Why Is My Toddler Biting?

Your toddler has always been so sweet, full of smiles and giggles. Suddenly, without warning, she or he has begun biting like a bear. Whether your toddler is biting you, your other children, or friends at play group, it’s a very serious problem. Biting can be very dangerous, both to the child being bitten, but also to the biter. What causes biting in young children and how can you stop your child from 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.
Biting has a two-fold effect for toddlers – it allows them to express their frustration and gets them instant attention. Since toddlers are frequently redirected when they attempt to climb a table or take away another child’s toy, they have a need to express themselves. Their language skills are very limited at this young age, so biting becomes their expression of frustration and anger.

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.
To help your toddler stop biting takes great patience. As a childcare provider for 25 years, I found several techniques that helped put an end to this painful stage. My first trick is shadowing, which is keeping the toddler at arm’s length all the time. It often takes a parent or teaching swooping in and picking up the child before they can bite.

 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.”
The best way to help a toddler move past the biting stage is to combine all three of these techniques. For example a child takes away the toddler’s toy. Scoop up the child at the first sight of biting, say to them “That hurts. We don’t do that.” Then say to the child, “Tell your friend - please give it back.” By repeating the same techniques over and over, the child will begin to imitate the behavior. It helps the child learn that solving conflicts is best done with words, not teeth. Remember to be patient with the toddler because the process of learning can take time.

This article can also be seen at http://www.themomandco.xyz/why-is-my-toddler-biting/

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