Mom Shares How She Gentle Parents Her 'Hitting, Spitting & Biting' Toddler With Just 2 Simple Words

Parenting is never easy, but sometimes, it can be simple.

mom engaging in pretend play with daughter Syda Productions | Canva

Everyone parents in ways that work for their family, taking into account what’s developmentally appropriate behavior for their kids at any given age. While “gentle parenting” might seem like a buzzword, there are actionable ways that parents can utilize gentle parenting techniques to fit their child’s needs, even when that child isn’t quite old enough to understand reasoning.

A mom shared the 2 simple words she uses to gentle parent her ‘hitting, spitting, and biting’ toddler.

Rachel, who identifies on TikTok as a stay-at-home-mom and a gentle parent, revealed her technique to stop her young child from “all the impulses that toddlers have that are undesirable, yet completely developmentally appropriate behaviors.”


She posted a video to address the following questions she’s received surrounding gentle parenting: “How do you gentle parent when your child is hitting? How do you gentle parent when your child is spitting? How do you gentle parent when your child is climbing on everything possible?”

She revealed her number one technique to successfully gentle parent her toddler, which is to teach kids the words “pretend” and “gentle.”



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Rachel explained how using the word “pretend” can help stop kids from biting, by distracting them enough to redirect their attention.

If she uses the word “pretend” as a command or a redirection when her toddler is gearing up to sink his teeth into someone, her toddler stops and pretends to bite. She also shared how she models the behavior for him, taking time to show him what pretend-biting means.

In addition to using the word “pretend,” Rachel uses the phrase “gentle hands” in a similar fashion. She’ll ask her son to “show gentle hands,” which means he lightly touches or strokes whatever he’s holding. 

mom reveals the two words she uses during gentle parenting on her toddler who bitesPhoto: cottonbro studio / Pexels


“That helps with hitting, that helps with petting animals,” she said. She also shared what her tactics look like when they don’t work, explaining, “gentle parenting doesn’t look like it’s working until it does.”

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She acknowledged that gentle parenting techniques are challenging to stick to, especially when your toddler is hitting your baby. She advises taking a full-bodied approach, even to “Put yourself between the toddler and the baby, the child and the animal” to stop unwanted behavior.

The mom-of-two believes that gentle parenting works through repetition and ‘consistent corrective action.’

“Until it is reasonable for you to expect your child to not be hitting, not be spitting, all of those things, until it is developmentally inappropriate for those impulses to be happening, you can't expect him to just not do it,” Rachel maintained. As she mentioned, certain behavior that’s frustrating to parents, like lashing out physically, are totally developmentally appropriate, especially as kids acquire language and learn social skills.


She further explained that her technique relies on “removing the temptation as much as possible and not giving your child the opportunity to mess up, when it is developmentally appropriate for them to mess up, that’s really what I do.”

Rachel offered an example from her own life, saying, “Instead of giving Sam a Hot Wheels when he’s 3 feet from Hazel, I’ll give him a stuffed animal, so that way, if he does throw it, it doesn’t hurt her. I’m not giving him the opportunity to make that mistake.”

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mom reveals the two words she uses during gentle parenting on her toddler who bitesPhoto: Kha Ruxury / Pexels 


She also advised parents to remove toys or objects that might turn into projectiles, saying, “the less things that are out, the less temptation. They don’t need as much freedom as we think they need.”

Rachel reiterated that “gentle parenting doesn’t look like it’s working until it does,” ending her post with an affirmative, “You’ve got this.” 

According to Sarah Ockwell-Smith, a founder of gentle parenting, there are four pillars upon which the parenting style is built. Gentle parenting is built upon empathy, respect, understanding, and boundaries.


Ockwell-Smith maintains that gentle parenting doesn’t mean permissive parenting, as kids both need and want strictly-laid boundaries to help them feel safe and cared for. As Rachel’s key words technique shows, setting up developmentally-appropriate rules that kids are able to follow at their given age is one way to navigate the tougher parts of child rearing. 

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers parenting, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.