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July 20, 2018

Hitting, Biting, Pinching -- Montessori Young Toddler Weeks 31 to 33

We all know that not all toddler behavior is amazing. And, the same is true in a Montessori home. And over the last couple weeks we have seen an increase in difficult behavior. Part of it is just Augustus’ age, and I think part of it is that Gus doesn’t have many words yet. His expressive language has developed a little bit slower than average and with only a handful of words (and a couple of signs) Gus struggles to tell us what he wants. This obviously leads to some serious frustration which leads to physical behavior. Mostly hitting, biting, or pinching, and usually directed towards Nora. 

Responding to aggressive behaviors in our Montessori home - how do we deal with hitting, biting, and pinching as a Montessori parent?

Also, we have older kids that are also struggling with boundaries. Nora is very attracted to the heavy job that is picking Gus up, for example. Which Gus doesn’t like and so since doesn’t have the words to stop it, he lashes out. 

So, what do we do about it!? Here are a few things we do to help lessen these behaviors:

Physically Block

My first goal is always to be a physical barrier between two children that are having an issue. If I can be present I can stop them from lashing out. This is done gently and with respect to both Gus and whoever he wants to hit/bite/pinch. I simply block him from his actions and say matter of fact "I will not let you hit/bite/pinch (whatever it was)."  I want to stop any physical attacks calmly and confidently. Its a simple way to help make it clear that behavior is not tolerated here, but doing it without losing my cool. 

This works great to stop those moments when an impulse leads to a physical response and I'm *right* there. But, with three kids that's not always the reality. If I hear that issues are happening then I will go just sit near them and be present to stop an issue. 

Sportscast Conflict and Acknowledge Feelings

The next thing that I to help stop physical aggression from Gus is sportscast the situation. This is something I learned from reading Janet Lansbury and basically is being the "sportscaster" of the situation. It's being the neutral party that explains what's going on as if someone else is listening. Henry calls it "telling the story" of what's going on. 

So, for example, if I see Nora playing with her farm and Gus is trying to join and Nora is resisting I might say: "Nora is play with the barn. She is using the cow. The cow is walking to the horse. Gus would like to play with the cow. Nora is still using the cow. Gus is feeling frustrated. {physically block Gus with my hand} Gus, I will not let you bite Nora. Nora is still using the cow. Nora offers Gus the goat. Gus is happy with the goat. Nora is happy with the cow...." 

Sometimes just giving them each a little insight into what the other is trying to do and how they are feeling will help to diffuse the situation. It takes the guess work out of it for them and gives gentle reminders about how to react. Again, it works wonderfully, if I'm right there to respond to conflict. 

Appropriate Input/ Redirection 

Another thing that really helps to lessen the conflict and physical struggles is sometimes looking deeper into the physical sensations that the kids are experiencing. Little kids are in a huge explosive period of sensorial exploration. And sometimes they just like the way it feels to do a certain action. So, I always make sure we are offering enough experiences for my kids so they get that sensory input and are less likely to seek it out in more harmful ways. 

Practically, if I see frustration or rough play increasing, I might offer some high-fives, which have provide some of that same input as hitting someone. I haven't mentioned tackling, but my kids are not above that either. So in that case, I might help them ask for a hug from their sibling. For biting, I make sure there are other opportunities. "Are you hungry? Let's go eat an apple" Or, "you can bite this teether but we are gentle to our sister." I've also redirected Nora to picking up something heavy (like a table) when she feels like she wants to pick up Gus.

Taking some steps to redirect to a more appropriate behavior has been very helpful when those impulses are high and they aren't necessarily frustrated with one another. Learning when to step in and redirect, and when to sit back and let them work out their conflict is tricky, but I find the more I observe them at play the more I can tell which is which. 


With all that said, hitting, biting, and pinching still happen. Gus is 19-months-old and these behaviors are just going to happen. No matter what I do, I cannot be everywhere, and my kids are all still learning and growing. It's not a reasonable expectation, at least I don't think it is, to expect them to be able to work it out alone if I'm not there. And, so it happens.

And when someone gets hurt because of this type of aggression, it's easy to feel angry towards the child who hurt the other. But, I really try to direct my energy not into punishing or lecturing the offender but comforting and attending to the child who has been hurt. It's this simple act of compassion that usually signals to the offender that they hurt the other child. That message is loud and clear. We don't punish or force an apology. But often one will come because of modeling that calm and care to someone that has been hurt. 

This is just a few things we do in those difficult moments with young impulsive toddlers. Do you have any tips you would add to this list? 

Responding to aggressive behaviors in our Montessori home - how do we deal with hitting, biting, and pinching as a Montessori parent?


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Lucie said…
This kind of post with concrete examples is very useful. Thank you!
Unknown said…
Yeah! In the classroom we would always show attention to the injured party. Biting happened in rounds, and giving the offender the chance to redeem themselves and make it better for the other kid seemed to help find closure on the situation. Some kids would get so upset at doing something they knew was wrong on inpulse, and not know then what to do to fix it made them even more frustrated!