What to Do About a Child Who Bites and Hits

Is your youngster having trouble expressing her frustrations verbally? It may be the reason why she’s resorting to biting and hitting others. 

Often young children go through a phase in life where they express their feelings very clearly with a slap or a hit. For young children, and particularly for toddlers around the two year mark when words don’t come easily, hitting and biting may seem like the only way they can express their frustrations. Although it’s not pleasant for the person on the receiving end, biting and hitting is a developmental phase that a lot of toddlers go through, explains Early Childhood Education instructor, Jennifer Hardacre. “It’s very natural for little kids to bite because they’re not very good at explaining things to others because they are just beginning to understand and grasp language. So when they are very angry and frustrated, it easy just to bite.”

At the very least it’s embarrassing when your child bites or hits another. And while your first reaction may be to scold or punish a child, Hardacre says the calmer you are when dealing with a biting or hitting toddler, the sooner the problem behavior should rectify itself. “One thing you’re not going to say is ‘that’s bad, don’t do that’, or ‘you wicked child’. Instead a parent should explain that it hurts when they hit or bite, and let the child see the effect their action has had on others like another child who may be crying. Then recognize their anger but tell them not to bite.”

When children are having trouble regaining control of their feelings and tries hitting or biting again, remove them from the situation. This ‘time out’ gives them a chance to quiet down and get back in touch with their feelings, which may be overwhelming to a little toddler.

Finally, it’s important to teach your child to use words to express his feelings. Parents can teach children the effect of their behavior, and teach them other ways of handling their feelings. But be warned, it won’t happen over night.


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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