Why Toddlers Bite, Hit, and Kick (And What You Can Do About It)

Has your adorable little angel started biting, hitting, kicking... or all three? It’s certainly not behavior she learned from you. Did she pick it up from daycare? Is there a violent gene you don’t know about? Rest assured, this phase is common among toddlers and there are ways you can teach your little one to stop all three:

Why Has My Little Angel Turned into a Monster?

At the toddler stage, kids are busy exploring their world – and reacting to it. The problem is that their language skills aren’t advanced enough to express emotions, and they’re constantly dealing with this new, funny thing called “feelings.” Plus, as with tantrums, toddlers are in some ways trying to take control of their world and assert their independence. With all that chaos brewing inside, here are some reasons for the aggressive behavior:

  • Attention Seeking: It doesn’t take more than a few attempts for your toddler to realize they can get a rise from you. The question to ask here is, “Why?” Look out for triggers that lead to their attention-seeking.
  • Frustration, Anger, or Sadness: Children haven’t grasped the idea that they have to wait for things. If you give in to their demands to keep the peace, they will quickly learn how effective biting, hitting, or kicking can be. Be firm and consistent– this behavior should subside once they learn to communicate verbally.
  • Boredom: If a toddler lacks stimulation, biting, hitting, or kicking is a sure way to generate some attention. Keep them entertained with fun activities.
  • Tiredness: Who doesn’t get a little cranky when tired? We may mumble and grumble, but toddlers are more likely to also bite, hit, or kick. Keep them on a tight sleep and nap schedule to avoid this.
  • Hunger, Thirst, or Sickness: Toddlers don’t know they have a tummy ache, or can’t communicate that they’re hungry or thirsty. It’s up to you to make sure they’re eating and drinking enough. If sickness is a factor, a fever, clammy skin, tiredness, and tugging at the ears are some signs that they’re not feeling well.
  • Imitating: Toddlers pick up on other kids and adult behaviors. If they see someone close to them get aggressive to get what they want, they may try using the same approach too.

Daycare Fight Club

It’s embarrassing when your child is the biter, especially when you hear the report from their daycare. At daycare, they have to share toys, games, and time and attention from the staff. That can be frustrating for a little tot.

When they’re around other children with limited communication skills, grunting, grabbing, and aggression can get them what they want. If they want a toy, it’s survival of the fittest. If your tot is aggressive at home, alert the daycare staff that this is an issue you’re working on. Being aware of the situation will alert the staff to watch closely and nip (pardon the pun) the problem in the bud.

Biting Among Friends

Equally mortifying is when your child bites, hits, or kicks on her playdate. You may not want to schedule anymore for fear of the other child getting hurt or your reputation going down the toilet.

Avoiding the situation won’t help your child learn how to behave. The unfamiliar environment of the playdate could make them feel insecure, so they revert to aggression to gain your attention. If new people or surroundings are difficult for them, try having the playdate at your house.

Once they are familiar with the friend and parents, you can introduce some visits to their house. When you arrive at their house, don’t just take off or head to the other room for coffee and chit chat. Help your child acclimate to the new setting and settle into their activity before you leave the tots alone. Check in regularly, and give plenty of praise and encouragement when they play nice. This will build their social skills and encourage behavior free of any aggression.

Play Nice

When you notice your tot acting aggressively towards another tot to get a toy, don’t just tell them to “be nice”. Show and tell them how they can get the toy. First, tell them that biting, hitting, and kicking aren’t allowed– if they want the toy, they have to wait until their friend is finished playing with it. Another alternative is to set a share timer. They may be able to grasp that even better, knowing that in a short time, they can play with the toy too.

Biting Back

Some parents would bite back to teach a lesson– but if you say “no biting”, only to do the same thing you’re telling them not to do, you’re sending mixed messages and undermining the lessons you’re trying to teach.

If your child is the victim, rather than teaching them to bite back, tell your child to steer clear of the biting child. If it’s a problem at daycare, alert the staff so they can observe what is happening. Your child may be innocent, or could be the one provoking the biting.

Time Outs

By the time your child is two years old, he should be able to make the connection between aggressive behavior and the consequences. Consider a brief time-out. No lectures – just isolate them and reiterate that biting, hitting, and kicking are never allowed because it hurts. This may take quite a few times to sink in; consistency is key with discipline.

Once high emotions have leveled out, it may be a good time to talk about apologizing. They’re still at an age where they may not fully realize the impact of their actions, but it’s still good to start teaching them to say “I’m sorry.” It may not seem heartfelt and they’re probably just saying it to appease you, but in time, they’ll start seeing things from a different perspective.

Do you have a generally aggressive toddler? How have you dealt with the negative behaviors? 

Tags : toddlers   behavior   development   

No Comments.