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  • Biting and Hitting Are Signs Your Toddler Is Frustrated. How to Teach Him a Better Way

    He's not being a bad child, he just doesn't know how to express his feelings.
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .
Biting and Hitting Are Signs Your Toddler Is Frustrated. How to Teach Him a Better Way
PHOTO BY @Dr_Terwilliger/iStock
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  • Perhaps one of the biggest lessons your child will need to learn — and one you’ll have to teach him early on — is he won’t always get what he wants. And when you do, expect a range of violent reactions — he’ll wail, hit, bite, and throw things.

    All that violent reaction can be summed up in one word: frustration. “They’re simply your child’s way of trying to communicate his emotions,” Melissa Otero, Psy.D., a child psychologist in Connecticut, told Parents

    Toddlers often feel they can do things that are really beyond their capability, and it frustrates them when they fail. Their impatience and self-centered nature do not help, and neither do their undeveloped speech. Thus, communicating what they want (or don’t want) to Mom or Dad can be very challenging. Ergo, they turn to biting, throwing, crying. 

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    Teach your toddler to channel frustration properly

    Understandable as it may be, it’s never too early to teach your child what is acceptable behavior, and what is not. Here’s how to halt the hostility:

    Call out the behavior right away.

    The moment you see your child hitting someone out of frustration, you have to draw the line. Take his hand and place it by his side, while saying something like, “Hitting is not allowed. Do not hit anyone” in a firm but calm voice. David Anderson, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute in New York City, says it’s best to remove your child from the situation and have quiet time so he would realize that what he did was wrong. And, don’t hit him either, of course.

    Teach him an alternative.

    As mentioned earlier, part of the reason your toddler becomes violent is he knows no other way to express how he feels. But if you teach him another way to do that, he can be more effective in communicating with you. How do you do that?

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    Verbalize what you think he’s feeling. If you see him having a difficult time sorting out his toy, tell him, “You’re mad because you can’t sort out your toy.” Or, “You’re sad because Kuya left for school.” Have him repeat the words “mad” or “sad” until he learns what they mean. Couple these with appropriate actions like stomping his feet or jumping up and down. Role-play so you can show him how to do it properly.

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    Observe to see what triggers the behavior.

    Several things could unleash this nasty behavior: lack of sleep, exhaustion, and overstimulation. It’s different for every child, so keep an eye on what it is for yours. Having this knowledge could help you prevent scenarios from happening by preparing ahead of time. Nonetheless, know that a toddler’s behavior can be very unpredictable and that sometimes there’s just no way to prevent these.

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    Praise your child for good behavior.

    Like all of us, your child needs to get feedback, so he knows if he is doing well. “Giving hugs, smiles, and positive feedback when he’s being good is the best way to help shape his behavior,” says Dr. Anderson. As with anything when you’re raising young kids, consistency is key. Have a lot of patience on hand, and you’re good to go. 

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