Hitting & Biting

Updated on May 22, 2008
J.C. asks from Tacoma, WA
8 answers

I read the responses to another mother about toddlers hitting their parents and it was very hepful. I have twin 15 month old boys and a 3 1/2 month old boy. 1 of the twins hit & bites us out of the blue and in frustration as well as his twin brother. We are working on firm boundaries and limit setting with him. Its a tough battle that at times I feel like we are loosing. We are working with him with some advice I obtained here. However it does not seem to be working so well when it comes to his brother. Any suggestions on the limits and consequences for his negative bevavior toward his brother? I understand that siblings are going to fight especially boys but the aggession if getting to be too much. I am not afraid to try new things. I am so wanting to get it under control ASAP (if thats at all possible)

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answers from Seattle on

HANG IN THERE! I've been going through this with my now-twenty-one month old twin boys and we have seen an improvement.

Here's what I do: Twin A smacks Twin B. I swoop in and snatch up Twin B in a cuddle/hug. I firmly tell Twin A, "No Hitting! Hitting hurts!" Then I turn my back on Twin A and focus ALL my attention on Twin B. I say things like, "It's not nice when brother hits you, is it? Hitting hurts! We don't like being hit, do we?"

Twin A doesn't get much attention for engaging in negative behavior, BUT he gets to see that HIS negative behavior gets his brother lots of attention. Like I said, it's been a slow process. But we are very consistent and we are seeing an improvement!

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answers from Portland on

You are losing the battle because you are losing the connection. Your son is not acting out because he wants to inflict pain on his brother, but because of a deeper reason. It's your job to figure out what is causing the biting and aggressive behavior! Punishing him only makes it worse!

I know it's not what you wanted to hear and not what most people will tell you! He is expressing a need (in an inappropriate way, yes) and he may be frustrated, angry, mad, whatever, but he is feeling like you are not understanding him at that moment. Maybe he doesn't communicate well? Not speaking much? And has strong emotions! You need to try to connect with the reason and let him know you get it before he will stop acting out in that way.

For example, you see the 2 boys struggling over a toy and one bites the other. You rush over and grab the biter and put him in your lap. You may need to comfort the other one as well, make sure he is OK. Then talk to the biter. "I bet you wanted that toy. I know, it's a really great toy! But your brother was playing with it and now he's sad because you bit him. We don't bite (hit, kick, push, etc) other people. Next time you want what he has, you could try offering him a trade. Give him the fire truck and ask for the airplane. I'll help you."

I don't know how much of that will get through to the child, but go for it. They seem to understand that you are trying to connect and see things from their perspective! That's all they are looking for! Even as they get older and can express themselves with words, it's still hard. Maybe he really wants to climb the ladder and go down the slide by himself but is struggling, then another kid climbs past him and sits down to slide and he bites or hits that kid! You need to say it's not OK to hit, but also acknowledge that he was having a hard time with the ladder and might have been frustrated when a bigger kid passed him. Just relate to his struggle and that will get you far!

Oh I could recommend some great books if you are a reader! Let me know if this sounds like something that resonates with your values and I will make a list. :)

It's too bad you got such poor advice like biting him back or putting vinegar in the child's mouth! Yelling, hitting, and time outs are also inappropriate. Kids learn by example, so start setting a good one in how you handle things. If you want a child to learn to hit when he has a problem, then go ahead and hit him! If you want him to fear you or resent you (and not learn that what he did was wrong) then yell at him or put him in a time out. But don't complain when the problems continue because you didn't teach him any coping skills! All parents should connect with your kids, get on their level and try to see things through their eyes! There are many studies that illustrate how punishments do not work!

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answers from Medford on

Hi J.,
I too am a 40+ mother of 5 year old twins. And both my husband and I are counselors. When you say that he is hitting his brother are you meaning his twin brother or the younger brother. By the way, you two really have your hands full. I hope you are finding ways to get good sleep. Anyway, with my boys I would try my best to notice why they were hitting, and help put words to it, first. For example, "you wanted brothers toy, but he's not done with it yet. You can ask if you can have it when he's done, that's how we cooperate, no hitting to get what we want." We have from early on very verbal boys, so they could approximate short sentences. OR I would see that the hitting was out of frustration and say, "Boys who hit are moved until they can be kind again." And then remove them. I'm very taken with Love and Logic's book for years 0-6. I would add that biting and hitting often are a result of being frustrated and not havng the words. So wether they can say the words or not, it's helpful to model and say it for them. But there are times when removing them to let them know the boundaries is what needs to happen. There are lots of good suggestions in there. I hope that you get some good advice.

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answers from Jacksonville on

You really have your hands full! In John Rosemond's book "Making the Terrible Twos Terrific", he talks about how once babies aren't the focus of attention any more, and don't need round the clock constant care (around 18 months give or take - which is when the terrible twos begin) they don't like giving up all that attention and focus, and start being terrible. He has so much good, practical, tried and true advice. He is funny and interesting to read. Good luck!

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answers from Anchorage on

I remember when I was small, and my little sister would bite. Do you have sibs? (Just curious.) I don't recall how old we were. Mom sat us down, and then bit my sister...NOT hard, mind you, just enough to make it hurt a little. I was then told that when she bit me, I should bite her in return. If I didn't bite her in return, and instead came and told on her, I would get bitten for telling. So, I learned to bite her in return. We became Best Friends, at a VERY early age !!



answers from Anchorage on

This may sound a bit weird but it worked with our daughter who started to bite. Every time he bites, give him a small taste of apple cider vinegar. It won't hurt him, but will discourage the biting. Our daughter got to the point of fighting us and spitting the vinegar out. We used one of the medicine syringes you can get at the pharmacy, and shot a few drops into the back of her mouth. Once she learned that she WAS getting vinegar, and was NOT going to spit it out, the biting stopped!

We have also used this with our older children who started using "bad words". We tell them all (including the biter) that "If icky things come out of your mouth, icky things go in!"

Good luck!



answers from Seattle on

All I can say is WOW!!! You have a lot on your plate!! I can't imagine what a blur a typical day in your house would be. I'm am not sure that I have much advice to offer but I do have a tiny bit of experience. My first son started hitting around this time and we put him in time out when he would hit. My son is now three and in the meantime I have tried various tactics ie, yelling, hitting back, taking away toys and privilages, and time outs. I have to say the yelling and hitting back got me nowhere, and I think the consistency of the time outs and taking away of privilages has worked the best as well as telling him what was happening and why in a calm voice each time. He still hits every now and then but because he is getting older he understands consequences better and can think his actions through a little bit. Needless to say it didn't happen near as fast as I would have liked but it is working itself out. I also think that boys just have a more aggresive way of getting their human touch needs met (for example wrestling around and "fighting"). Anyway I wish you luck in getting this resolved and make sure you take time for yourself to get rest as I find that always helps with my ability to handle things well. T.



answers from Portland on

I know it sounds mean, but have your tried biting him back? Not enought o break skin but enough to make it hurt. Perhaps he just doesn't understand that he is causing that much pain. I know it worked for my brother when we were kids.

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