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Aggression in toddlers: 5 common reasons for hitting + biting

They are full of energy—that energy can overcome them and they start acting kind of crazy.

toddler hitting others

My first child is a gentle, peace loving little boy who wouldn't hurt a fly. For the first years of his life, I was sure that I could take all the credit for his calm and kind nature. It was clearly a parenting success story—because aren't children a product of their environment?

That's what I thought until my second child bit a baby in the head. That's right, sometimes my almost 2-year old daughter hurts her friends. As a parent, do I take credit for that too? When it comes to hitting and hurting, there's usually an interplay of nature and nurture. Yes, the environment and parenting approaches do impact this behavior. But so do genetic, developmental and biological tendencies.


Regardless of the cause, parents can get very wound up and upset when they see this type of behavior. However, many times hitting and hurting fall within the range of normal development. When they are treated with respect and gentle discipline they can be managed in a positive manner.

When it comes to hitting and hurting, it's important to understand there are five primary reasons that young children hurt others.

1. Sensory

Many children have sensory sensitivities. That means the way they touch, feel and explore the world is different from the way you experience it. As a result, they may be more likely to squeeze, pinch, push and kick other children. You might see these types of behaviors as they grow and develop. When we start to identify sensory tendencies, we can help our children find more socially-appropriate ways to get sensory needs met.

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Children have either sensory sensitivities or require more-than-typical sensory input. Kids who have an extra sensitive sensory system might be on high-alert. That means if they are crowded by other children or touched in a way that makes them uncomfortable--they might hit or hurt as a reaction. Parents can assist by respecting their child's need for space and removing them from over stimulating situations.

On the other hand, some children need more sensory input. These children may hit or hurt as a way to explore the sensations of touch. Examples of this would be children who tackle, wrestle, pinch, squeeze, and hurt in other ways that provides that extra stimulation that they seek. For these children, it can be beneficial to give them extra sensory stimulation such a big hugs and deep-pressure massages. Seeking out an Occupational Therapy evaluation may be in order for children who display significant sensory sensitivities.

2. Behavioral

When we see a child hit, we have the tendency to react strongly—which is completely understandable as this type of behavior is completely unacceptable in our adult world. Therefore, it really strikes a nerve.

The result is that sometimes we freak out.

We tend to give a great deal of attention to episodes of hitting and hurting. Attention can be very attractive to children, whether it's positive or negative. Instead of responding to these incidents with great dramatics, a calm and centered response will be more effective.

3. Curiosity

My daughter tends to hurt the kids who have the biggest reactions. I once saw her gently push a little girl with one finger—and the other child erupted in a major meltdown. There's a great deal of curiosity that plays into this. What happens when I use my body in this way? What type of reaction can I elicit from this person? Or from a larger perspective: what is the impact of my actions on the world?

All of these questions are natural and developmentally appropriate for budding explorers. In these instances, removing a child from the situation and redirecting him/her to another activity of interest will often satisfy this curiosity.

4. Energy

In some ways, children are like puppies. They are full of energy—that energy can overcome them and they start acting kind of crazy.

This might surface in ways such as being destructive or hurting others. So if a child has been cooped up all day indoors, they may need to expend that energy with more regularity. That means getting outside, stretching and exercising as a way to expend that extra energy.

5. Communication

Before our children have adequate language and reasoning skills, they tend to use their bodies to communicate.

If you have a child with language delays, they may get particularly frustrated with the inability to communicate and as result, be more likely to hit. As communication develops and social skills are improved, these types of behaviors usually begin to subside.

So whether you have a hitter or a gentle angel, know that it's not entirely a parenting win/loss. As parents, we can support our children by providing a gentle, responsive approach to hitting and hurting.

At the end of the day, this behavior is never acceptable, but we should be aware that there are certain biological and developmental considerations that contribute.

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We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

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A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

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A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

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A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

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A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

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A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

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A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

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A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

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An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

$24.99

A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.

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And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

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This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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What went viral this week: Pregnant Disney Princesses + an airline nightmare

Now, more than ever, we need to hear those good news stories.

Last week was a week.

We lost a legal and cultural icon with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and deadly wildfires continue to blaze on the West Coast. Now, more than ever, we need to see creativity, kindness and compassion in our world—we need to hear those "good news" stories, but we also need to see the headlines that show us how and why the world needs to change .

And right now both kinds of stories are going viral.

Here are the viral stories you need to read right now:

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