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Ask Kate: Help! My Child is Biting and Pinching

June 21, 2012

Hi Kate!
Have any of your children ever experienced aggression?
My 2 year old daughter has recently started biting, hitting, kicking, pulling hair & pinching. :(  Nobody has ever been aggressive toward her, so it’s confusing & frustrating. I’m just wondering if you have any tips (if you’ve ever encountered this behavior). I’m sure it has a lot to do with the terrible two phase. Thank you!
- Tara

Hi Tara –
Yes, I have experienced it over the years in various situations. I am not a trained expert, of course, but here is what I have found:
Jealousy over a younger sibling causes it sometimes.
Otherwise, when kids are that age, they can’t usually express in words their frustrations and typically lash out with those behaviors. Not sure how well she speaks but encourage her to “use her words” when she is upset rather than hurting others!

Also, reactions by adults seem to encourage it. Don’t freak out and act horrified (although inside I know you are!) because that may reinforce the behavior…Calmly, remind her that it hurts you physically when she does those things, and the pain makes you cry.

Some people believe in “biting back” or pinching back to show her how it hurts… I have mixed feelings on that because I believe in being the example and certainly that isn’t, lol! When she does this, remove her from the situation and put her in 2 minutes of “time out” if you feel it is warranted. Only you know if she needs to “take a break” and calm down, which is usually the case and “time out” will achieve that.
Talk to her and try to get her to understand what made her bite/pinch etc and explain why it’s not a good way to handle a frustrating situation and what she should do instead next time. Talk, of course, on her level!

You will need to do this over and over until she “gets it.” BUT she will eventually.
Bottom line is: She’s not a monster. This is a phase she is going through and although you can’t ignore it or condone it, it will take many many conversations to show her that this is inappropriate behavior. I lost track of how many times during those years  I have said to my kids “teeth are for_____” and they’d answer “chewing food not for biting!”
Good luck! This too shall pass….



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