What to do When Your Toddler Hits or Bites.


What to do when your toddler hits or bites.

Nobody likes to be on the receiving end of a toddler’s punch or bite – especially if the behaviour seems to be growing into a habit and the nipper doesn’t respond to discipline. What’s more, the display of aggression can be quite unsettling when a parent or caregiver is new to this kind of situation and unsure of how on earth to deal with it.

Interestingly, when a toddler bites or hits, his behaviour is often not so much an issue of discipline as it is a development issue.

Toddlers typically feel and think so much more than their limited speech skills allow them to express, and, it’s not uncommon for children of this age to resort to natural instincts to vent their frustration when they feel that they are being bulldozed. They may bite, scream, hit, hurl objects across a room and so forth.

It is important to appropriately discipline your child when this happens, but when the behaviour persists it’s best to step back so that you can ascertain what the root cause of the problem is and why your child is acting this way.

At the Practica Advisory Service, we routinely advise parents to be pro-active in their approach to any parenting issue. So, yes, go ahead and consistently let your child know that biting is “not okay” by following the discipline techniques described in the Practica Parents’ Guide. But also consider and try the following strategies that are aimed at addressing the root cause of the problem from different angles.



Deep pressure massage is a simple, but effective way to fill a child’s “emotional resilience tank”. What’s more, it can easily become part of any parent’s and caregiver’s daily routine. Here’s what you do: firmly and repetitively squeeze-and-release your child’s arms, legs and head. Follow a predictable sequence for a total of at least 5 minutes at a time and repeat for a few days in a row. Voila! For more detail, refer to an earlier post here.

Note: Touch therapy may sound like magic, but it isn’t: deep touch prompts the release of feel-good neurochemicals in the brain that include oxytocin (a hormone that promotes feelings of belonging and a need to please) and serotonin (another friend of ours that plays a key role in determining a person’s mood and will-power).



There is a special kind of “sign language” that makes it possible for all babies and toddlers to learn how to communicate their thoughts and needs before they are physically able to use words. According to many parents and researchers, one of its many benefits is that it relieves frustration in toddlers and validates their sense of self so that they are less likely to be triggered to act out. For more detail about why, how and when to encourage your little one to “sign”, go here.



Interestingly, one and the same region of the brain, namely the prefrontal cortex, controls a person’s ability to follow instructions, focus his attention, remember what he is supposed to do, and inhibit impulsive behaviour. This basically means that you can establish a basic level of self-control in your child by teaching him to follow simple instructions from early on. For more detailed information about what to teach, how to teach it and what you can expect from a toddler in this regard, please go here.



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