Children can develop unpleasant behaviors in response to negative emotions. If your child has a habit of spitting, you probably wish to nip this unsavory behavior in the bud before it becomes even more ingrained. With the right response from you, it's possible to teach your child more appropriate behaviors -- even if he's spitting out of frustration or anger.
Seek to understand why your child is spitting, advises the Ask Dr. Sears website. Your youngster may have picked up this habit from watching others or he might receive a negative response from you every time he spits, which can reinforce negative behavior. It's also possible that he spits when he feels angry or frustrated, in which case he's spitting out of aggression.
Explain to your child that you do not want her to spit. Speak calmly and respectfully about the spitting behavior to explain that spitting is disrespectful and unsanitary. Keep your discussion low-key and calm to ensure that you do not give the behavior too much attention, as you might reinforce negative behavior, warns psychologist and author Jane Nelson, with the Positive Discipline website.
Tell your child what will happen if he spits. To eliminate any reinforcement or attention of the undesired behavior, refuse to give it attention. You can achieve this by removing yourself from the situation if your child spits. You might say, "I need to step away now because I don't like spitting. When you're ready to behave nicely, I'll come back. We can talk about anything that's bothering you then." Go to a different room to separate yourself from the misbehavior.
Ask your child to clean up his mess after a spitting incident to institute a logical consequence. Your child might use paper towels indoors or a bucket and hose outdoors. By holding your child responsible for cleaning up his mess, you can discourage spitting behavior.
Help your child diffuse anger or frustration if you discern that your child is spitting aggressively. When your child is calm, explain that it's inappropriate to spit when feeling angry, advises Psychologist Joan Simeo Munson, writing for Empowering Parents. Suggest counting to 10, deep breathing or walking off intense feelings instead of spitting. Offer to help your child diffuse anger, if she wants assistance.
Praise your child when you notice her expressing frustration or anger without spitting. You might say, "Great work telling me how you feel without spitting! I really appreciate that!" If your child simply had a spitting habit but you see evidence of her breaking the habit, provide praise, too. You could say, "I haven't seen you spit all day -- thank you!"
If spitting is merely a bad habit, offer suggestions for something else to replace spitting. Your child could wear a rubber band around his wrist and snap it if he feels like spitting or he could tug on his earlobe instead of spitting.