Biting, Hitting and Hair Pulling: How to Stop It

Earlier this week we discussed why babies and toddlers resort to biting, hitting and hair pulling.  It begins as a natural instinct but can become a nasty habit if it is not addressed early.  Parents are often unsure of how to deter these behaviors and teach their children other means of releasing aggression and frustration.  Today we’re offering some helpful tactics for how to stop biting, hitting and hair pulling.

Don’t give in to the behavior.  Showing your child that biting, hitting and hair pulling does NOT give him his desired result will interrupt his socially unacceptable thought process.  If he acts aggressive in an attempt to get a toy from a friend, immediately give the toy back to the friend to make this point.

Repeat the same calm response every time your child misbehaves.  Kids love to get a rise out of their parents.  If you remain calm and repeat “we don’t bite, that hurts” or “no hitting, ouch!” each time, your little one will start to get the picture.  As he learns to speak, make him repeat the phrase so it will sink in even further.

Biting, Hitting and Hair Pulling: How to Stop ItNip the problem immediately.  As soon as you see the behavior, take actions.  If your child is mid yank on a strand of a friend’s hair, pull his hand away.  Swift responses tend to have better results.

Never exhibit the bad behavior as a response.  Biting, hitting or pulling hair to show that it hurts is never a good idea.  Kids imitate their care givers so by you doing the behavior you are teaching them that it may be OK.  Instead, ask your child, “How would you feel if someone did that to you?”  This teaches empathy rather than retaliation.

Create a consequence for misbehavior.  When your child is old enough to understand consequences, enforce a punishment for poor conduct.  This may include time out or taking a toy away.

Discuss the problem.  Once your child has calmed down, talk through the issue.  Ask why he did what he did and listen to the answer.  Then explain why that was wrong.  Tell him how he could have asked for something nicely or waited his turn.  Teach that communicating with words is always the best way to go.

Role play appropriate behavior.  You should always be a role model to your child.  Sometimes reenacting a heated situation with an appropriate response can show your child how to react next time.

Reward positive behavior.  Always point out when your child is doing something right with praise and an occasional reward.  You don’t want to teach that he should act right just for a prize, but periodic encouragement certainly helps.

Know your child’s triggers.  Try to make sure your child is set up for successful playing by ensuring he gets enough sleep, isn’t hungry and feels comfortable in his environment.  If he feels nervous, tired or hungry he may act out.

Give your child attention, respect and love.  Poor behavior is often the result of not enough attention from parents.  Be sure to spend quality time with your kids and give them lots of affection to avoid these negative feelings.  Also, don’t lash out when things get chaotic.  Kids feed off that behavior.

Don’t expect perfection.  As we discussed earlier this week, kids misbehave for a variety of reasons that are completely normal and part of their development into mature people.  Sometimes aggression and frustration gets the best of all of us so tolerance and forgiveness should be part of the process as well.