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HELP ME GROW: How to find the right response when dealing with aggressive toddlers

Posted in:Help Me Grow



Biting is becoming a common behavior among toddlers and it has a lot of parents worried. Where does this act of aggression come from? According to Zero to Three, many toddlers resort to biting to express strong feelings like anger or use this action as a way to tell someone they need space. As a parent, it’s important to know that you are not alone in dealing with this challenging behavior. There are ways to reduce and ultimately stop this action from occurring.

First and foremost, do no label your child as a “biter”. Labeling your child like this or having other people refer to him/her as a biter can lead to them accepting this behavior as normal and that it’s okay to do it. Monitor your child’s activity or play, as you do so you can start to identify what’s causing the biting to happen. Key questions to ask to help understand this act of aggression are:

  • What happened before the bite?
  • Who did your child bite? Is it always the same child?
  • What was your child doing when they bit the other child?

When the biting happens follow these three steps- keep your feelings in check, firmly tell your child “No biting. Biting hurts” and then shift your attention to the child who was bitten. Giving attention to the child who was bitten helps communicate to the child that bit them that biting is hurtful and will not get them attention. Remember, learning a new behavior takes time so patience in dealing with this is key.

If you are ever in doubt of the best practices to follow or are worried if your child’s development is on track, dial 2-1-1 Help Me Grow and ask for Debbie, she will help to put your mind at ease. This confidential and free service will put you in touch with an experienced specialist who will listen to you and get you the help you need.

© 2023. Delaware Division of Public Health.