I often hold 10-12 month olds on one hip while I do something else with the other hand. Invariably, after a few minutes, I get slapped in the face. The child is not unhappy, in fact he usually smiles as he does it. Why oh why do children this age hit so much and how can you stop it?
Let me start by pointing out that they often hit without realizing that they are hurting you. They would also hit the neighbor’s dog when you finally decide to allow them to pet it after being assured that the dog is “child friendly”. (See post on dog safety.)
The wrong way to stop this behavior is to hit your child back. Your child does need to be taught not to hit but will never understand that you can hit him but he is not allowed to hit you. That is way too complex for your child to follow. First off, if you can tell it is coming, grab your child’s wrist and stop them from hitting you. Use a firm voice and say “No!” (“No hitting!” is really too complex for a child under the age of a year.) You must use a firm, no-monkey-business voice to be effective. It is impossible to smile while using this voice. Your baby may whimper or whine to show that they did not like your serious voice. This is okay! You are now going to change your tone to a quiet, sweet voice and say “Gentle” or “Love” while directing your child’s hand to gently stroke your face. Within a few tries, your child will begin to understand that you enjoy being gently loved on. You can stop the popping and start petting!