Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/Toddler behavior


Hello, James.  I have a rather unique situation.  When my daughter was 4months old, she and my mother were attacked by my father.  Fortunately, they did live through the incident.  My mother took most of the injury, but my daughter now has a horrible scar on her thigh.  She is now 4months away from her 3rd birthday.  Her behavior has me suspect as to whether or not the incident had an effect on her.  She bites, pinches, and pulls hair at every opportunity.  When we ask her why, she says she has to and she likes it.  She throws fits that often last for hours, alternating between physical violence and screaming until she vomits.  We have ran the gambit of discipline routines from spanking to the gentile parenting method, employing the tactics for months at a time consistently.  I am at my wits end. I have no idea what to do.  She bit me twice because I told her she had enough juice for today. Do you think they are related?  What can do? Does she honestly not understand that it hurts, even though we go through this every day?

Hello Dana,
Although it is possible that the attack at four months is related to her present behavior, I really doubt it. The reason is because her behavior (temper tantrums, biting, pinching, and pulling hair) is very common around this age.
You've heard the expression "the terrible twos," right? Well, this is what that phrase refers to. In the toddler years, roughly between 15 months and 42 months, children are becoming more mobile, more verbal, and much more independent. At the same time, parents are trying to teach them self-control and the ability to follow rules. While teaching them right from wrong, parents find that toddlers have very poor control over their aggressive impulses. They end up doing all the things you describe.
The good news is that they gradually gain more self-control and are able to inhibit their impulses. Usually by three and a half or four they are much more mature and more compliant.
No discipline approach is going to bring about any miracles with a toddler. You have to be consistent and stick with the tried-and-true discipline techniques. Those are verbal praise and attention (for appropriate behavior#, ignoring minor, irritating, and annoying misbehavior, verbal reprimands and short time-outs for more serious misbehavior.
However, the trick really is to just be calm and patient #while protecting yourself from being hit or bitten# and wait for her to mature. Of course, you will emphasize the rules #No hitting), but expect that you will do this over and over again.
Being calm and patient pays off in the future. You just have to hang in there during this toddler stage of development.
If you have further questions, please get back to me.
James Windell


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James Windell


I can answer questions related to normal child development, disturbed behavior and how to provide appropriate guidance and discipline.


I've been a clinical psychologist in a juvenile court, worked in school settings, been a child psychotherapist in a private psychiatric clinic and consulted with schools, courts, hospitals and daycare centers.

American Psychological Association
Michigan Psychological Association

I have been a columnist with the Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI) for 21 years writing a weekly column called Coping With Kids, which is also published weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been a mental health columnist with the Detroit Free Press and a columnist for Working Mother Magazine. In addition, I have published articles in professional journals. I have published 16 books, among them are "8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved Child" (IDG Books), "Discipline: A Sourcebook of 50 Failsafe Techniques for Parents" (IDG Books); "Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes" (IDG Books), "What You Need to Know About Ritalin" (Bantam Books) "6 Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers" (John Wiley & Sons), "The Fatherstyle Advantage" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and "Defusing High Conflict Divorce" (Impact Publishers). My latest parenting book (2012) is "The Everything Child Psychology and Development Book." Articles about my work with parents has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. My website at includes more information about me, my books and includes many columns I've written.

B.A. in Psychology from Wayne State University
M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University

Awards and Honors
Best Educational Program by Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association (National award for the development of a parent training program for parents of delinquent teenagers. Beth Clark Service Award from the Michigan Psychological Association.

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