Creative Child

The Ultimate Guide to Positive Discipline

by Rebecca Eanes

Scenarios for Positive Discipline

Scenario #2 - Aggression:

Your 19-month-old is a biter. He has just bitten another child at a play date.

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Behind the behavior:

It depends on what was happening at the play date. It could be frustration, anger, hurt feelings, or fear. Toddlers, even very verbal ones, can’t always articulate what they’re feeling or thinking. When something triggers a primal emotion, they will have access to even fewer words. Because the mouth is central to learning at this age, biting is a common expression of discomfort.


1. Remove your child to safety, make sure the child bitten is OK, and then set or reinforce your limit. "I won’t let you bite."

2. Validate his feelings; empathize with his upset. "You got mad because he took your truck. I see you're mad, but it’s not OK to bite. Biting hurts."

3. Let your child express his emotion safely, and problem-solve later.

The reason I suggest not talking about appropriate alternatives during the time it happens is because children do not take information in well when they are in "fight or flight" mode or are upset. They are much more likely to learn and retain information when they are calm.

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4. Build his empathy muscles by asking him to look at the child he bit and name what that child is feeling. “Look at his face. He looks really upset. How can you make this better?”

5. Encourage him to repair the relationship either with a verbal apology (his choice, not forced) or a hug or drawing. Let him decide how to make the repair as you encourage him to empathize with the other child.

6. If you feel a consequence is necessary, you could choose to leave the play date or tell him if it happens again, he will have to go home.

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Key Note: Don't bite him to show him how it feels.

You'd be surprised at how many parents would advise you to do this. Remember, you are the model for appropriate behavior!

More scenarios continued on the next page...

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