How do I stop my toddler from hitting and biting?

Although it can be embarrassing your when your toddler hits or bites, try to remember that this is perfectly normal, if undesirable, behavior. Rather than yell or punish, use natural consequences. Remove your toddler from the fun situation (and any judgmental stares that may fluster you) and let him know that he may not play when he hits. Some toddlers are simply testing limits to see what happens. If what happens each time is not very fun or interesting, the behavior will stop more quickly. Any big response, even a negative one, on the other hand, will likely prolong the behavior. Other times, a toddler may be reacting out of frustration. If you suspect that is the case, empathize with the emotion ("You wanted the ball. Maybe you felt angry?"), reinforce the limits ("That's okay to be upset, but you cannot hurt someone else."). Suggest alternatives ("Next time, you can ask for a turn or Mommy will help you find another ball."). If at all possible, bring your toddler with you to make amends with the other child. See if the other child is okay and help your child apologize for hitting. Toddlers are not yet capable of empathy and will not be able to imagine how the other child feels. Still, if you practice the skill of caring for others, this will eventually seep in when the child is older. Make sure to praise children who are playing nicely. Keep calm and be consistent in your response. Normally developing toddlers will pass out of this phase quickly.

Candace Lindemann

Children's Author & Education Consultant

Candace Lindemann is a published children’s writer and educational consultant. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. You can also find Candace blogging at While Candace’s degrees prepared her for a career in education, she’s found that the best preparation for parenting is on-the-job training.