet under control.
• When your child is older, you can organise games that require the children to share, take turns and work together – for example a ball game or board game. Start by playing with your child yourself, so they can watch you and mimic your behaviour.
• When teaching pre-school children to resolve problems, start by asking what the problem is about, what each child wants, and what each of them can do to reach a compromise.
• Young children fight with their parents to test boundaries or because they can't express their needs. Think about what happened beforehand. Were you perhaps in a chaotic environment, or was your child thirsty or hungry? If hunger and thirst aren't the culprit, distract them with a toy or something else interesting. Or if your child seems insecure, try giving them a hug.
Suddenly a toy flies through the air or your child is shoved by another one. Almost all children end up fighting or hitting their playmates at some point. It may help to know that this is not unusual. Find out why the children are fighting, help them, and stop it happening again.