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Behavioral Guidance



Babies and toddlers are experimenting with new behaviors. Our gentle and understanding reactions can help guide them to learn what is appropriate.

1. Teach Skills to Avoid Physical Behaviors

Though biting is a ‘typical’ behavior for toddlers, children can be taught important skills to help decrease the frequency. Teach the child who is being repeatedly bitten to use words if possible and say ‘Stop’ or ‘No!’ and gesture with his or her arm out and palm up.

2. Encourage Toddlers to Use Words, Not Physical Behaviors

When a toddler bites, it is important to speak clearly and calmly: “You bit her with your teeth and it hurts. That’s why she is crying. You can tell her to ‘move please’ but you may not bite her.” Ask the child to practice saying “move please” and give lots of encouragement for this.

3. Provide Toddlers with Oral Stimulation

Children bite for many reasons. Sometimes toddlers bite because they need oral stimulation. Providing toddlers with chewy snacks like bagels or a cold teething ring may give the child the stimulation he or she is looking for and prevent him or her from biting another child instead.

4. Don't Respond to Negative Behaviors

Sometimes, young children learn that they can effectively gain a caregiver’s attention with negative behavior like screaming, hitting or biting. Babies and toddlers will experiment and watch for your response. Rather than responding to negative behavior, redirect the child to something more productive as if the hitting never happened. The behaviors should decrease or disappear.

5. Model Caring Behaviors

Children often communicate with their bodies. When a baby or toddler hits, the adult can interpret what the child was trying to do and then model caring behavior. For example: “You wanted the toy so you pushed her. She’s sad. Let’s help her feel better” (comforting the other child). For a beginning talker, ask the child to practice saying ‘please’ but avoid reprimanding.



All behavior serves a purpose. Working with children to understand the purpose of challenging behavior and helping them learn more appropriate behaviors to serve that purpose can help reduce their incidence.

1. Create Rituals for Expressing Anger

Many challenging behaviors are the result of anger, frustration or the desire to connect with another person. Try creating rituals for expressing these feelings and teach them to children when they are calm. For example, create a foot stomping pad on the floor or pushing hands on the wall. Practice often and encourage children to use these when they are upset.

2. Replace Unwanted Behaviors

Respond to unwanted behaviors with words, and suggest a different, more appropriate behavior. For example, “You need to be gentle with your friends, but you can hit this pillow or stomp your feet.” Think of it as coaching children to practice replacement behaviors to express their frustration or anger.

3. Teach Classroom Rules

Be consistent. Make sure that expectations are clearly defined. Children can help to develop rules for the classroom. Remember to identify what children can do. For example, change their ‘no hitting’ rule to ‘use gentle hands.’ Post rules at the child’s eye level, reviewing them daily. Provide specific praise and encouragement for positive behaviors.

4. Provide Opportunities for Outdoor Play

Be sure to include several opportunities for children to use their energy. Children need to have gross motor activities as this will help reduce impulsivity and increase their ability to focus. Try including teacher-facilitated activities in outdoor play so that no child is sitting and watching.

5. Be Proactive

Be proactive when dealing with challenging behaviors. Try to catch the child making good choices. Stay connected with that child and provide helper jobs as well as other special responsibilities. Be sure to allow the child opportunities for success and comment on them often.