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Dealing with the terrible twos

With the right information, you can be better equipped to stop toddler biting, hitting, and the terrible twos

Some aspects of raising a child come quite naturally to parents, especially when the little ones are simply a joy to be around. Of course, nothing lasts forever, and the universally feared “terrible twos” are a good example of this. It’s that moment when the sweet, playful little child you were so fond of develops into a tantrum throwing, emotionally unstable headache.

Although they can be very unpleasant to deal with – the name says it all – the terrible twos are a perfectly normal part of a child’s growth and development. This is when they are struggling with finding a balance between their dependence on parents and their own independence.

Certain issues are often encountered during this phase, which can potentially start before or after the age of two. Aside from the general emotional instability and anger, and the temper tantrums that often result, there can also be instances of toddler hitting and biting to contend with. Luckily, these unpleasant behaviors can be stopped if you understand how to address them.

What are the symptoms of the terrible twos?

There isn’t any one list that contains all of the signs worth looking out for, as all children are unique in their own ways. That being said, there are some common clues that could indicate that your kid has reached this stage. Some common signs of the terrible twos include:

  • Temper tantrums and emotional outbursts, usually related to the child not getting his way. These episodes are what put the “t” in the word “terrible”, and they can be difficult to manage – especially in public. That being said, there are ways to stop temper tantrums. 

  • The child getting easily frustrated if you aren’t able to understand what she wants. This can even be triggered by very minor miscommunications, such as giving her the wrong toy to play with. You’re not a mind reader, but these frustrations should simmer down as your child learns to better explain what she wants from you.
  • Territoriality, and general lack of sharing. Children going through the terrible twos can overuse the word “mine” as they stake claim to various items and places, including cases where the claimed goods aren’t actually theirs.
  • Physically lashing out at others, via either hitting or biting. More on this later! 

Redirecting children to something else can help with those troublesome bites.

How to stop a toddler from biting

Getting bitten by your kid is never fun, but as unpleasant as this can be, it’s a very common issue around toddler age. Preventing toddler biting begins with understanding the causes behind it. If you can pinpoint why your child is doing it, you’ll be better equipped to put a stop to this habit. Young children bite for a number of different possible reasons, including:

  • Lacking the communication skills needed to express strong emotional responses

  • Curiosity about what would happen after biting someone 

  • Feeling overwhelmed by the environment around them, due to factors like noise or activities

  • A need for more physical activity to expend some excess energy 

  • Teething, or in need of oral stimulation 

  • Not getting enough sleep 

By looking at the situations that lead to biting, you can prevent it from taking place. If you believe your child is about to bite, you can try distracting him with a new activity, or a change of scenery. In order to prevent future incidents, try suggesting alternative ways to handle whichever situation is leading to the urge to bite. For example, you could tell your toddler that she should use her words to say she feels sleepy and wants to nap, instead of biting to get her point across.

As for responding to bites, it’s important that you avoid reacting when you’re feeling upset or emotional. Keep your replies calm and measured (this might mean taking a few seconds to breathe and calm down), and be very clear and to the point. “Biting hurts, don’t do that. That isn’t nice.”

How to stop toddlers from hitting

Although the reasoning behind toddler hitting can vary from child to child, this behavior is usually a response to certain triggers. In other cases it could be a result of curiosity as the toddler strives to see how people will react to being hit. And speaking of reactions, the natural responses to being struck by a child – anger, yelling, immediate punishment – are not the best course of action.

Even small fists can hurt, especially when you’re not ready for it.

This kind of response might be sufficient for putting a temporary stop to the behavior (if you’re lucky), but it isn’t going to do much for long-term improvement. Although avoiding the natural reactions can be a challenge, keeping a clear head and understanding how to redirect your child is the most effective method for prevention.

Keep the following tips in mind, and your child’s hitting habits could be on their way out soon enough:

  • Put a stop to hitting when it occurs, either by taking your child out of the given situation or blocking them from hitting again. Tell her to stop in a firm but calm manner – reacting with anger could end up reinforcing their belief that hitting is acceptable, or a good way to get your attention. 

  • Acknowledge your child’s emotions, before explaining to them your reasons for stopping them. For example, tell your son that it is okay that he’s feeling frustrated, but it isn't alright to hit someone else. Hitting is bad, and it hurts. 

  • Working from the previous point, teach your child what she should do instead of hitting when she feels those emotions. If she wants something, show her the polite way to ask, and encourage gentle touching as opposed to hitting when she wants to get someone’s attention. 

  • Praise and reward the new, appropriate behavior. Be as enthusiastic as possible when he does well, and he’ll learn to utilize the learned methods as opposed to the behavior you wanted to correct. 

Parenting is a journey that brings new challenges around every corner. If you ever find yourself in a bind, and in need of some guidance, getting online parenting advice allows you to receive the assistance you need without any of the judgment. Reach out to an Expert on JustAnswer today for the guidance you need to deal with the terrible twos.

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