Help! My child is biting/hitting/kicking and I don’t know what to do.
Take a deep breath. Biting in babies (and sometimes toddlers) is a way of exploring the world. Your infant chews on toys as a way of learning about the shape and feel of the object. Sometimes this can be misplaced by biting you or other children. Though this should be discouraged it’s not necessarily a red flag. Read here to find more strategies to address biting.
If your older toddler or preschooler is biting or showing other aggressive behaviors like hitting or kicking, you should definitely stop it. This is not an area where we should let the behavior slide. You need to be direct, firm, and unwavering in your response. If you notice your child is about to hit you, physically stop the motion with your hands and calmly say, “I will not let you hit me.” Try not to show frustration or your child will play off of those emotions. Teach your child what they should do instead: “We gently touch others,” or “You can hit the pillow when you’re mad.”
You will also need to figure out why your child is suddenly showing aggressive behaviors. Does your child need your undivided attention? Is your child trying to get a rise out of you? Is your child just experimenting? Has she seen/learned this behavior somewhere else?
With the correct, firm but gentle and loving response, these behaviors should pass. It can be unsettling to see your usually sweet child suddenly hitting, but know that this is not a reflection on your parenting; it is a very typical developmental phase. If your child does not phase out of it or if he’s four or older and still hitting, please talk to your child’s doctor or call our parenting phone line.
This article has lots of good tips for how to handle aggression. It also addresses scenarios where you should seek additional help, like if the behavior is getting in the way of your child’s ability to play with others.
If you are concerned about your child’s behavior, please call our parenting phone line at 844.456.5437 to talk to one of our care coordinators.
- Social Emotional