More threads by DiMar


I am 61, mother of 2, grandmother of 4, aunt of 27, and have encountered dozens of 2 year olds over the years, and thought I'd seen everything. Two weeks ago I encountered a 2 year old at a graduation open house of his father. His grandparents were there, aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles -- all of whom he sees on a regular basis. My first meeting with him. He gave new meaning to the words biting and scratching. Sitting on his uncles lap watching ELMO, he turns and bites his Uncle on the cheek--breaks skin. During a one day period he bit his aunt on the boob, in the middle of playing some little game he crawled over and bit his grandfather in the ankle. He scratched and beat on one of his grandmother's with the remote. I could go on and on -- there had to be at least 15 people who left there having been scarred in some way. He crawled over and bit me in the ankle and when his mother picked him up and said say you're sorry, his little hand shot out and he scratched me in the face drawing blood. One of the aunts said to me -- "You just kind of wonder what he's up to when he comes over to see you , don't you?" This is not a new thing. It's been going on for 3 months.

Now, Mom and Dad said, "No, you can't do that." "That's not nice." and he'd get little time outs. I'm thinking that's not the way I handled it when my kids bit the first and last time; and that's not the way my daughters, nieces or nephews handled it when their children bit or scratched for the first and last time.

But all the Q & As I can find on stopping biting and scratching say -- don't yell, don't hurt them back, just calmly talk to them and give them time outs so they can think about their behavior.

Help me out here. The child is 2, doesn't talk much - No is a popular word, gets through half the abc song. I don't think his thinking skills are really well developed, nor are any 2 year old childs. And blaming it on terrible 2s is a cop-out. The kid is dangerous. I don't believe in the "terrible 2" concept. 2 year olds are inquisitive, ask a lot of questions and can be a real joy if one really spends time with them, or a pain if one is too busy.

Doesn't extreme unprovoked repetitive dangerous acts merit more than a "Oh, that's not nice, now you sit on the stairs and think about what you did wrong." When we were getting ready to leave we were visiting at the table. I had on my leathers (we're bikers) and the child was saying goodbye to the puppy halfway across the room. All of a sudden I felt pressure on my leg and looked down and he had crawled over and bitten me on the leg. Then looked up at me with a strange look on his face and crawled away. Don't think he liked the mouthful of leather. Left teeth marks though.

Incidentally, I also work in schools, and there is a definite rise in children who are pushing, biting, kicking and scratching. Kindergarteners getting suspended -- how sad is that.

I have rambled. I do that when I'm totally dumbfounded.

Answers, suggestions, comments, please!



David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Is that sort of unprovoked behavior normal in a 2 year old? Definitely not, in my opinion, based on your description. And I would agree that the response of the parents is inadequate. I'm certainly not advocating corporal punishment, which would be entirely self-defeating, not to mention illegal in many places these days, but the current consequences for that behavior obviously aren't effective. The child should be evaluated by a child psychologist or child psychiatrist (I am neither).

Kindergarteners getting suspended -- how sad is that.
This to me epitomizes the problem you raise: As a society, we seem to either under-react or over-react to almost everything, and a lot of it amounts to shifting the responsibility for taking effective action to someone else. Suspending a kindergarten student for pushing in line, talking during quiet time, kissing a little girl, etc. (all of these are actual examples, by the way) is ludicrous -- this is what kindergarten age children do -- how is suspending them from school going to help?

On the other hand, when children (and teens) are seemingly totally out of control, we, as a society, throw up our hands and wail, "what can we do about it?". Sometimes, it is an issue of bad behavior: deal with it, in a firm, consistent, non-aggressive way which ensures that the consequences are clear, predictable, and appropriate to the specific behavior. Sometimes, it is an issue of mental illness or emotional instability: deal with that too, by getting help for the child (see for a related opinion piece).
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