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Toddler- Biting, Hitting Mom and Dad

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Hello Dr. Laura-
I have a 25 month old son, who has started biting and laughing about it. So I know he is doing it for attention. I stay home with him.. we are constantly doing things together, etc so he is really spoiled with attention. He seems to do it to just test us. Sometimes when he is sitting on our lap playing, he will out of nowhere smack us in the face too and laugh. I will take his hands, hold them down and in a stern voice I will say "NO we do not hit, you need to use gentle hands." Then I show him how to make nice with our hands. Then he usually does it again and will laugh. Its becoming a daily thing now.. and it needs to be nipped in the bud now, but I am unsure of how to do that. Any advice would be great! Thanks - Amy


Your son is not biting you for "attention" or because he is "spoiled" but because he needs something from you. He is not laughing because he enjoys seeing you in pain. He is laughing because that lets off tension. The reason your approach is not preventing the hitting and biting is that you are doing a great job of telling him what the limit is, but you aren't helping him with the feelings that are pushing him to bite and hit.

You are doing the right thing to set a firm limit. Try to avoid being bitten or hit, when you can see it coming, and always respond by stopping him. But instead of being stern, along with setting the limit, try a kind voice, one that helps him feel safe enough to get in touch with whatever feelings are beneath his hitting. I suspect that if you set a clear, kind limit, looking into his eyes (he will try to avoid letting you look in his eyes), he will burst into tears. If he avoids your eyes, or laughs, insist on looking into his eyes, saying "You have some big feelings in there you need to show me. Look at me, Sweetie. I am right here. You are safe." He will almost certainly begin to cry, if you kindly, clearly, insist that hitting is not ok and you are there to help him. A good cry will help him let those feelings out, and he won't need to hit any more.

Here are some articles that may help you:

What about those days when he's hellbent on misbehaving?

Toddler hitting mom

Toddler biting parents

Good luck!

Dr. Laura

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