OUCH! That Hurts! Stop Biting in 2 Easy Steps.

Stopping toddlers from biting

Young children use their mouths to explore the world. Children usually bite people when they become frustrated in social situations and do not know how else to express themselves. It can be embarrassing for parents, and is an indication that new skills need to be taught.

The way in which an adult responds to the behaviour will affect how frequently it is repeated. If the biter gets a lot of attention from a number of adults, the behaviour may be used again to generate that same reaction. Instead, we need a cool, calm response and after the situation has calmed down, we need to work to teach the child a new behaviour.

  1. If the biting has already happened, remove the biter and don’t do too much talking. You can acknowledge the feeling, “Wow you feel mad – you wanted that toy. We only bite food not people!” Allow the child to return to the situation when the emotion has calmed down.
  1. Supervision is definitely required – a toddler typically won’t change a behaviour independently simply because of an adult’s request. Have an adult stay close to the biter’s group so that the adult can step in and prevent a bite from happening. Ideally we need to teach the child a new behaviour to replace the biting. For example:

If a child usually bites when he doesn’t get a toy he wants, in a calm moment, we can teach him to cover his mouth with his hand to remind him that we don’t bite people. He could say, “I want the toy” or “I’m mad!” to share his feelings. Then, when we see the situation about to happen we can cue the child by covering the mouth and asking – “What can you say about that toy?” In this way, we use both visual and verbal cues to teach the child a new tool to use when he feels frustrated about the toy.

Reminder: Toddlers are ego-centric so they only see their own point of view. Asking a child, “How would you like to be bitten?” is not a helpful conversation at this age.

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This article is reprinted with permission from Julie Freedman Smith and Gail Bell of Parenting Power™. They believe that there is more than one “right way to parent”. For over 13 years, Julie and Gail have offered telephone coaching nationwide to help ease the stress and guilt of parents while providing them with real life parenting tools. Contact them today at www.parentingpower.ca.


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