Why Does My Toddler Hit and Bite?


You go to pick up your child from school and the report from the teacher is not good. Your toddler took a bite out of one of his or her classmates.

During an argument your three year old hit his younger sibling.

Your two year old daughter hits your when you told her no.

These incidents, angry reactions, can cause parents quite a bit of confusion, some fear and panic, and prompt a lot of questions. Is my child a bully? Am I a bad parent? What can I do to stop this behavior?

Well, it’s not uncommon, especially for toddlers to act out physically in frustration or anger. They do not yet have the language schools or emotional intelligence to communicate their emotions. Not only are children at this age learning to communicate but they are also learning about cause and effect. When “this” happens, “that” happens in response. They are testing boundaries. Your child is not a bully but these behaviors should not be ignored so that they don’t become one in the future.

So what do you do to mitigate this behavior?

What to Do When Your Child Bites or Hits

  • Time-out. If you see your child hitting, biting, or spitting, stop the behavior immediately. Remove her from the situation, explain that their behavior is not okay and hurtful. Call for a time-out.
  • Don’t act out. Stay calm. Some children can act out solely for attention so do not allow them to associate angry behavior with the extra or exaggerated attention they want.
  • Actions can affect feelings. Your child needs to know how his friend felt when he got kicked or how you felt when she hit you. Explain how her behavior can make someone feel. Tell her you understand that it can be frustrating to have the ball taken from her but that hitting is not the appropriate reaction.
  • Help your child calm down. Toddlers get just as upset as adults do when they so something wrong. After time-out, talk to your child in a comforting and compassionate way. Help them to understand and articulate their emotions.
  • Teach problem-solving skills. Use imaginary situations to help your child learn positive ways to handle a sticky situation. You might pretend to be another child who has taken your toddler’s favorite toy. Teach him how to use his words (“That’s my toy — please give it back”), or how to ask an adult for help. Reminding him to use his words will help distract him from immediate anger and also help him to communicate.
  • Say sorry. Even if your child may not completely understand the sentiment of saying “sorry” it is good to start practicing now. She will begin to understand and you’ll be surprised when she starts using it in the appropriate instances without prompting.

When Your Kid’s the Target

Your child was just bit or hit and the other child’s mom is completely unaware. What do you do without being offensive and overstepping your bounds?

First, just talk about it! Approach the parent calmly and simply state what happened and ask for assistance, “Your child just bit my son. Can you help me?” Separate the children, calm them down and hope that you each can talk to your children about what happened. Try to divert attention to doing something different but fun. If they were swinging then let’s go down the slide. Leaving is always an option if the other parent is not interested in helping or thinks it’s not a big deal.

The toddler years are FUN as your child learns so quickly and becomes more and more interactive BUT it can also be a very challenging time trying to learn how to discipline young children who are exploring their world.