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Is your Baby,Toddler,Younger Child Biting, Pulling Hair and Punching Others?

27 June 2022
Posted by: Chelsea

Although some parents worry about their child biting, pulling hair and punching, it’s actually a very normal part of growing up.

It does not indicate behavioral problems when it happens at younger ages.

Why does it happen in your child?

The first victim is usually the primary care provider! However, there’s not usually anything to be concerned about.

As your baby grows, she/he will naturally want to interact with the world and to try out how much they can influence what happens. So, expect to see the odd nibble or bite on a finger or nose. It’s also perfectly possible they’ll try pulling your hair and perhaps even striking you.

Of course, your baby doesn’t think of these things as acts of aggression. They’re just different sensations to them and interesting experiments in cause-and-effect.

A slightly different thing is around teething time. Your baby’s gums may be sore and there’s a possibility they’ll bite on anything that passes their face!

If these things do start to become a problem, try:

  • Saying ‘no’ gently;
  • Putting them down so they can’t carry on.

Most babies are desperate for attention, so they’ll usually quickly form a link between undesirable behaviours and losing that attention. That should control any embryonic problems.

Older ages

By the time most children are around 2-3, spontaneous exploratory biting, hair pulling and punching should have ceased. If they do so now, it’s probably because they’re angry or frustrated. They’re more likely to understand that what they’re doing is causing distress in others.

Yet again, this isn’t unusual.

By this age or a little older, it should be possible to explain to them that such behaviours are bad and why they should stop. This is normally successful, though kids when playing together will naturally have ‘scraps’ at times and some instances of these things are only to be expected when anger overrides their better judgement.

When it becomes a potential problem

In pre-school children, these things are not unusual and often vanish entirely by around 4-5 but there may be some exceptions.

Look out for children over about 3-4 who:

  • Bite, scratch and pull the hair of other children, for seeming amusement, on a regular basis when playing with them;
  • Do so as part of regular anger outbursts with you, other adults or other children;
  • Find it difficult to play passively without fighting of one sort or another;
  • Seemingly struggle to understand the difference between these behaviours, which you’ve defined as ‘bad’ and other more acceptable behaviours;
  • Inflict these on other children and then deny they have done so or make highly improbable justifications for why they did.

None of these things if they happen occasionally should be cause for concern but if they begin to become more regular, it would be sensible to consult a professional for help.

Summary

There’s little more normal than a younger baby tugging at your hair or nibbling your fingers. Such things mean little in terms of indicators of future behaviour as they get older.

For slightly older children, just make sure that they understand that these behaviours are not acceptable if done in anger or to take pleasure in hurting someone.

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