Toddlers can often be found doing amazing things such as giving unexpected hugs and laughing hysterically but at times they can be found to do some not so adorable things such as kicking, screaming and biting.
Biting is actually a common trait found in children this age. As a parent there is little consolation if your toddler bites. Worse yet, parents whose children are labeled as such are often excluded from child care centers making it a challenge for working parents. There are ways however to get to the bottom of your child’s biting habit.
Why Toddlers Bite
It is a proven fact that biting is a normal part of early childhood development. Babies and toddlers bite for a variety of reasons such as teething or exploring new toys by putting them in their mouths. As they develop a sense for cause and effect they may even bite a person to see what reaction they get.
Biting is also another way for toddlers to draw attention or how they express their feelings. Since toddlers lack language skills, biting is a way in which they may express anger, frustration or fear. Thus if a toddler cannot find words fast enough to quickly articulate themselves, biting may be their last resort as if to say, “Pay attention to me” or “I don’t like that”. As language skills slowly develop, so do a child’s coping skills and biting tends to cease.
How to Curb Biting
If a child bites another child you should immediately address their behavior when it happens. The recommended proper steps to take when your child has bitten another child are as follows:
Step 1: Comfort the victim first. Direct your attention to the person who has been bitten. If there is an injury, clean the area with soap and water and apply ice. DO NOT address the child who bit first since this may reinforce the negative behavior in the event that the child doing the biting was trying to get attention.
Step 2: Be calm and firm. The child who has bitten another should be addressed with a firm “no biting” or “biting hurts”. For a toddler, we need to use simple and easy phrase so the toddler can understand. It is necessary that we make it clear that biting is wrong but we must avoid lengthy explanations until your toddler is old enough to understand. Remaining calm will help to resolve the situation more quickly.
Step 3. Comfort the biter if need be. Often the biter will not understand that biting hurts and the child who has bitten another may feel upset by their own actions therefore they too may need comforting.
Step 4: Offer alternatives. When things have calmed down, suggesting words such as “no” as an alternative to biting may prove to be a useful way of communication.
Step 5: Redirect. Distraction always helps to calm situations among children at this age. If emotions are running high, help redirect a toddler’s attention to a more positive activity such as dancing to music or playing a game.
Punishment is usually not normal at this age since biting is normal and most children do not realize that their actions are causing harm to others. On the other hand, if you have tried the steps above and the biting behavior continues, then timeouts may be effective. Older toddlers, ages two to three, may be taken to a designated timeout area to calm down. As a general rule, about a minute per year of age is a good guideline for timeouts. Shorter timeouts may be effective however longer timeouts tend not to be beneficial.
When to ask for help.
Although biting is common amongst infants and toddlers, excessive biting and other hostile behaviors may indicate a more troublesome problem with your child. This is usually an indication if your child continues to bite beyond the ages of two and a half years to three years of age. It would be suggested that if your child continues to bite past this age range you might want to consult with your family pediatrician.