How can I get my 9 month old to stop spitting in my face?

Q: He thinks that it is very funny to spit in your face while you are holding him or trying to play with him. He does it more with me than with my husband. Any ideas on how to set boundaries on this early so it doesn't get worse?

A: I have a feeling that making a big deal about your 9 month old spitting in your face is likely to make him feel even more like doing it. Spitting at you is a mixture of affection and aggression towards you (as the expression, "to spit in your face" suggests). It is natural that a baby of this age feels both love and anger at people important in his life during any ordinary day, and his amusement is the result of being able to combine these feelings in one successful action. You can help phase out this behavior by looking away from him when he spits, and saying quietly but firmly, "No no--no spitting" and stepping back as if he is not amusing at all. I am sure that he can tell that you don't like it; adding a harsh tone of voice or trying to scold or add excitement to the situation will probably backfire, because he will then want to retaliate with more aggression. So a soft touch will help you here.

If you don't react too dramatically to his spitting, it will go away on its own as your son develops more effective ways of communicating his feelings.

Elizabeth Berger MD

Child Psychiatrist and author of "Raising Kids with Character"

Answered by Dr. Elizabeth Berger

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