Tip Tuesday — Please Don’t Bite Them Back

Aggressive kids.

I don’t really have them, unless you call ripping your brother’s arms off, chewing on them and then beating him over the head with them aggressive. She only really does that sort of thing when he does something really insane like look at her while she’s eating marshmallows, so I wouldn’t exactly call her aggressive. He’s only got a few arms anyway and I think once they’re all gone, the problem will pretty much be solved.

Truly though, this is a major issue that I often hear parents talking about. Either we worry that our own child is too aggressive or we have playdates with kids who gank toys, bite chunks out of other kids’ flesh or show up at your house with a fist fulla steel.

Please leave tips for either circumstance. What do you do to help tame your own child’s out-of-control aggression? How much discipline is too much? Have you found a great way to calm Nina down before she detonates her bomb of toddleric rage on the playground?

On the other hand, how do you deal with other people’s children who you feel are too aggressive towards your own? Do you think it’s acceptable to discipline someone else’s child as a form of protection? Do you think your child should fight their own battles? How do you address the issue with the other parent?

Personally, I think that biting or hitting back are a lazy way to solve the problem and may do more harm than good. A more appropriate way to manage the behavior would be to use a little love and logic parenting. “Oh, that’s such a bummer. Now you have two choices. Either you need to untie Timmy and take the play-doh out of his mouth, or you need to at least ask his mom what color of play-doh he likes being force-fed best.”

When your child is being bullied by someone else and the other parent is present, I think it’s more appropriate to mention it to the other parent than to try to attempt to discipline the child yourself. For the most part, I try to teach my kids to deal with it and stand up for themselves. That’s why I’ve hired my own professional ninja to work with them on technique and help them with their wardrobe.

Now please, tell me what you do. Not everyone has the means to hire their own personal ninja or the patience to parent with the love and the logicality.

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36 Responses to Tip Tuesday — Please Don’t Bite Them Back

  1. I have a friend who never disciplines her child at all! He is always hitting or throwing things at my baby!! My baby is 7 months old!!! And she never says anything! So, for the most part, I hold her and act as a shield to ward off all flying objects. I have told him “You can’t throw toys at the baby because you will hurt her, see? She’s very small.” and he just looks at me like I’ve grown a 3rd eye. He’s 2 btw. I can’t wait to hear what other people have to say…I could use the advice. As far as my other daughter, the 9 yr old, praise always worked better with her than punishment. I would tell her how proud I’d be if she followed the rules…praise worked great for her!

  2. I have been fortunate to not have an occasion where the parents didn’t jump in and start “cracking skulls” for aggressive behavior.

    On the other side of the coin, my daughter is aggressive in a huggie, kissie, let me pull your arm out of it’s socket, all children are my playtoy kind of way. Her choke-hold hugging is awful. I have done everything from calmly explain that it is inappropriate, to time out, to putting her in her room(there are no toys there). Nothing is working. SHe is sincerely contrite each time I correct her, but she does it over and over again. She is 3 1/2. Supposedly children gain more impulse control once they are 4. I am counting down the days until December 11.

  3. Alli says:

    Well now that my littlest is nearing 2, I’m trying to stay out of the sibling quarrels and let them “fight it out” (within reason). Until now, I’ve always intervened but lately I’m realizing that he’s as much the aggressor as my 3.5 year old. As for other people’s children harrassing my kids, I usually say something like, “You will not hit him. Go find something else to do.” I say it in a “mean mom” voice with a hairy eyeball. That’s for older kids at public places. If it’s a kid I know that we have a playdate with, I’ll say, “Hey, let’s be sweet with our friends.” Loud enough that Other Mom can hear. If my kids are the offender at a playdate, I’ll take them away from the situation for a minute, tell them why it’s not okay to act like that, take them back to the victim, tell them to apologize and then tell them to show the other child how they can be sweet (hugging, sharing a toy, etc). Thankfully, my oldest has grown out of the aggressive stage and I haven’t dealt with that with him in a long time…but Little Z is just now realizing his “strength”.

  4. Laura says:

    wouid you believe with 5 kids i am just now dealing with this issues and i do struggle big time. my son (born 4 months premature) is a little guy and always will be the little guy. he has become the target of a bully a year younger than he is. this kid has the bully from hell potential as he even rides rough shod over his mique toast mama. she once made a comment to me that she just can’t seem to control him and doesn’t know how i manage with my kids….like i have it all together, lol! well, i slipped and replied too quickly that it was easy because i am the grown up andi refuse to negotiate with a toddler. i am growing to dislike her kid less and less and fast losing respect for her parenting skills so i struggle with our encounters that are unavoidable. in the meantime, it breaks my heart to see what potential bullying my son might face as he enters school age. he might seem to be the easy target but these little br, er, darlings aren’t nearly as strong and tough as daniel is considering all he has survived already. i have to really work on my attitude and strategies here because i imagine mama bear beating up some little bully would be wrong wouldn’t it?
    i’ll be reading the expert comments you receive for advice too.

  5. Mama T. says:

    I could use the advice too. My 1 year old is getting into throwing everything. And some hitting too. I don’t know if it’s her just exploring what happens when stuff gets tossed, or if it’s defiance. 🙁

  6. allysha says:

    I am by no means an expert in this area. I do consult the experts, however!
    Quoting from the American Academy of Pediatrics Caring for your Baby and Young Child “We all have feelings of anger and aggression, and so does your child. These impulses are normal and healthy. As a toddler or pre-schooler, your youngster my lack the self-control to express his anger peacefully. Instead, he may naturally lash out, perhaps hitting or biting in frustration. When this happens he need you to take control for him and help him develop judgement…in order to express his feelings in more acceptable ways.”

    It’s been so helpful for me to have this book around because of lot of the issues like this that we deal with are developmental issues and are our opportunities as parents to teach.
    Anyway! My own personal instinct is that you correct your child firmly, but not meanly or angrily because that just sends mixed messages. Also I try to talk through why my child might be feeling angry, if it’s possible. And (and I am not great at this last part) if we are engaged with our children while they are playing with each other we can teach right at the moment something happens and help them learn to negotiate with others. We can model appropriate behavior for them.
    Alright- no more from me!

  7. Naddin J says:

    This reminds me of the time my 3 year old slapped his sister. I spanked him and said, “DON’T HIT!” Then I thought, OK, that was dumb.

    With our five, we like to let them sort their problems out unless there’s blood-drawing, bruising, welting or suffocation involved. Then we let them know in NO uncertain terms that they MUST NOT HURT each other. This is very serious and we use our deep, impressive, deathly serious voices. We usually follow it up with making them apologize (sometimes we make them hug, which is funny to watch, but reminds them that in theory they love each other) and then time out. If that doesn’t work, we send them to their room for an indefinite period of time, like, till they’re 18.

    Other people’s kids… we either stop hanging out with repeat offenders’ parents or decide we like the parents and the kid will grow out of it eventually, and in the meantime, we’re running defense. If it’s someone we feel comfortable with, we’ll correct the kid rather than go to the parent. Better to just deal with the incident.

    Neighborhood bullies are not allowed to see, touch, talk to or otherwise hang with our children, or they will be shot at dawn, and they all know this. It’s nice having such a huge family because the kids all know, we have each other’s backs.

  8. Trivial Mom says:

    As far as other peoples kids, we just end up avoiding the ones with aggressive behavior. For instance, we have about 10 almost 2 year olds in our ward. We have playdates, a lot! But there is one 2 year old who never gets invited because he bites. And he really doesn’t bite for any good reason. Just walks around the room, finds an appetizing arm, and latches on.

    As for your own kids . . . well I really don’t know. My daughter is a sweet heart, and if anything we have a problem with her over-loving all her friends, and wanting to share everything (and I’m really grateful for that).

  9. Susan M says:

    My mother-in-law always said that children who bite are actually very affectionate. They just get overzealous with it. And I really think there’s something to that. (They also tend to be hair-pullers.)

    I’m sure my youngest would’ve been a biter but somehow I managed to escape it. Fortunately, whenever he was attempting to bite someone, it was always me, and I could see it coming a mile away. I’d simply put my hand on his forehead to hold him back and not react in any other way. He gave up on it after awhile.

    As for kids being too rough, pulling hair, etc, I think it’s important to let them know that it’s not ok, but also show them the appropriate way to touch. When my kids were toddlers I’d take their hands and carefully run it over the dog’s back, without letting them grab or be rough (which can be tricky, but it’s possible if you’re careful), and say, “Be gentle with the dog, be gentle.”

    For kids that have temper issues (like my youngest), I suggest telling them that it’s ok to be mad, but it’s not ok to_______ (fill in the blank). It’s ok to be angry, but it’s not ok to hurt your sister. It’s ok to be mad, but it’s not ok to use mean words. Validate their feelings but show them how to express them in constructive ways. “Tell your sister why you’re mad. use your words.” Etc.

    As for dealing with other kids, I think it’s really on a case-by-case basis.

  10. Rabbit says:

    (delurking :)) One simple rule we used: “you hit, you sit.” Extends to throwing, whacking, biting, etc. The offender immediately is removed from play and placed gently on a chair, and can resume playing when he/she feels back in control.

    This sounds horrible, but assume that toddlers are utterly clueless about conflict resolution and treat each situation accordingly. Teach and show what TO do, rather than scolding and focusing on what NOT to do.

    Putting a toy in time-out helps, too. Fighting over the green truck means green truck goes in time-out until (younger toddlers) they are distracted to something else or (older ones) they come up with a plan for sharing.

    Hope these ideas help a bit! 🙂

  11. Andrea says:

    My oldest (now 4) has only rarely shown much aggression, and mostly towards her little brother. Generally it comes on when she’s tired, so when her behavior goes downhill, we head home. When she is truly overwrought, I have found that restraining her or trying to enforce a time-out is actually counterproductive. Mostly I just take her somewhere quiet and let her cry and scream until she calms down and then we talk about what went wrong (your “love and logic” approach), state consequences for doing the offending activity again (“I know he bothers you sometimes, but you may not hit your brother. If I see you do it again, you will get a time out” or whatever,) transition to the next activity (which, with luck, is bedtime.)

    My youngest is 22 months, huge for his age, and sadly, has been something of a biter. And a pincher/scratcher. He is starting to outgrow it, but it can be really hard to deal with him. I have sort of figured out what sets him off, and if I see him headed for another kid with that gleam in his eye, I immediately grab and redirect him, with a little bonus raised-voice counseling on his behavior. Mere talking, even in a raised Dead Serious Mommy voice, won’t work, he has to be physically interuppted.

    At home, we are trying to let the kids work out their own disagreements, but there is also a strict rule against hurting each other, so I end up intervening a lot.

    As for other people’s kids, I avoid the ones I find too aggressive with my kids. When kids are just arguing or not sharing, my mommy friends and I have agreed that we will tell the kids work it out among themselves, perhaps with a little suggestion as to how(“Maybe you can find a way to take turns.”)

    Beyond that, I have no problem with stepping in when I see kids hurting each other or putting themselves/others in danger. I do it gently, and usually in the guise of redirecting the group behavior, even if one kid really is the problem. I wouldn’t give someone else’s child a time out, but I would firmly and directly tell him to stop hitting or to get down off a railing, or that her doing X was endangering the baby so please stop. If the agressive kid’s parent steps in, then I back off, of course. Better an annoyed parent than an injured child, in my book.

    We also use the toy in time out technique often for toy squabbles, and we put some precious toys away before we have friends over to play.

    For what it’s worth, I tend to agree that biters/hair pullers are often just overly affectionate. My son the biter is also big on hugs, kisses, and has been great about giving gentle touches to the cats and to me. He just gets carried away sometimes and can’t figure out any other way to express himself.

  12. abc momma says:

    I just wrote a post yesterday about how I handled an aggressive situation on Sunday. This doesn’t happen all the time, so I had to document the breakthrough.

    One time I was so tired of my kids’ fighting that I decided not to intervene and let it go as far as they would take it. No bones were broken, and just a little blood was drawn. But through it all, the scripture saying “And ye will not suffer your children that they…fight and quarrel one with another” kept floating through my mind.

    Now when my child hurts another, I do ask them to apologize and then give a hug and kiss to make up. If an aggressor is visiting, I tell them that behavior is not acceptable here, and they will have to leave if it happens again. My son has come home several times crying about the neighbor kid being mean. I’ve tried to help him gain self-respect, so he won’t allow other kids to treat him badly. Basically we trained him to say “stop it, or I’m not going to play with you” and then have the courage to leave if it doesn’t stop.

  13. abc momma says:

    One more thing, we also use the rule that if they fight over a toy, it gets taken away indefinitely. It’s very effective.

    Sorry to post within your post.

  14. Amy A. says:

    I talked a lot about “preferring others before yourself” when my kids were little and how good it feels to wait and let others go ahead. It works for awhile, they get a sense of being noble.

    Then they become middle schoolers. I am now searching for tips for an older age group!

  15. Karen says:

    Whether or not I intervene depends on the ages of the children. While I do like to allow my kids the chance to work it out themselves there are times when it’s appropriate for an adult to step in. If the bullying child is older, it seems intentional over and over, and the other parent sees it happening and turns away I don’t hesitate to step in and ask the other child to please stop hitting/yelling/whatever to my child in a calm but firm voice. When asked nicely and respectfully I see that more as instructional than disciplinary and setting an example for my kids how they can ask other people to treat them without getting angry or acting out.

  16. Susan M says:

    We also used that fight-over-a-toy-and-you-lose-it rule.

    Of course, my kids quickly figured out that to torture their siblings all they had to do was start fighting over a toy they didn’t really want and it’d get taken away from the sibling who’d been playing with it.

    It can also help them learn to take turns if you actually time their turns. Brother gets it for 2 minutes, then sister, etc.

  17. Pops says:

    I’m going to give away my age, but here goes…

    I’m not so sure it is categorically bad to spank a child. The principle behind a correctly-administered spanking is justice — it allows the child to experience what they have been dishing out in the case of “aggressive behavior”.

    There are some conditions, of course. It has to be done in a calm, rational and predetermined manner, and it is only useful if the child can make the connection between the crime and the punishment. The child must perceive that you are in full control of your emotions and your actions.

    A bad spanking is one that simply causes pain and creates irrational fear, particulary when it is the result of a parent’s inability to control their own anger.

    I think that spanking works well for some children, but not for others. Each child requires some tailoring of discipline depending on their temperament and level of understanding.

  18. Well said, Pops. I agree with that completely (and I’m not your age! haha!)

    I struggle with how to deal with kids who are aggressors toward my children. I don’t want to offend the parents, but I do have to protect my children. It’s a fine line and most often I just remove my kids from the situation so I don’t have to deal with it. I’m passive, what can I say!?

    When my kid is the agressor, I just beat him. Kidding. He gets removed from the situation, has a time-out (a spanking if I think it’s necessary) and then has to apologize to the agressee. He’s rarely aggressive and I attribute it to nipping it in the bud right away. Or I could just be lucky. We’ll see.

  19. Oh boy! My favorite thing to deal with! AAAAgh! Okay well evry single one of my kids have gone through a biting phase…I should say is going through as my littlest now likes biting. Well to help the older kids understand why they can’t knock him upside the head for biting I explain that they all did it once and to be patient. Then I make a big deal of how terrible biting is… you know get all emotionally shocked and say “oh no! Look at your brother! Ow! He’s sad see? that’s an owee that’s a bad thing to do!”. Then I make him give him a hug and kiss and say sorry or you know “durry.” We repeat this often and treat it very seriously and I make a big deal out of looking at their face and also of making it right. This way they know how good it feels to do something nice. We try t make it a big deal in our house to feel for others, a lot of putting yourself in their shoes, etc. And when all else fails and they can’t seem to knock off the torturing each other then they get to serve the person they hurt. We call it slavery, Ha! As far as othe peoples kids being a bully, I went through the nice phase and I am done! If the Mom can’t see the child is out of control under her nose or in other words doesn’t care at all then that kid gets disciplined by me! Usually a big bad no! And the mean momma look works. If the Mom gets upset then I say what did you want me to let your child beat on mine? stop it yourself next time. Okay I just think that part but they get the point. If you don’t like the way I do it then do it yourself! Right? Right.

  20. Stephanie says:

    I have an aggressive one playing at my house right now.

    Most parents in our neighborhood won’t let him come over to play. I have let him know from the beginning that it isn’t acceptable here and will not be tolerated. This same kid hits his mom, dad and sisters ALL OF THE TIME.

    I used to worry about offending his parents, but not anymore. They are passive and don’t give a flying leap. There have been many times that I have stepped in when his mom is right there and told him what is what. I just decided that if she wasn’t going to parent him when I was around, then I would. I am the only advocate for my children. He knows what I expect from him after I have gotten VERY firm with him (think Rebecca DeMornay in “The hand That Rocks the Cradle” without the foul language and twisting of arm). I have even had the opportunity to watch him play with my girls without him knowing, he was as sweet as pie to them. It’s amazing what a little firmness and expectation does.

    With my oldest, I send her to her room to “cool off” and I haven’t had to do that in over a year and a half. We are lucky with her, she is very in control. Her personality is very sweet and that is all it takes. However, my youngest is all “spit” and “fire”. I reached my limit one day and I put her into a cold shower, clothes and all. It was magic!!! What a great discovery! We have only had to put her into the actual shower three times. Now all I have to do when she is acting up is head to the sink and start to fill up a glass of water. She definitely knows the difference between when I am getting a drink and when she is “in for it”. As soon as she sees me head for the sink, she becomes the angel that hides in there. Lest you think I am abusive, I asked a social worker if it was considered abuse. She laughed and called it “resourceful and desperate behavior modification”.

    Love and Logic is wonderful and I fully advocate it, however, there are times when it just isn’t plausible. Hence, cold showers.

    How is that for a novel.

  21. DYM, this is definately a difficult subject since every parent has different parenting styles and every child has different personalities and reacts to different forms of discipline differently. Okay, have I confused you enough. I do have alot to say on this issue so I am going to post on my blog about it. If you want just head over and check it out. http://www.theworldoftestosterone.blogspot.com

  22. HLH says:

    Oh DYM, I am so there with you! If I am watching closely (ie not blogging & parenting at the same time) I can usually see the explosion beginning to boil over, if I step in right way and redirect PJ’s frustrations- then he still has his melt down but does not harm his sister. By redirecting I mean that I get down and say to him “I know you are upset that she looked at your food, but we don’t beat people bloody for that in this house. Why don’t you ask her nicely “please don’t look at my food”, and see if she responds. If you have been nice and it doesn’t work then come get me”. Of course my 18mo. old does not listen to her brother (or me for that matter)and then we have melt down, but not with hitting or beating.

    As for other people’s kids. I am certianly not going to call your attention to your childs behavior if he is beating mine. I am a non-confrontationalist. If your child is really hurting my child or being dangerous, I’ll step in and rescue my child and take him away from the situation.

    Sorry, this is long…this is the nutshell version.

  23. Adam says:

    An ages old submission technique. Teach her to knee other children in the thigh. A well placed knee to the quad will drop just about anyone and be free from any real permanant damage.

  24. My 17 month old has just started hitting me when I tell her no like I mean it. I kiss her hand and tell her “soft”. Then she strokes my face and says, “soft” and we’re all made up.

    My older two are just rowdy good-for-nothing-except-washing-dishes so I pretend they’re visitors and they’ll be going home soon. That way I don’t have to deal with the problem.

    Besides they’ll be all grown up in only 10 and 12 more years and I won’t have to worry about it. Then society can deal with their I-get-the-front-seat, no-I-get-the-front-seat, no-me, no-me. I asume they WILL still be fighting over the front seat 12 years from now. It feels that way anyway.

    I think it’s too late for me to be commenting on other people’s blogs. I’m feeling (and sounding) a little hazy.

  25. well my son is usually very gentle and its him who keeps getting hammered by other kids. I wait for the parent to discipline. if they dont, i gently tell the offending child to be nice and not hurt the smaller child. if all else fails i just remove my brat from the situation.

  26. Sketchy says:

    All 3 of my boys have gone through some agressive stages and I really don’t think its a terrible thing, its just part of them.

    However, I know I have more wild boys. I know and so I watch them and intervene when things are going to far. To me the issue isn’t a child that acts out, its a lazy parent who doesn’t want to redirect, discipline and teach them correct behavior.

    So I suppose thats how I filter out whats OK for other children as well. For example once at McDonalds there was a child who actually spit in my son’s face, yes GROSS! But his mother upon learning what had happenned immediately took her son in hand and dealt with it. Then there’s the kids yesterday at BK who even after an employee had to come and tell them not to climb/destroy a mat around a metal pole, sat with her back to the play area and resolutely did absolutely nothing to parent her children.

    The first kid, although I’m sure his mother was mortified, I would give another chance. The second group, nope!

  27. Nina says:

    Wait a second!!! Who is “Nina”? Do you have a daughter named that?
    I only ask because it is rare that I find another human being with the same name as myself.
    Sorry, off topic, but…

  28. Suzi says:

    I know you said it in your post, but you definitely should not bite a biter back. Whether it works or not is beside the point. It used to be common to use such behavior as proof of incompetent parenting during a divorce. Several women in our county lost custody of their kids for that- forty years ago.

  29. KEP says:

    With the daycare kids I take care of, I usually separate them and say something like that, “Do you want to hurt your friend? I know you love each other-I bet you don’t want to hurt her!” Because they don’t, really, and most of the time hadn’t thought about it actually hurting.

    Then they go to the “sad wall”, which is what we call timeout. You make a sad choice, you sit on the sad wall.

    I spend all day disciplining other people’s kids, so I have to remind myself at functions that it isn’t always appreciated. Otherwise I have no problem jumping right in. 🙂

  30. Stephanie says:

    Oh, a hard one.

    I think, first of all, you have to consider age. Age is a major factor.

    If they are super young, you can really only expect so much. You can definitely try to catch the hitting or the biting before it happens, and scold them when it does happen, but at young ages, you just kind of have to be forgiving.

    However, by the time they are three…

    Sometimes time out, usually taking away a favorite posession or activity works best.

  31. jessica says:

    My children (especially #1) used to be the ones getting picked on. Now, sad to say, after spending some quality time in nursery they can hold their own in the bully department. So, how to get them not to kill each other or their playmates? I have no idea.

    But if someone else’s kid was picking on one of my boys I think I might try striking up a conversation with the bully’s mom: “I’m having the hardest time dealing with my son’s aggression. Do you have any suggestions? How do you handle it?” Maybe then she’d notice her kid bullying mine and do something about it. And I might just get some free advice too 🙂 (Of course, if things were really out of hand, I’d step in and remove my child before trying my above mentioned idea.)

  32. Carrien says:

    I lost my inhibitions about dealing with other people’s children when a trhee year old boy walked up to my 6 month old daughter as I was talking to his mother, whom I’d only just met, and pushed my baby hard backwards so that she hit her head on the log behind her and wailed. The mom didn’t see it, but did nothing when I told her besides aks how are you dealing with sibling rivalry in your family, to which I replied, “We don’t have any yet, my son loves and is gentle with his sister.”
    The next timeher boy came near to shove my girl I got right down in his face and said, very firmly, almost fiercely, “We don’t hurt our baby, don’t touch her.” he looked at me in shock and ran away. I have ever since had no problem telling kids use the phrase, “The rule at our house is, or, we don’t do..”whatever behavior that I don’t like seeing. If parents don’t like it, they don’t have to bring their kids to play with mine anymore, I’m fine with that, but I have on many occasions since parented children whose parents will not, and they respond to me because they know I”m not messing around.
    One other thing. MY son is an aggressive typical boy, but we have trained him, through exhausting ordeals of being consistent with consequences, not to hit other kids, we would waatch other kids hit him and he wouldn’t hit back he would cry and run away. It drove my husband nuts. So we introduced the hitting game. He can go up to a friedn and ask, do you want to wrestle, play a fighting game, etc with me? and after they agree all is fair game, if someone gets hurt it’s in the course of play, unless they get angry and hit. My husband taught him that if someone came up to him and hit him, than they have started a hitting game, and he can hit them back if he wants to, though it’s better if he just pushes them down. He’s a strong kid and holds his own once allowed, judo has only added to this, so it’s been effective. But he and other boys will spend several hours playing fighting games, and getting hurt, and having a ball.

  33. brooke says:

    I’ve been having issues with my sister-in-law’s children. From this posting and comments, I’ve learned a lot about how to handle them. Also, when I do have children, I’ll use a lot more of these tips so I don’t grow little monsters.

  34. My problem is aggression among my own children … at home.

    I’ve been to many a triplet playdate with 20+ 1-year olds running around … no problem at all. But, put my 3 together and there are teeth marks everywhere.

    Yes. I know “they” “say” it’s not good to bite a child – but that is honestly, the only way I’ve been able to get mine to stop. They bite one another – I bite them. The end.

    Biting has stopped at our house. Almost completely.

    I prefer biting them back to pepper spray.

  35. Tara says:

    Well, my son used to be a biter and hitter, but that was mostly before his 3rd birthday and you could tell, he just couldn’t find a voice for his frustration.

    The “It’s okay to be angry, but it’s not okay to (hit/bite/kick/etc.)” worked well for us.

    He used to fight time out and would NOT stay there. The interesting thing is, when I changed it to the “calm down spot” instead of time out, he did much better.

    He is now 3 and a half and still will have some dramatic moments (especially in the afternoons since he doesn’t nap but still gets sort of cranky from being tired), but a warning usually keeps him in check.

    On that subject — I happen to be a Mommy who means business. Nothing drives me battier than having to listen to threat after threat after threat with no follow through. In my house, you get one warning and then whatever is promised will happen, HAPPENS. End of story. Around here, I take a train. Some days I’ve had to take about 10 (that was early in the toy timeout world), and depending on the offense, I’ll take more than one at a time.

    The other thing that was really helpful to me when he was more physically expressive (how I thought of it), was to help him label how he was feeling. If he was taking swings at me, screaming like a mad man, kicking, biting, etc. I’d address the behavior specifically first. “No biting (or whatever)! Biting is naughty.” Then on the way to time out (or calm down spot) I’d tell him “You are angry and you are out of control. You need to take a break. Mommy’s loves you and is going to help you get back in control. Sit here until you are ready to be gentle and use kind words.” That way, he knew why I was putting him there, that the behavior (not him) was naughty, he was loved, and how I’d know he was ready to be done. We’d always talk and hug, and apologize (if needed) before leaving calm down time.

    You know what I love? As a 3 1/2 year old boy, he now puts himself over on the step. When his 2 year old friend (who HATES to share even more than he does) is over here and irritates him, he will sometimes go over to the step and sit down. (It’s usually to pout.) She asked him the other day what he was doing and he said “I need to take a break.” Hooray!!!

    The other thing that still works is taking myself or the toy out of the equation. “Oh, I’m sad you’re making such a bad choice. I was hoping you’d stop throwing the pieces around. Now we can’t play Candyland and I’ll have to go clean the kitchen instead.” Usually works like a charm and I most often get an unsolicited sorry, too.

    Oh — and I praise like crazy when he makes a good choice instead. I try to catch him being good as often as possible, too. “You are really making good choices today. It’s so fun to play Candyland with you when you don’t throw the cards in the air and you follow the rules.” He gets really proud.

    I usually tell other people’s children in a firm but gentle way to please stop assaulting my children. 🙂 Usually I’ll just say “Please don’t hit.” If they are ripping things away repeatedly (I usually count the first 3 in my head and coach my son to choose another toy), on the 4th offense I’ll say “He was playing with that right now. I know he’ll be glad to give you a turn when he’s done if you can find a way to ask nicely.” Most of the time the parents intervene, but if they don’t, I have no problem doing it.

    I should add that it’s 3 am here and I can’t sleep. Also, I have a lot of experience working with other people’s preschoolers and high needs elementary school kids as part of my profession, so I got to practice on LOTS of other kids before my oldest was even a twinkle in my eye. Helped A LOT. (So did the classes I took!)

  36. kyouell says:

    I know this is late, but I’m just getting caught up from vacation. There were so many good comments here that I had to read them all even though it took 3.5 days!

    I’m very apprehensive about aggressive behavior and having to deal with it in my son. The only time he displays it so far is during breastfeeding. How many bites did it take for Mom to realize that they happen right after I insist that he latch back on? Oh, about 6 months worth. Doh!

    I read all the responses hoping to see some tips that deal with special needs kids. I’m concerned that my little Biscuit (who has Down syndrome and is therefore small for his age) will get picked on or be a push over. Then he bites during nursing and I worry that he’s going to be the aggressor. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to post all the ideas. It gave me a lot to think over.

    I do have one tip. My mom used to watch my cousin all the time and he had a SEVERE anger problem and the only thing he wanted to do was hit (especially her since she was enforcing rules and his parents think that kids just grow like weeds). She made him a mini punching bag out of sturdy but soft brushed denim. That was the only thing that he was allowed to hit. Ever. He had to bring it with him everywhere so that it was always handy. He’s now 19 and seems to be quite mellow. I don’t know if we can really credit the punching bag or if he’s off smoking something to mellow himself out, but he certainly is more pleasant than he was at ages 2 – 10!

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