Children With Spitting Problems

By Sharon Perkins
Boys are more likely to pick up a spitting habit than girls.
Boys are more likely to pick up a spitting habit than girls.

Spitting ranks as one of the most annoying -- and disgusting -- childhood habits, in many parent's eyes. Whether your child spits on purpose at people when he's angry or inadvertently spits when he talks, spit is something no one appreciates your child sharing. You can take steps to curb spitting and make your child more socially acceptable.

Spitting in Toddlerhood

Toddlers often spit, not out of defiance, but because it's a fun and novel action they've just mastered. Treat spitting in toddlers as you would any other undesirable behavior that your toddler doesn't really understand, like repeating swear words. Calmly explain to him that spitting isn't acceptable behavior without making a big deal out of it, or ignore it if you can, unless it becomes a more deliberate act done in anger.

Deliberate Spitting

You might have a more visceral response to your child spitting at you than you do to him turning his back to you or yelling at you, but the disciplinary action he receives should be the same. Spitting in a child old enough to know better is an act of defiance and should be treated as one. Some kids spit because they've seen adults do it or to fit in with their friends; boys are more likely to spit "for fun" than girls.


If your old-enough-to-know-better child has taken up spitting at people as a way of expressing his displeasure, you'll need to make it clear that this habit isn't acceptable. Never respond in kind if your child starts spitting in anger; it confuses young kids, who won't understand the connection between their spitting and your spitting. And since kids learn by example, you're sending the wrong message by spitting back, according to the Kids Health from Nemours website. Spitting deserves an immediate time out, pediatrician and author Dr. Barton Schmitt recommends on the Children's Physician Network.

Accidental Spitting

Kids who spit when they talk have a hard time, since other kids may stand back from them, not want to play with them or make fun of them. Many factors can cause a child to spit when he talks. He might produce excessive amounts of saliva, or, more likely, not swallow enough. Children with poor oral muscle control who don't swallow frequently are more likely to spit when they talk, explains. See your child's doctor if his spitting is causing him problems.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.