Discipline for That Kid that Bites, Hits and Screams

Discipline for That Kid that Bites, Hits and Screams

Danny just turned three years old and he used to be that kid.  That kid that bites, hits and screams at playgroup…The kid everyone kind of sighs about when he arrives. That kid that ends up being placed in time out several times or taken home mid activity.

positive parenting

Danny isn’t that kid anymore!  Here is a glimpse of what happened at playgroup recently:

“I’m soooo angry!” said Danny at playgroup loudly, as he huffed and puffed and finally stomped his foot. He had been fighting for a turn on a tricycle.

He ran over to me and asked for a calming bottle.

As Danny sat with a calming bottle, he mumbled under his breath a few words of frustration, shook the bottle a few times and then started to track a star inside the bottle.

“Feeling upset Danny?” I asked.

“YES! Angry. Angry at Michael. He took the tricycle. I want to ride it.”

“You wanted to ride the tricycle, Michael took it and you feel angry. Is that it?”

“YES! I did not like that. Did NOT! Feel Angry!” Danny said, looking at me and then going back to tracking the star.

“Want me to stay with you?” I asked.

Danny nodded and then placing one of his little hands on my knee his breath became noticeably calmer.

Danny sat for another few minutes with the calming bottle, tracking the star as it slipped in and out of view.  I sat next to him, simply present but not interfering with his work.

Soon enough Danny got up, returned the bottle to me with a smile “I ready” and  he worked  to re-join the group of children playing.

Nobody was hurt! Danny talked about his feelings. Danny cooled off without time out.  He asked for the bottle again later to calm down again. Awesome right!?

Discipline for that Kid that Bites, Hits and screams

The truth about that biting, hitting, aggressive, screaming child….They, like all children, use behavior to express their needs. More often than not, the biting, hitting, kicking, screaming, are calls for help. Like all children, they need discipline based on guidance, kindness, trust, respect and boundaries.

Children like Danny  don’t need  time out or punishment to learn to behave better.  What they  really need is help learning to respond to their own feelings and emotions. They need acceptance. And most of all, they need to learn self-regulation skills so they can understand and correct their own reactions.

Danny is working on understanding how to take turns,  accepting that not having a turn leads to frustration and that frustration is something everyone can learn to tolerate and overcome. He is learning how to name his feelings and knowing what to do when his feelings become oh so overwhelming.  His mother is learning to accept that tears, frustration and anger are acceptable, normal, developmentally appropriate expressions for a three year old.

Danny really was that kid. Months ago, given the same scenario, Danny would have been more likely to kick, hit or punch his playmate than to have acknowledged is own frustration and anger. He would have run away, kicking and screaming until he got that tricycle.

Of course, given  imperfect human nature, Danny’s reactions are not always like this one.   Yet, as each week goes by, the smoother and easier Danny seems to be picking up on his own need to calm down and search for a safe alternative to hitting, knocking over, kicking or biting his playmates.His mother has shared that simply validating and accepting her son’s feelings has completely changed most of his behavior at home.

Self-regulation and discipline,  is important and it’s a process.  It’s not magic, it’s not a quick fix. It’s not learned by time out or counting to three. While we use a calming bottles, or crumpling paper (for example), it’s not as simple as stuffing rice into a bottle and handing it over. There have been tears… lots of them. There has been time dedicated to listening to grumbling, frustration, sadness and fears. There has been a lot of validating, accepting and setting limits with kindness. It has taken patience and a willingness to throw out  “traditional” discipline out the window and turn instead towards understanding and meeting Danny’s needs.

The work however, is totally worth it. Danny isn’t that kid anymore, and really, no child deserves to be labeled or treated like that kid.  They do deserve a chance at receiving guidance, respectful discipline and kindness.

Peace & Be Well,


Recommended Resources

Here are many Alternatives to Time out that are respectful and helpful towards learning self regulation.

These three books are excellent resources for parents looking to learn more about emotion coaching, teaching self-regulation skills, connection based discipline and collaborative problem solving:





The following two tabs change content below.
Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a Masters in Psychology and is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, and one cuddly dog.

5 Responses to Discipline for That Kid that Bites, Hits and Screams

  1. Greetings!

    I am in a tough situation. I lost custody of my precious 4 1/2 yr old Daughter, Zoë, 16 months ago and though have been given the green light for her reunification with me in the next couple months, we are still with very limited contact. Our visit time is magical, heart-stopping….sacred. Following our visits she has been reportedly getting aggressive towards her fellow foster children. I instinctively know her rage is rooted in separation anxiety from me and yet the foster family seems to regularly use time-outs as a solution, rather than guiding her in expressing her needs & feelings. I would love to share with the foster family the alternative methods to resolving her angst, as I am a huge supporter of “time-in’s”. Also, what about guiding Zoë in making apologies to those she hurts…there is no mention of this in the article.
    I feel so helpless right now at being left out of instilling positive discipline towards Lil Z (as I call her). She has started play therapy, however; I believe the most powerful of therapy starts within the home and I’m afraid I have to swallow my desire to want to educate the foster family on successful parenting. And how are they or Child & Family services supposed to take me seriously when I’m the one who got sick with my Bipolar condition early last year and gave Zoë up?
    Alas, I pray, I pray 24/7. If anyone has any incite, I would be grateful.

    Mama Meg 🙂

  2. Hi Meg,
    You clearly love and care a great deal about your daughter and this is a difficult situation. I would suggest you reach out to someone that you trust, like a family counselor to help you communicate with the foster family and case worker. I hope you will find a way to make your concerns heard and considered. Wishing you strength and courage as you go forward.

  3. Thank you Ariadne 🙂 Just so happens I have a much needed meeting this morning with the case worker and her supervisor…..I pray for some resolve to come to light 🙂 Peace to you and yours.

  4. Hi! Great article, I really enjoyed it. I apologize if it was explained previously, but I would love to find out more about the calming bottle, and how to make/where to buy one.

    Thank you!

  5. Hi Jeanette,
    The calming bottles I use are made with a small plastic bottle filled with rice and small items inside, similar to an “I spy” bottle. Another option is to use some water and glitter. The important thing is to close the bottles well with either hot glue gun or a strong tape. I will see that I add a post with pictures when I have a moment!

Follow Us

Copyright Notice: It is not permitted to copy, re-blog or distribute contents without prior written permission from the Positive Parenting Connection.