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New research ends an age-old debate: Will you spoil your baby if you pick it up each time it cries?
Does your toddler suddenly haul back and hit you in the midst of a sweet and playful time together? I’d like to spell out how these unseen emotional forces work, and what you can do about them.  But first and foremost, you need to know that your toddler doesn’t want to hurt you or anyone else, and he certainly doesn’t want to become “the bad kid” in your mind. Odd though it may seem, if you come down hard on your toddler, you are likely to nail his hitting behavior onto his daily routine, making it more likely to reappear. Not all children hit when they’re scared–it’s not the only instinctive human reaction to the feeling of fear. Laughter is one of the ways children release their feelings of fear, so hitting is sometimes accompanied by laughter—your child is trying hard to release tension,  but can’t laugh it away fast enough to stop himself from launching a hit or two. When she tries to strike, just keep her hit from landing, and say gently, “I can’t let you do that.” Then offer eye contact. When you’re quiet and calm, and you’ve gently prevented her from hitting, the feelings that drive the hitting will bubble up. Here are some of the things you can say, gently, interspersed with long intervals of simple supportive listening. Listen for 80% of the time, with warmth in your voice and a big heart for your struggling child. Additionally, I was intermittently attending to my baby and my son, who sat close to me with a concerned look on his face. We were now sitting on a bench and she started to tell me that she wanted to go on the swing. Finally, I felt like we could at least wander over to the swings, and as we got there, the other kid left so she and my son went on the swings together, with me pushing. If you want to help reduce frustration (and tantrums) in your wee one, and have a lot of fun along the way, then this is the course for you!
This workshop will help you to understand your baby’s sleep and give you practical, yet gentle, strategies in finding ways to help your baby settle and sleep for longer periods. This workshop looks at the psychology of toddler development and introduces you to the world from their perspective. We can help with any parenting challenges from breastfeeding, sleep, weaning, colic and crying to slings, nappies and pushchairs!
This lovely group is mainly a social group for mums to enjoy a break from the kids (much as we love them!), meet up and get to know each other.
While Bea didn’t bite or hit in the same way as Claire is doing now, she expressed her frustration by throwing some really storming tantrums.
In the years since Bea was a toddler I’ve done more reading and talking to other parents about child development and discovered a fact that should be given out to all new parents when their babies are born.
Babies and toddlers lack the brain structures in the prefrontal cortex that allow for good impulse control. What this means is that babies and toddlers simply cannot stop themselves from doing something they have the impulse to do. Understanding that toddlers and young children are not yet developmentally able to control their impulses well (or much at all) helps me stick with Gentle Discipline when faced with really problematic behaviours like biting and hitting.
Big developments in the prefrontal cortex happen around the ages of 1, 3, 6 and again at puberty. Even though a toddler really can’t be expected to show good impulse control yet, it’s important to make it clear that biting or hitting is not ok. If your toddler is biting or hitting because she’s overtired, hungry, tired or overwhelmed by too many other kids, go home and deal with those other needs first. Biting and other problem behaviours are often an indication that a child is upset by something they haven’t been able to process yet.
Eventually your toddler will learn some more language and social skills, and her prefrontal cortex will mature, allowing her to remember to use those words and social skills instead of biting. Patty Wipfler at Hand in Hand Parenting also has some good techniques to use with toddlers who bite. I have spent a lot of time as a parent educator observing toddlers interact with their parents (and have 3 children of my own).
I think that if you nip that in the bud as soon as it happens you really shouldn’t have any further problems.
Kieran went through a phase where he started hitting and biting kids at daycare (and less often us at home). Hi Leah, that’s interesting that Kieran stopped hitting when he was with older toddlers. I find that I have the urge to scream and hit things when I get supremely frustrated too, so keeping that in mind makes it a little easier to be understanding with the girls. Being hurt by your child really is one of the hardest things to bear as a mom, but believing that he’s doing it with malicious intent will only make it seem worse than it really is.
I also am tenderhearted and have a hard time not taking it personally, but understanding what is really going on with their little brains (ie toddler neurology, etc) really helps.
So I guess, learning what you can generally expect by reading what they are developmentally capable of, and not capable of and then also looking at possible unmet needs, gaps in affection or showing of affection, should help.

I am not a parent but I am a Montessori toddler guide and so have seen these behaviors first hand many times. My wife and I are currently having troubles with our 3 and a half year-old little girl who is VERY strong willed and when upset she pinches, bites, slaps and even tried to headbutt the wife. First off, I totally feel how frustrating it is to have a strong-willed kid who reacts strongly when they don’t get what they want.
What works best for me and my eldest is to really tune in to what’s going on for her. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.
Top Posts & PagesWhat's really in those Brookside Dark Chocolate Acai with Blueberry sweets? It might be wise for a parent or caregiver to read the last spread containing calm-down tips before sharing the book with a child.
PreS—These brightly colored board books are meant to help caregivers and small children manage the daily routines as well as the ups and downs of toddler life.
Elizabeth Verdick is the author of more than 30 highly acclaimed books for children and teenagers, including books in the Toddler Tools board book series, the Best Behavior series for young children, and the Laugh & Learn™ series for preteens. Emotional forces.  Although your toddler may have a poker face, or might even be laughing when he hits, his aggression is being driven by emotion. He doesn’t need punishment; in fact, punishment and time out can easily make it more likely that he will hit in the future. The thing to do is to gently, calmly move his arm away from the person he’s hitting, so he can’t hit again. Get close at a time when you think she is likely to hit—anticipating her behavior will help you to respond without reacting.
Or just hold her hand or arm gently as she approaches a playmate, so she can’t strike suddenly.
She’s doing what she was born to do—she’s getting rid of stress in a wild but efficient way.
You help to clear your child’s mind of emotional gunk, so your child can think more clearly. Learn to communicate with your child and get tips to help with common concerns such as tantrums, eating, sleeping and behaviour. I remember getting to this particular stage when Bea was a toddler and realizing just how much I did not know about parenting. Low impulse control and little awareness of socially acceptable behaviour is a big part of what makes toddlers so pure and adorable when they ask you to nurse their stuffed animals or wave hi to every car they pass while crossing the street.
Reassuring them of your love through one-on-one time and your caring presence during tantrums will help meet those emotional needs. When a child bites or is bitten at school we always let both sets of parents know and it is usually the biter’s parents who are the most concerned.
We have tried taking things away for a short period, timeouts, talking to her about it and all seems to not be working. Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site. Through rhythmic text and warm illustrations, this gentle, reassuring book offers toddlers simple tools to release strong feelings, express them, and calm themselves down. One or two simple sentences explain each idea in a toddler-friendly manner, often describing why these actions can help them.
It’s how they build their storehouse of understanding about their parents, their playmates, and how the world around them works.
So whether your child smiles while he’s hitting, or looks impassive, or only hits when he’s clearly upset, you can safely assume that if your child is hitting, it’s because he’s feeling scared. We try to get them not to cry, we distract them when they’re upset, we try to fix things so they won’t have an upset. Waking in the night, tantrums, refusing to try new things, thumb-sucking, and generally picky behavior all can be signs that your child has had to swallow his feelings, and that the stored emotions are hard for him to manage. That means you have to notice when your mind starts telling you, “Oh, I wonder if she’ll hit. If you can anchor her while she does the emotional work, she’ll be a very different little person when she’s done. This means that you don’t need to lecture her, you don’t need to recite the principles of proper treatment of friends, you don’t need to enumerate the rules in your household or in the play group, either before, during, or after a hitting incident in which you step in to hold a good limit. Biting and hitting in toddlers is due to two big things going on in their development: an increase in independence combined with a lack of impulse control. I took the tantrums personally (and seriously), and I frequently came to the end of my rope. The prefrontal cortex controls “executive function,” which governs self-control and helps us decide what behaviour is socially acceptable or not. They were pretty relaxed about it at school — but very firm with him, of course — telling me that it looked to them like he was experimenting. Toddlers need to experiment, play out experiences and conflicts they’re dealing with, release a lot of pent up angst.

They are trying to get my attention anyway they know how and usually their last resort is aggression. My eldest is still very strong willed and sensitive, and I believe she’ll always be a person who feels things very strongly and fights to get what she wants. It arms is with the science behind childhood and thus we are able to better set our expectations… and then our reactions to our kids. For example, Bedtime explains that children take a bath before bed because "warm water helps me relax" and get ready for sleep.
Your child will feel driven to try hitting again, because he didn’t understand why you yelled, or hit back, or grabbed his arm hard and dragged him to a seat in the corner.  His mind can’t make sense of your behavior.
I would wager that most of us parents give at least ten strong signals a day that we don’t like our children to show us how they feel.
She’s getting pretty close to that younger child…I hope she doesn’t!” That thought is your signal to calmly get to your child, and to be ready. This, we know, is an odd perspective, but it’s one that makes all the difference: you want her feelings to tumble out in a great big emotional wave. Toddlers now understand that they are separate people, they know what they want and they are on a mission to get it. It was also at this point that I realized that I truly could not MAKE my child do anything she didn’t want to do.
The part of the brain that says, “hang on, maybe hitting my mom in the face isn’t such a good idea,” hasn’t formed properly yet. It’s one of the main parts of your brain that gets all blurry when you get drunk, which may explain why adults act more like toddlers when they’re sloshed.
Is she getting enough exercise, enough time and freedom to play on her own for long stretches?
They feel unsafe, or disconnected, or upset about something and they don’t have the verbal ability to express that yet. I am excited to read more of your blog… I think we may be thinking about similar things. The first-person narrative is an ideal technique for communicating with small children who are developing a sense of themselves. Mild words like, “No, that doesn’t feel good,” or, “I can’t let you do that,” might be helpful.
You want all that negative energy out of her, not hiding in the corners of her mind, waiting to cause trouble.
Her fear will evaporate—perhaps not all of it, but most likely enough of it that she’s able to be happy again, and to have a better day than usual. The trick is learning how to help her moderate her reactions and empathize with others, to understand why she may not always get what she wants when she wants it. Acknowledge the emotion, suggest taking a deep breath, counting, finding a quiet place, hugging oneself or singing a little song while rocking back and forth are examples. You want to give him information, not a blast of reaction.  If you don’t react wildly (and as long as he’s not witnessing hitting in his daily life), his hitting experiments will play themselves out. They eventually surface not in crying or clinging or a full-out screaming response, but in hitting and biting and pushing other children. After a few tries, it will lose its novelty, and he’ll move on to climbing, or running, or throwing balls, or playing with the kitty. That’s what you do when you feel badly—you hit.” So the discipline methods many parents consider to be “natural consequences” or “deserved punishments” become part and parcel of a behavior cycle your child falls into more and more often when he isn’t feeling good.
And by bringing a healthy limit, then Staylistening, you help her to reclaim the chance to be in her right mind, free from stored feelings of fear. Sometimes all my daughter needs to get back on track is more one on one time, when I’m really paying attention to her and not trying to do anything else at the same time. Heinlen also uses patterned fabrics to give the pictures rich textures that will engage children.
The illustrations make each of these techniques as well as the emotions quite clear and it is apparent that for many kids once the emotional situation has been dispelled, they are ready to rejoin activities and life is "normal" again. The illustrations depict children and families from a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds.
She’s using your calm presence as her signal that she’s free to let go of the feelings that have infected her behavior.  We call this kind of listening Staylistening.
For example, Calm-Down Time advises adults to stay calm themselves while helping a frustrated toddler. Adults are also encouraged to seek help from pediatricians, parenting books, and child-development Web sites.

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