Any way short of hitting her back. Hitting a child back who is hitting at you simply says, “When you are big enough, it is all right to hit.”
In general, children who do this are pretty young—two or three years—and not very well socialized. They know there are rules of behavior, but they have by no means mastered all of them. Fortunately, when children are at those ages, we are much bigger and stronger. As a way of dealing with a child who hits—or hits at—a parent, I recommend wrapping your arms tightly around the child, pinning his arms to his body while saying, “You may not hit me.” Say it firmly and in several ways: “Under no circumstances may you hit me.” “I cannot let you hit me.” Then, immediately put the child in time-out, along with a statement of the reason. Incidentally, a child angry enough to hit his mother may be too upset to “sit on a chair in the corner.” You may have to put him in a room (in which there is nothing that could hurt him or that he could damage) and close the door. Let him out after a specified period of time (say 15 minutes), even if he is still crying or whining. And don’t demand an apology. But accept one if it is offered.
By far, the best way to deal with this behavior is to prevent it. Become observant of the kind of situation that leads to it. When you spot a build-up of tension, step in with some action: “Let’s go have a glass of juice.” “Let’s go outside and play.” As is often the case in guiding the development of our children, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.