My 18-month-old son has started hitting and pinching. When he hits, he sometimes tries to knock your glasses off or he tries pinching your nose. I am not sure where he is getting this behavior, but he does not see any of it from others, nor does he see it on TV.
When I try to correct him, I tell him, "No hitting, be gentle" and sit him in a chair for time out. I have never hit or pinched him back. I am confused and unsure how I should handle this behavior and put a stop to it.
Physical acts of aggression are common among toddlers. Often, they stem from the frustration of wanting to do and get more than they can, and the lack of language skills to express those feelings. Sometimes, it is just a matter of testing the limits of what is allowed and what isn't.
Either way, behavior that gets 'reinforced' will occur more frequently. An obvious example is when a young child blurts out a curse, and adults think it's funny and laugh. A less obvious way of reinforcing behavior is to pay it lots of attention, even attention that would be considered negative, such as a scolding.
You are right to gently get the message across that hitting isn't allowed, and right again for breaking the interaction with a short time out. This means he really isn't getting any reinforcement for his behavior. After that, find another way to interact and move on. If you can see the pinch coming, head it off at the pass with a simple 'no', since toddlers have poor impulse control and often can't stop an idea once it occurs to them. You are most definitely right in not hitting back, since this would only teach him that that is the way to respond.
If parents' responses are quick, simple, and consistent, most toddlers will abandon the behavior in search of something else that gets them more in return.