Why Is My Toddler Biting?
There are several reasons that cause toddlers to begin biting. Often biting begins out of frustration. A toddler is just beginning to realize they have an influence on the world around them. This newfound influence feels like a great power to them. When they cry, a parent runs over to help. When they smile and say hi, even strangers are charmed into chatting with them. Toddlers soon realize that their power is thwarted by others and that frustrates them greatly.
A toddler who bites also learns that it will often work in their favor. Biting a friend who won’t let go of a toy makes them let go. Biting a parent who is ignoring them makes the parent take notice. Toddlers often learn the behavior from other toddlers, then repeat the behavior themselves. Childcare centers and home daycares often experience rounds of biting in this way. It’s frustrating to parents and teachers.
The second technique is direction, which involves a bit more time investment. You must ensure the child knows what “that hurts” means – do this by pointing it out whenever they get hurt from a fall or a bump. By demonstrating how “that hurts” relates to their own bodies, they can better learn to apply it. Then, when they bite or are about to bite, you can say words they know – “that hurts” and follow up with “we don’t do that.” This also begins to plant the seeds of empathy and socially acceptable behaviors.
Another technique is rehearsed words, which means the parent gives the child words to use instead of biting. Children don’t come with a preset script, so we as adults need to teach them the words that will help them get what they want. Choose easy, brief words that a child can easily remember. Some suggestions include – “please don’t do that” and “please give it to me.”
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