Child Development, Year 2

Biting and hitting: What to do when your toddler bites or hits you?


August 18, 2022

When your child grows up to become older than 12 months, they might start to assert their independence on you. One of the worst ways they might do that is by hitting or getting physical with you. 


Although it is a natural process of growing up, you should correct these behaviors early on before they become a habit. Help them correct these actions by letting them know that it is not the acceptable or the correct way to express their emotions. 

Why do kids do that?

Once your toddler reaches the phase where they regularly show tantrums and have regular meltdowns, your initial reaction might be to feel alarmed. While it might be frustrating and even mortifying, it might be easier if you understand the reasons why they might be showing such behavior. Some of those reasons might be:


When your child playfully hits or bites you, the little one could just be wondering how you might react. Your child is growing in various ways and they want to learn things by doing it themselves. The best way to stop them from doing it again is to gently let them know that this behavior isn’t acceptable and not welcome. 

Communicating with you

From biting on your nipples while they are full to throwing away the toys that they are done playing with, your toddler is trying to tell you something with their action. You might notice that your child throws tantrums when they don’t like something. They don’t have verbal communication developed yet, so they resort to body language to communicate their likes and dislikes to you. 


Your child might be trying to protect their toys or the things that they own. If someone tries to set their boundaries and claim their territory, they will try to become defensive about it. Try to understand the reason behind their tantrums rather than simply telling them off. 

Bad mood

Like everyone of us, even a child can have a day where they might not feel their best. Whether it is because they are tired or sick, they might just not want to do the things that are normally expected of them. 

Learned behavior

Children this age are quick to learn from what they see others doing. Most of the time they might see other kids in their playground or school hitting or biting. They might think that it is acceptable until their parents or teacher tells them that it is not. 

What not to do?

Even though for any parent, it is alarming when they first realize their cute little child has resorted to such troublesome tactics, you should remain patient. How you react in this moment will be a learning moment to them on how to react when they are angry. So, keep in mind that they will be learning through your reaction as well. Here are some tips on what not to do:

  • Don’t hit them back or cause them pain. 
  • Don’t shout at them or show them anger. 
  • Lecturing doesn’t really work on small children so refrain from it. 
  • Use simple words like “No hitting” or “No biting”. 
  • Redirect to positive behavior and change their attention to something positive.  

Things you can do right then

  • Keep your cool and act patiently. 
  • Set limits on what is bad and what is good. Immediately reinforce the good behavior and let them know that there will be consequences for bad behavior. Even as children, they need to understand boundaries and respect when they are affecting someone else with their actions. 
  • Give them some space which will allow them some time to think about their actions. 
  • Remove them from the environment. Sometimes they might be under pressure because of the environment that they are located in. Changing their environment might help them relieve the pressure and automatically change their mood. 
  • Stay respectful while you react. 

Things to teach over a period of time

  • Reinforce when they do something good. When you praise good behavior, your child is more likely to perform better. 
  • Encourage your toddler to apologize.
  • Children have a very high amount of energy. They need to spend it by playing and running around. Help them to keep a healthy mind by engaging in appropriate physical exercises. 
  • The media that your child consumes will also have an impact on how they will behave. If they are constantly watching videos or playing games that have violent content, chances are that they will catch onto the negative behavior.


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