How to Stop Hitting, Biting, Kicking and Throwing: Practical Techniques for Teaching Little Ones How to Handle BIG Feelings

how to stop hitting biting-kicking-and-throwing

First of all, relax. If you want to know how to stop hitting, biting, kicking, etc. you’re on the right track.

Second of all, it’s highly likely your precious little one WILL stop hitting, biting, kicking and throwing soon. As a very wise school counselor once pointed out to me, “How many adults do you know that hit and bite?” So, yes, there will be an end to this.

Third, know you’re not alone. All experts seem to agree that hitting and biting are common in young children. Although it can be tiring and frustrating to deal with, it is relatively normal.

But…there’s always a but…

What will also happen is that your child will learn other coping mechanisms for dealing with big feelings. One big factor that will help your child leave these behaviors behind is improvement in their ability to communicate. Language is often a point of frustration for little ones who can’t say what they feel or what they want. As language skills improve, so does behavior.

It’s also likely that your child will adopt a coping mechanism learned from you or other influential adults in their life. Some common coping mechanisms for big feelings such as anger, fear and frustration include:

  • Bottling it up (which can often result in a tummy-ache, stress, headaches, etc.)
  • Aggressive behaviors such as yelling
  • Positive outlets for feelings such as taking deep breathes, exercising, etc.

I think most people would opt for teaching their child positive outlets for anger, fear and frustration, but maybe you’re not sure how to do this. Luckily, teaching these techniques goes hand in hand with eliminating hitting, biting, kicking and throwing things.

Now, let’s discuss those techniques for teaching your little one how to stop hitting and handle strong feelings:

how-to-stop-hitting-biting-kicking-and-throwing

Stay Safe

First, you need to keep yourself safe. Call on your inner ninja and fend off your little one so that it’s impossible for them to hit you. Catch their hand, hold onto their forehead and keep them at a distance as lovingly as possible. While you’re doing this, you can say things like “My safety is important to me, and I won’t let you hurt me or anyone else.”

If your little one does manage to get you with a bite, hit or kick, say something like “Ouch! That hurt me. I feel sad/angry that you hurt me.” Then if necessary, model one of the techniques you’re teaching your child…more on that below.

Validate Feelings

Try to help your child identify what’s going on by noticing how they’re feeling. This is very matter of fact.

“You seem very angry”

“It looks like you’re frustrated that your friend isn’t ready to share with you”

“I can see you’re angry that it’s time to leave”

“I can see you’re afraid in this new situation”

This is also a door for your child to walk through with their big feelings. Your observation may open a floodgate of tears, more aggression or even giggles as they try to wriggle out of your hold.

Turn it Into Play

Sometimes, not always, you can use the moment of fending off your little one and turn it into play. Hand in Hand Parenting calls this “play listening” and it’s one of the best and most successful techniques I’ve ever found.

Basically, this technique means you exaggerate a reaction, if they’re pushing you, completely fall over and go back at them playfully. If they’re hitting, grab their hitting hand and swat back gently, making a funny face. You could also say “Hey! I’m gonna get you” with a playful, inviting voice.

This is magic.

Sometimes it turns that situation right around and you can have a happy fight so to speak of rough and tumble tussling. This often turns into laughter which helps release the tension your child is experiencing because of the big feelings they have.




Wait it Out

It’s not always possible to turn an upset into play. Your child may be too angry, too sad, too frustrated or just too plain worn out to play. Continue to keep yourself safe and allow your child to cry if they choose to.

It’s normal for your child to feel stand offish for a bit. Let them have it out. At this point, all you can do is let them know you’re ready for a hug or a talk once they’ve calmed down.

Connect

As soon as you can, reconnect with your child.  Read a book. Have a giggle. Do something you both enjoy. Sing a song. It can be quick, but reconnecting is key for your relationship. In the first place, their upset may have been a cry for attention. Feeding your relationship is important.

Teach Techniques and Strategies

Later, much later, take the chance to start introducing some coping strategies to your little one. For me, “playing” angry is a game and a teaching tool. With little Peanut, we pretend to be angry. We make faces. We snarl. We growl. And then I introduce a technique and we practice it.

Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Hit a pillow.
  3. Stomp feet. Say “I’m this angry!” stomp stomp stomp.
  4. Throw sticks – not at anyone!
  5. Hit a drum.
  6. Sit in a peaceful space and light a candle.

Then, slowly and surely with a gentle reminder, you can ask your little one to use a technique during an upset. Suggest, “Do you want to go hit a pillow together?” Or “Wouldn’t it feel good to take a deep breath?”

With consistency and time you will make progress and notice your little one grow and change. This plan of action will help you as you’ll no longer wonder how to stop hitting, biting and kicking, but have clear, practical strategies.

I’d love to hear how this works for you and if you have other strategies for how to stop hitting, biting, kicking and throwing. Leave me a note in the comments!

Like this post? Remember to share! And here are a few more resources for saying “no” and holding your ground. You’ve got this!

photo credit: Luis Marina Grrr! via photopin (license)




40 thoughts on “How to Stop Hitting, Biting, Kicking and Throwing: Practical Techniques for Teaching Little Ones How to Handle BIG Feelings

  1. This is such great advice – I have found the playful approach / reconnecting really helps because often they are just so frustrated and disconnected with you and it comes out in other ways as per the above. Thanks so much for linking up this hugely helpful post to #coolmumclub x

    • So glad you liked it! With a 3 year old and a 1 year old, we’re getting into the stage where my 1 year old occasionally hits and bites the older one. Ensuing chaos! I wrote it as a reminder to myself as much as for anyone else 🙂

  2. Brilliant advice and tips. Both of my two have been fairly late talkers and I totally agree with you that as communication improves, these tendencies tend to stop. I really like the “play listening” suggestion. I’ll definitely give this a try. Found through #momsterslink and shared on twitter for you too. Dawn x

  3. I really enjoyed this post. I totally do the “ouch” thing to my son when he tries to bite, which is his new thing. Also once he hit me and I “cried” and he started crying and kissing me haha.

    • Awww so sweet he kissed you after he tried to hit you. Thanks for reading! I’m sure your son’s new biting phase will be over quickly.

    • Hi Joanne! Thanks for sharing and reading 🙂 I think it’s normal for siblings to play rough and tumble, it’s a great way to learn. With hitting and fighting over toys, I haven’t written a specific post yet, but it’s a good idea! I often first watch to see how the kids are going to handle it. Of course if it escalates I intervene, but giving them some space to sort things out is important. I try to comfort both children and depending on age, talk about how hitting hurts and what we can do instead. During the interaction, you can watch if they’re both pulling at a toy, you could say “I see you both want the same toy” “so and so is angry because he isn’t finished playing with the toy” or “so and so really wants the toy” This helps them learn to verbalize their feelings. You can talk them through coming up with a solution (taking turns, asking for the toy instead of grabbing, etc.) I prefer not to force “I’m sorry’s” but offer it as an option “would you like to say your sorry?” I think kids usually work it out and say sorry in their own way. Also, practicing positive behaviors afterwards like sharing helps them grow into it. For example, one child can prepare a snack and share it with the other. Of course siblings will always have their rough patches, but they learn to communicate and work it out.

  4. These are great tips and I read them at the perfect time! We are currently dealing with the terrible twos from our 3rd child and he has been showing his mean side lately. we are trying to combat it before our 5th and final baby arrives in March!

    • Glad you found these tips helpful Breyona! It can be a challenging time, but with patience and consistency I’m sure you’ll make it through. Congratulations on your pregnancy and hope you have a healthy arrival!

  5. The hitting is the worst! Sometimes my daughter just has to get it out of her system in her room when nothing else works. 🙁 no fun! thanks for the tips!

  6. This is so helpful. We have avoided the biting stage with our eldest (time will tell with our youngest) but the methods to cope with big emotions is fantastic. I have employed many of these methods myself without realising they were actual ‘techniques’. It is nice to know I’m not getting everything wrong even if it can feel like it.
    #GlobalBlogging

    • Thanks for reading! That’s great you’re already using similar strategies. Sometimes knowing you’re not alone is the best support. I hope you find the techniques helpful. It can be challenging to keep pushing through and using them, but it eventually pays off! Best of luck with your little ones 🙂

  7. My youngest hits and kicks fairly often. The play fighting works sometimes but more often than not we just have to wait for him to calm down. Validating his feelings definitely seems to help though. I will try teaching him a few of these ideas too. Great post, thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for reading Melanie! I hope the tips for managing feelings help you and your little one. It takes some practice, but I’m sure you’ll find one that seems to work for you. For us it’s breathing 🙂

  8. I have used the play listening technique (without realizing it had name!) and it often instantly diffuses the situation. My daughter is more of a cryer than angry and often is you turn her dramatics into fun she will quickly have a laugh too. #ProductiveMomsLink

  9. It’s funny how children go through that stage of biting, all four of mine did and they tended to bite the older sibling to them. Luckily they grew out of it quite quickly as it’s not very pleasant! #globalblogging

    • Yes – it is quite the stage and is certainly not pleasant! Unfortunately it lasts longer for some than others, but it’s all part of growing up 🙂

  10. I’ve read a bit about recognising emotions/feelings, but I hadn’t heard about turning it into play before. I like that idea and that it is a way of handling the issue in a less serious way. Good post! p.s. I love that photo! #GlobalBlogging
    Lucy’s Locket recently posted…You are not your labelsMy Profile

  11. I experience this a lot in my eldest. Since starting school in September he comes home full of aggression and anger. I think there could be underlining issues but some tips you have mentioned I am trying to incorporate and it has helped calm him down. I find when he is in meltdown taking him to a calm and less stimuli around helps clear his head. It gives him to communicate what is on his mind X #mmbc

    • Yes, of course some children have more on their plates than big emotions, but sometimes these tips can help. Hope you’re able to make it through with your child! Thanks for reading!

  12. Really constructive advice, thank you! My toddler sometimes hits when he is angry and frustrated so I stay calm and step back, acknowledge that he’s angry and then once its over I praise him for coming through it. It’s the only way he can communicate at the moment because he isn’t talking yet so I completely understand where he is coming from. It’s ok for him to laugh and shout in excitement but suddenly people frown or look shocked when he’s upset or angry?? He’s a little human, and it’s my job to teach him how to work with every side of being one… not just the happy side. #productivemomslinkup

  13. This is great advice and so well timed for me as I deal with Bg’s very big emotions, even about what seems small. I want to validate her feeling, but the tantrum itself is so very dramatic. Thank you for reminding me that what seems small to us could be a mountain for them. Sage advice. #GlobalBlogging xoxo

  14. Hi Rachel, I was lucky that my children were fairly tame when it came to aggressive behaviour. But acknowledging feelings of anger or sadness is as important as acknowledging joy and happiness. When I could see one of my two were sad or angry, our ‘joke’ was to go out and hug a tree (barefooted if possible). That always made them smile and when they were ready I would encourage them to talk about whatever it was that was bothering them, usually whilst busying ourselves doing something else so it didn’t feel so full on for them. It’s amazing what I learned when seemingly not giving them my full attention.

    Thank you for linking up to the #MMBC.

    xx
    Debbie recently posted…Kiliomenos, Zakynthos – Through My LensMy Profile

    • I like your strategies! Interesting because every kid is different…my almost 4-year-old will only spill his guts if we’re having a heart to heart no distractions 🙂 Thanks for hosting!

  15. Communication really is the key isn’t it! It’s exhausting watching them get so frustrated, which in turn frustrates us! This was a great read! I definitely have a 2 YO that throws her food everywhere! Thank you for sharing with #globalblogging

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