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Biting, Hitting & Scratching in Children

by Kristen Berry, studioD

It's not abnormal for young children to bite, scratch or hit others. According to the experts for BabyCenter.com, aggression is a normal part of your child's development. Curbing the behavior is important too, but parents need not panic over their child's natural tendency to act out physically until he learns how to express his emotions in a more sociable way.

You Reaction Matters

Plenty of play-time helps toddlers release pent up energy and the frustrations of simply being a toddler.

How you react to you child's aggression plays an important role in how he'll control himself as he matures. Talk to your child consistently about expressing his emotions in appropriate ways. It is never appropriate to reciprocate your child's biting or hitting as a means to teach him a lesson. When your child bites, scratches or hits another person, remove him from the situation and calmly explain that his actions cause pain to others. Show him better options for handling anger, such as taking a few deep breaths, or coming to an adult for help. For toddlers, it's important to catch them in the act of aggression and remove them from the situation immediately in order to impart a clear understand that their behavior is inappropriate.

The Basis For Aggression

Rule out physical illness before seeking professional help for aggressive behavior.

Understand that your child, especially through the toddler years, is still learning to articulate frustrations such as disappointment and anger. She can't readily explain why she is angry, so it is only natural for her to express her frustration physically. Ongoing unusual aggression that lasts more than a few weeks may require professional help, but is still no reason to panic. Your child may be experiencing a health issue she can't describe, or perhaps she is acting out subconsciously over family issues such as divorce. Whatever the reason for your child's aggression, don't be embarrassed to ask for help. Curbing aggression as soon as possible sets the tone for a healthy foundation in channeling emotions appropriately for a lifetime.

Aggression at School

Explain to your child that animals and people feel physical pain if they are being bitten, scratched, or hit.

When you can't be there to witness your child's aggression, such as at preschool or grade school, keep an open line of communication with teachers and other caregivers. Though it's a last resort, it's not uncommon for preschools to expel toddlers from their program, especially where biting is concerned. If your toddler is biting at preschool, meet with teachers to implement a discipline plan that reinforces good behavior. When your child handles anger appropriately, have teachers reward him with a small age-appropriate toy. Don't be discouraged if your child needs to be removed from a preschool program. Many toddlers go through a "biting phase", but it typically passes with time and gentle discipline.

Limit Your Child's Exposure to Violence

Fighting between siblings is normal. Appropriate discipline keeps it to a minimum for a peaceful family existence.

Children are easily influenced by what they see and experience in the world. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, children who are consistently exposed to violence and aggression from TV, videos and movies act more aggressively. Limit your child's time in front of the television and don't allow him to play with other children who repeatedly fight physically as a means to express frustration. At home, if your children frequently scratch or hit each other, outline fair consequences and mete out discipline in a firm but calm manner. When your children see you handling them with diplomacy instead physical anger, they'll be more inclined to handle themselves the same way.

About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Kristen Noelle has been writing since 2007. Her work has appeared in AOL News, "Mothering Magazine," "Maui News," "Christian Science Monitor," "Forsyth County News" and the "Forsyth Herald." Noelle studies comparative literature at the University of Georgia.

Photo Credits

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