Kicking and Screaming

Understand Ages & Stages

Toddler crawling on deck outsideDealing with kids who bite and hit or cry and throw tantrums can be taxing, especially when your efforts to calm them aren't effective. Read tips and strategies for dealing with these behaviors here.

Biting and Hitting

  • When young children get upset, they often bite, hit, kick, and scream. (And some can do so for long periods of time.) Give short, clear directives. “No biting.” “No hitting.” “No kicking.” “No screaming.”
  • Try to help your child calm down. Once he is calm, say, “You can be mad, but let’s talk about it. We don’t hit or kick when we’re mad.”
  • Always behave like an adult. You’re only making matters worse and setting a bad example if you bite, hit, kick, or scream back.
  • Teach simple problem solving. Biting and hitting usually occur when a child is angry and frustrated. Model ways for your child to solve difficulties without making a scene.

Crying and Tantrums

  • A lot of young children cry and throw tantrums when they become overwhelmed, overtired, or overly hungry. Make sure your child's needs are met so she doesn’t have meltdowns.
  • Soothe your child in ways that he likes. Some crying children feel better when they’re held—or when they can snuggle--while others want some distance. If your child wants distance, stick close by to show your support.
  • Some children learn to manipulate adults by throwing tantrums, especially in public. Kids are quick to pick up on what they can do to get their way (and which things will upset parents). If your child is throwing a tantrum in a store, be sympathetic but firm. Say, “I’m sorry you’re upset. I’m not buying you that toy. We need to go now.” Work to keep calm, and gradually your child will become calm as well.
  • If your child has learned to get her way through tantrums, it may take a long time to teach her to act otherwise. Be patient. Be consistent. Over time, it will get better.