Toddler Development

Developmentally-Appropriate Aggression


Toddler Biting: Finding the Right Response

  1. “Trying your best to understand the underlying cause of a toddler’s biting will help you develop an effective response. Children bite in order to cope with a challenge or fulfull a need.”
  2. “Shaming and harsh punishment do not reduce biting.”
  3. Why do toddlers bite?
  4. What can I do to prevent biting?
  5. What do I do when my toddler bites?
  6. Strategies to respond based on your child’s development 
  7. When to seek help

The website “Zero to Three” says here that “Trying your best to understand the underlying cause of a toddler’s biting will help you develop an effective response. Children bite in order to cope with a challenge or fulfull a need.” They then go on to explain some reasons as to why toddlers might bite, how to prevent biting, what to do when your toddler bites, and strategies to respond beyond shame/punishment according to the child’s development. This is a great resource because it really goes into detail about specific situations, helpful examples, steps to take, and some scripts to try out.


Understanding and Responding to Children Who Bite

This site organizes its information about biting based on some common questions: 

    • Why do children bite?
    • What can families do to prevent biting?
    • How should I respond when my child bites?
    • What if biting becomes a habit for my child?
    • What strategies can I use to help my child overcome a habit of biting?
    • What strategies are not helpful?
toddler girl biting adult
my child throws tantrums example of toddler black girl holding a cup and crying

This article explores the meaning behind challenging behavior in toddlers and how parents and caregivers can set age-appropriate limits.” It focuses on how adults can help toddlers practice self-control and shows some examples of moments when kids are struggling with emotional coping vs. learning to manage strong feelings.

“Help! How do I respond to my toddler’s aggression and tantrums?”

Toddlers and Challenging Behavior: Why They Do It and How to Respond

  1. Learning to hangle challenging behavior in toddlers
    • Struggling with emotional coping 
    • Learning to manage strong feelings 
  2. Practicing self control 
    • Ideas
      • Talk about feelings and how to cope
      • Offer your child ideas for how to manage strong emotions 
      • Empathize with your child
      • Give your child a visual aid to make waiting easier 
      • Let your child make choices appropriate to her age 
      • Look for ways to help your child “practice” self-control
small asian toddler throwing a feet at moms feet in the park

Tantrums, Defiance, Aggression – Oh My!

  1. Empathy and compassion
  2. Validating emotions 
  3. Calm presence 
  4. “Understanding, guidance, and patience”

This is a link to a video that gives some advice and strategies on handling tantrums, defiance, and aggression. They suggest using an empathetic and compassionate framework of “understanding, guidance, and patience” when faced with this difficult moments.

Responding to Irrational Behavior

This article puts a strong emphasis on the fact that tantrums and seemingly irrational behavior is completely and developmentally, normal. As they point out, “If we see the behavior as manipulative or purposely designed to drive us crazy, then we are much more likely to react in angry or harsh ways that escalate instead of calm our child. If, instead, we see these behaviors in the context of normal development, then we can approach our children with empathy and be more effective in teaching good coping skills.”  Then, they ask the question: “So, what’s a parent to do?” They then give information based on the following points:

    • This is not manipulation, it is smart calculation, and means you are raising a really competent kid
    • Show empathy and validate the feeling
    • Set the limit and provide acceptable choices  

Channeling Agreession

Here, there is an understanding that “aggression is part of healthy development” and some “strategies for managing aggressive behavior in very young children.”

  • “According to developmental theory, aggressive impulses or drives are born in the human child and are a crucial aspect of the psychological life-force and of survival. In the course of healthy development, these drives are normally expressed in various behaviors at different ages and, with assistance from parents and others, are gradually brought under the control of the individual—moderated, channeled, and regulated, but by no means stamped out.”
  • Aggression is part of healthy development
  • Learning “what to expect” at different ages and stages
  • Parenting strategies for managing aggressive behavior in very young children
    • Limits are part of loving
    • Try to figure out what triggered your child’s aggressive behavior
    • Use what you know
    • Be clear
    • Be a careful observer
    • Use redirection 
    • Be a coach
    • Use language
    • Ask yourself if you are sending “mixed messages” to your child about aggressiveness
    • Be a role model
    • Avoid spanking 
    • Be patient; learning takes time 
Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top