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Tackling Tantrums, Biting, Hair Pulling, and More

How to teach you child that certain types of behavoir are unacceptable.

Tackling Tantrums, Biting, Hair Pulling, and More

Perhaps the biggest trouble that little ones cause their parents is when they throw temper tantrums, and engage in hitting, biting, hair pulling, and other violent acts.

It's a Good Idea!

Kids are basically reasonable, and once you understand them, you can usually reason with them.

It's a Good Idea!

Sometimes you have to operate on “toddler time.” If you slow your pace, your child will become more serene.

Temper Tantrums

Toddlers throw themselves on the floor, flail around, bang their heads, scream. How do you deal with it?

  • A temper tantrum is a loss of control. Do not treat it as a disciplinary situation (in other words, don't ever impose disciplinary consequences on a child for having a tantrum).
  • Say your child is having a temper tantrum. Get on the floor with them, and make sure there's nothing sharp around. Sometimes holding a child while they scream and cry is the best option.
  • Tantrums often happen when kids feel pushed. Are you rushing from one errand to another? Slow down, and let your little one help determine the pace.
  • Tantrums show trust. If your child didn't feel utterly comfortable with you, they wouldn't let it fly.
  • Little kids have their own agenda. If Brad is busy making mud pies, and then he plans to feed them to the dragon, he may lose it when forced to “Come inside, now!” Honoring his experience and giving choices will make Brad feel seen and sometimes avoid a scene. “Brad, the pies are going to bake until tomorrow. Turn on the oven and tie up the dragon. You can choose to come inside now, or I can help you come in.”
  • Little kids hate to be misunderstood. Frustration levels run very high, especially when children's internal development is greater than their ability to verbalize. They know what they want to communicate, they just can't manage to do it. Knowing that this is happening (and spending the time to try and understand his communication) can help avoid many stormy moments.
  • Tantrums have a purpose. Sometimes a child is so tense and upset that they need to cry hysterically and blow off some steam. Be there, let it blow, and experience the wonderful aftermath as the weepy, exhausted, red-faced little tyke drops off for a long, delightful slumber.

Biting, Hitting, Hair Pulling, and Other Violent Acts

Behave Yourself!

Don't label your child a “biter.” It will only lead to more of the behavior.

Biting, hitting, hair-pulling, and other violent acts are caused by a variety of reasons, everything from curiosity to anger to fear to frustration to, you name it. Violent behavior is not okay, and you do need to address it directly.

  • Honor the emotion, look for the positive intent, and respond to their impulses. (“I see you are angry at Sophie.”)
  • Educate and provide a verbal limit. Keep it brief and simple. (“We do not bite people. It hurts. We touch gently.”)
  • Provide a physical limit and physical education. (“I will not let you bite her again. This is how to touch gently.”) Take their hand and make their hand stroke your hair.
  • Provide an alternative. “If you are angry, you may stomp your feet and say, 'Mommy, I'm mad.' Let's see you try it.”
  • If necessary, separate them from the environment.
  • Do not bite them or hit them back. It's cruel, and they'll learn that violence is acceptable.

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