As frustrating as it may be, there are many toddlers who bite in response to anger or frustration. In today’s post, we’ll take a look at some of the reasons that children bite, and how to help your child stop this behavior. At Growing Room in Bonita Springs, we know that you want your child to behave and treat others in a kind manner. Our child development center employs teachers and staff who are trained in the best ways to help them learn how to interact with others so that they can grow into happy and well adjusted people. Contact us today to learn more about what our child development center offers, and schedule a free tour of our facilities.
Why Toddlers Bite
Typically, toddlers bite in order to cope with a challenge or fulfill a need. Some common instances that could prompt them to bite include:
- Lacking language skills
- Feeling overwhelmed by sounds, light, or activity level
- Experimenting to see what will happen
- Needing more active playtime
- Lacking sleep
- A need for oral stimulation
If a toddler is upset and doesn’t have the language skills to communicate that they want something to stop or they don’t like something, then they are more likely to bite to communicate their feelings. The good news is that as language skills improve, biting tends to lessen. Biting tends to be more common in boys and occur most often between the first and second birthdays. Sometimes toddlers bite because they are teething or simply exploring a new toy or object with their mouth. No matter what the reason is for your toddler’s biting, you probably just want them to stop, so let’s look at some ways that you can achieve this.
How to Stop Toddlers From Biting
Don’t Label Them
While it might seem like a big deal, you want to be careful not to call your child a biter or let others refer to your child as a biter. Frequently, children who hear the labels that are assigned to them will take on that identity and continue or even intensify their behavior.
Speak Calmly and Firmly
One of the most important things that you can do as a parent is to speak calmly, firmly, and simply with your toddler. As adults, it’s easy to automatically go into explanations and examples for why certain behaviors are not appropriate. The problem is that toddlers can’t take in and digest all of that information. Simply telling them not to bite or that biting hurts will communicate what you want them to know. Also, no matter what your own emotions may be doing, it’s important that you keep your voice calm to help de-escalate the situation more quickly.
Comfort the Victim
While your instinct may be to immediately address the situation with your own child, it’s important to direct your attention to the victim first, especially if it is another child. If the bite broke the skin, then make sure to clean the area with soap and water before applying a bandage. If the bite is deep or bleeding, then make sure to seek appropriate medical attention right away.
Comfort the Biter
Odd as it may seem to you, your toddler may not realize that biting hurts. In fact, your child may cry after biting someone else because they are upset that they caused another person to cry. Depending on the age of your child, they may be able to learn the importance of not biting by comforting the friend they bit. If your child is using biting as an attention-getting device, then you want to be careful not to reinforce the behavior by giving them attention or comfort.
As we mentioned, sometimes toddlers bite simply because they don’t know how else to communicate what they’re feeling. If language skills are at the root of the issue, then be sure to teach them some simple phrases they can use in place of biting. For example, teaching them to say no or stop will give them the tools they need to more effectively and safely communicate with others.
Once the situation has been diffused and you have told your child how they should handle things moving forward, it’s important to redirect the situation. Fortunately, toddlers are easily distracted, which means that you can introduce a new activity such as coloring, dancing, or playing a new game with fairly good results. If distraction doesn’t work, sometimes separating your child from the other child for a short period of time will be sufficient to help each of them calm down and be ready to play with one another once more.
Timeout is a very effective disciplinary tool for most toddlers. Whether you use a specific chair, spot, or corner, make sure that you are consistent with the tools and methods each time. A general rule is to set a timer for one minute per year of age to determine the length of the timeout. Do not place your child in timeout for too long as it is not only not effective, but generally leads to them finding ways to entertain themselves, which defeats the purpose of the timeout.
When the timer indicates that the timeout is done, make sure to ask your child why they were placed in timeout. Discipline is only as effective as the follow-through techniques you use. It’s important that they understand why they were placed in timeout, what you expect of them going forward, and that you love them no matter what.
Consistency Is Key to a Bite-Free Environment
Once you have established that biting is not acceptable, it’s important to make sure that you maintain a bite-free environment. If your child does not receive the same consequence each time they bite someone, then they will learn that sometimes it’s okay and sometimes it’s not. Since this is not what you want to teach them, it’s important to respond the same way each time it happens. The more consistent you are, the more quickly they will realize that you will not tolerate this behavior.
While both positive and negative reinforcement can be successful, it’s important to choose positive reinforcement when possible. You want to reward your child for choosing the right behavior rather than punish them for the wrong behavior. If you notice that they use their words instead of biting, then be sure to use verbal praise to reinforce their good choice. Of course, if positive reinforcement doesn’t seem to have a big impact on their behavior, then be sure to continue using timeouts.
At Growing Room in Bonita Springs, we are proud of all that our child development center has to offer. From educational programs and free play time to social development and more, we have the activities that your child needs to succeed. Contact us today to schedule your free tour.