When your toddler bites or hits another child, you'll likely feel shocked and confused. After all, if your child is aggressive, you've probably done something wrong. Actually, biting and hitting are completely age-appropriate behaviors for toddlers. At the same time, parents do need to teach children how to deal with their frustration or anger in a less physical way.
- Understand why your toddler is biting and hitting. Toddlers have very little power and are often unable to communicate effectively. Biting and hitting are two ways (in addition to crying) that they are able to communicate their needs, like "Give that back!" or "Pay attention to me!" Recognizing that your toddler is not trying to hurt you but to communicate with you can help you remain calm and respond appropriately.
- Watch for your child's triggers. Your child may tend to get more aggressive when she's hungry, tired or bored of being cooped up inside all day. Alternatively, maybe your toddler only hits when she's around a specific friend who she views as bossy. Once you've discovered your child's triggers, you can try to avoid them whenever possible.
- Redirect your toddler when he does hit or bite.
- Give a consequence, and be consistent about it. If a toddler bites or hits, an obvious consequence would be a timeout, in which the toddler is removed from the action for a few minutes. Tell him you're going to wait until he calms down and is ready to play nicely.
- Give your toddler alternatives that she can use to solve problems. Younger toddlers, or older toddlers who don't yet speak well, may be able to roar like a lion or come to a nearby adult and motion for help. A toddler who is already talking can say "No!" or "Stop!" instead of acting out physically. Older toddlers may be able to use their words to explain what the problem is or come up with a solution, such as "Let's take turns."