Fighting & Biting
All people have aggressive feelings.
As adults, we learn how to control these feelings. Children, however,
are often physically aggressive - they hit, bite and scratch others.
These behaviors are fairly common and often appear by the child's
first birthday. Parents often struggle over how to manage their
child's aggressive and/or destructive behavior.
While some biting can occur during
normal development, persistent biting
can be a sign that a child has emotional or behavioral problems.
While many children occasionally fight with or hit others, frequent
and/or severe physical aggression may mean that a child is having
serious emotional or behavioral problems that require professional
evaluation and intervention. Persistent fighting
or biting when a child is in daycare
or preschool can be a serious problem. At this age, children have
much more contact with peers and are expected to be able to make
friends and get along.
What to do about BITING:
* Say "no", immediately, in a calm but firm and disapproving
* For a toddler (1-2 years), firmly hold the child, or put the
* For a young child (2-3 years) say, "biting is not okay
because it hurts people."
* Do NOT bite a child to show how biting feels. This teaches the
child aggressive behavior.
* If biting persists, try a negative consequence. For example,
do not hold or play with a child for five minutes after he or
If these techniques or interventions
are not effective, parents should talk to their family physician.
What to do about HITTING AND FIGHTING:
* It is more effective to intervene before a child starts hitting.
For example, intervene as soon as you see the child is very frustrated
or getting upset.
* When young children fight a lot, supervise them more closely.
* If a child hits another child, immediately separate the children.
Then try to comfort and attend to the other child.
* For a toddler (1-2 years) say, "No hitting. Hitting hurts."
* For a young child (2-3 years) say, "I know you are angry,
but don't hit. Hitting hurts." This begins to teach empathy
to your child.
* Do NOT hit a child if he or she is hitting others. This teaches
the child to use aggressive behavior.
* Parents should not ignore or down play fighting between siblings.
When hitting or fighting is frequent,
it may be a sign that a child has other problems. If a young child
has a persistent problem with fighting and biting or aggressive
behavior, parents should seek professional assistance from a child
and adolescent psychiatrist or other mental health professional
who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of behavior problems
in very young children.
Problems of Children &
Alcohol & Drug
Gay & Lesbian