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Behavior Problems in Toddlers

Behavior problems in toddlers are common, and they most commonly result from the child's need for autonomy and exploration behavior problems, toddlers, hitting, biting, temper tantrums. These needs arise from the child's newly acquired mobility and communication skills.


Biting is often the first behavior problem that is brought to the attention of the pediatrician. The initial biting episode often occurs when the child is teething. Later biting may occur when a frustrated child wants a toy in another child's possession.

Adults should interrupt the behavior with a strong "No, we never bite people because it hurts them."

Longer, more complex explanations are counterproductive because they will inadvertently provide additional behavior problems, toddlers attention to the child.

Interruption and prevention before the biting occurs is important, and it is important to remember to praise the child for not biting.

Temper Tantrums

Children in the 18-month to behavior problems, toddlers, hitting, biting, temper tantrums 3-year age group will usually display temper tantrums at some time. These often herald the beginning of the "terrible twos" in the minds of adults . Temper tantrums may worsen in severity because parents often mistakenly reward behavior.

History should include time, place, possible precipitating factors, who is involved, duration, frequency, and the attitude and response of all involved adults.

Parents should understand that tantrums are a normal but unacceptable development. Consistent methods of handling these situations should be initiated. Any type of attention given to the child because of a tantrum can be rewarding to the child. If the child is having the tantrum in a reasonably safe area, the parents should ignore him, continue with their tasks, and not maintain verbal or physical contact such as promising, bargaining with, or threatening the child. It may be advisable to put the child in his or her bedroom until he has calmed down.

"Time out" is a useful method for managing many behavior problems of preschool children. When temper tantrums occur in public, the parent's car can be used for supervised "time out."

Severe tantrums (three or more per day and lasting more than 15 minutes) are associated with other behavioral problems and psychological risk factors; therefore, continued clinical follow-up is necessary.

Breath-Holding Spells

At 2 years of age, temper tantrums breath-holding spells result from childhood frustration and anger. They may start with crying and temper tantrums and may be associated with stiffening, jerking, cyanosis, and, occasionally, a seizure.

The parent should be reassured that breath-holding spells are not epileptic seizures, and epileptic seizures rarely are precipitated by frustration, crying, or temper tantrums. Excessive manipulation by the child of overly solicitous parents should be stopped.


Assessment of the child who hits should include when, where, and toward whom the behavior is directed; who is aware of it.

Disruptive family events,