I’ve been reading posts from parents going through tough times at home in an already tough global situation (i.e., the pandemic). So, I like to share my recommendations just to bring a little bit of harmony back into their lives.

Case Study

Almost 2-year-old has a thing for biting and hitting recently. It started with his dad. Now he’s testing it out mum. He will also hit himself in frustrating situations. 

Every time it happens mum instructs, “I don’t want you to hit.” or “I can’t let you hit” and help him stop himself. 

Then when he’s calmed down, he’s ask “what we can do to make daddy feel better” and he generally goes and hugs him.

Dad is getting fed up though. He thinks the approach is not working. He says he’s waited long enough and will have to start popping our son’s butt to teach the kid to stop. Mum does not want that. 

She’s been trying to find triggers and there’s not one in particular besides maybe teething? His molars are coming in and she thought maybe he’s biting to try to communicate that it hurts. He says “hit” and “bite” a lot too without doing it. 

Mum wants to really wanting to make sure this ends. 

Any other advice?

The Answer

So sorry this behaviour is continuing. While I don’t know your family, the process you are using might be a contributing factor to the ongoing issue.

A 2-year-old is exploring their world. They tend to be quite sensory, and biting can be an exploratory behaviour.  I wonder what dad is making it mean?

What do you WANT?

Telling your toddler what he’s not allowed to do or what you won’t let him do, sounds perfectly acceptable at face value. 

However, it denies the child the right to have an opinion and be heard.  Plus it’s not supporting him to find an alternative.  We don’t figure these things out by ourselves for quite some time, we don’t even have the software to do it sustainably on our own until ages 8-10.

Sure, you don’t want the behaviour to continue, however by focusing on what you don’t want is sending a message that you don’t care about your child.  I know not your intention, but is the reality of the emotional processing of a two year old.

In the book Raising a Secure Child, the authors speak about how misinterpretation of our child’s behaviour can have us respond in ways that reinforce it when that isn’t our intention.  What I mean by that is, in the example, you’ve made it clear what you don’t want, however have not been curious about what’s going on for him.

A 2-year-old has no logic or reasoning skills. They do what works to have their needs met. Their primary biological need as this age being to avoid being abandoned. They do what keeps us, their carers, close to them. Good/bad, positive/negative doesn’t even come into your child’s journey until closer to age six. 

If the behaviour keeps repeating, your current approach is obviously not working.  It’s acknowledging that children never do anything to specifically annoy us.  Therefore, it is possible that your current approach is reinforcing, rather than resetting the behaviour. So, it’s most likely that it’s the management approach is what needs to be adjusted.

Sounds like dad’s frustrated and believes that spanking may be useful.  Chances are, that’s the approach used on him as a kid when his parents didn’t like his behaviour.  So, as unreasonable as it seems to you, at this stage, it’s his solution based on what he wants and believes is the approach to make things change.

The reality is, spanking is likely to create change, in the short term.  However, is that the type of parent dad wants to be OR is it the best solution he can think of just yet, in order to change the outcome?

We often overlook that right now, with this little person we are BIGGER and Stronger, but that means we also need to wiser and kinder.

We are building the foundations of the relationship we will have with our maturing child.  They don’t suddenly get sensible and do what we say, the follow the instructions of those they trust.  

It’s easy to be frustrated by our partners behaviour and responses.  Our momma bear is wanting the best for our child.  It’s appreciating that underneath it all, so does our partner, they just don’t yet have a balance between having their needs met first and creating a healthy boundary with their child, so that they learn how to respond.

One of the keys in these difficult situations is accepting that dad might also need some support in processing his experience.  Chances are the emotions and behaviour are triggering some long-ago memories held in his subconscious that are indicating danger.

It’s appreciating that while spanking may work in the short term, your child won’t be learning to trust you if corporal punishment is the response to unwelcome behaviour. 

It’s also possible that dad may be more interested in having his needs met than taking the effort to understand his child. This might not be what he means, but it is what his child will receive.  Another consideration as you navigate through these types of issues.

As the other parent, you have an opportunity to support both your partner and your child’s emotional and behavioural development. 



It’s easy to believe that your partner should know better.  And the reality is, we are all doing the best we know how and are capable of in each given moment.  If either, you are your partner did not have warm, well rounded emotionally intelligent parents, who facilitated acceptance of all emotions.  It’s possible that there will be discomfort with any behaviour or emotions that were not approved of by the family.  It’s nature in action.

That doesn’t mean we can’t do better.  It does mean that we might need conscious awareness about why we might choose a certain response.  Such as the consideration of spanking being the solution. Be curious, what about spanking is a good idea?

Does that align with the future goals of your relationship?

With the child, at two, you are still in the phase where distraction and redirection is part of the most efficient approach.  Though still validating their feelings, which is for them, not about the behaviour that you don’t like.

As my dad taught us, separate the deed from the doer.  At this age kids can’t separate doing bad from being bad.  The way we approach behaviour we don’t want makes a huge difference to the meanings they create about themselves.

It’s letting them know you love them, even when you don’t like the behaviour.

It’s conflict resolution conversation 101.

With a two-year-old, try not to be too dramatic in the distraction process, as that can reinforce their attachment to the behaviour, because they enjoy your reaction.  Remember, no logic or reasoning skills yet.

If you are not experienced, this method might take some consistent effort. Stay with it, though.

Parenting is tough. We don’t have a step-by-step guidebook. We have many references we can read through, though. Consider the book The Whole-Brain Child and How to Talk so Little Kids will Listen to better understand your child’s journey.

I trust you to figure out what works best for your child, and the relationship you want in the long term. 

Do you have a similar situation as this mother?

My 4 Step Framework to Creating Harmony at Home might help you.

Author – Leanne G Wakeling – Relationship and Communication Coach, Parenting Mentor, Behaviour and Thinking Styles Profiler.