How to stop a toddler’s biting phase.
At some point almost all children go through a biting phase. In most cases this stage occurs between the ages of six months and three years old. Although dreaded by parents, biting is a normal childhood phase. Luckily, this particular phase is usually short lived.
What causes your child to bite? Many things can contribute to your child’s recent discovery of biting. At such a young age, children do not understand cause and effect. They do not realize that biting is wrong, or that it is painful. Children bite out of anger, frustration, and at times, out of curiosity. As soon as your child exhibits any type of biting behavior it is important to let him know that it is unacceptable. Simply tell your child that biting hurts and it is not allowed. At this age, scolding and lecturing is a waste of time. Young children do not process lengthy sermons about something being mean and wrong. Their short attention spans will not allow them to process more than a sentence or two.
There are times that a child will bite when he is teething. Babies who are cutting teeth are in quite a bit of discomfort. They tend to chew on anything within reach. Sometimes, that includes your finger or shoulder. While you do not want to ignore the behavior, it’s important to realize that he or she sees this behavior as comforting and not painful. In cases like this set your child down and firmly say, “No biting.” If your child is suffering from teething pain, provide plenty of objects appropriate to chew on. Apply a topical anesthetic to relieve the discomfort. Heading off the urge to bite can make things easier on everyone.
Many have heard the bite back theory. Although, it seems to make sense to you and I, to a child it will send a message that the behavior is okay. After all, children learn by watching their parents. If you bite the child back, they will not grasp the concept you are trying to convey. They simply see you biting too and may even bite again in retaliation. Even picking the child up may send a message of a positive attention. Some children bite for any type of attention, good or bad. If your child bites a friend or classmate redirect your attention to the injured child. Ask the injured child if he is okay, and if old enough make your child apologize. This will teach your child that biting will not be rewarded with attention.
Once you have established the reason for your child’s biting, provide him with alternative outlets for his aggression. Let your child know that feeling angry is normal, but hurting someone else is not the way to deal with it. Explain to your child that it’s best to use his words when he feels angry or frustrated.
With consistent repercussions your child will learn that biting is not acceptable. He will learn that there are alternative ways to deal with his anger and frustration. Eventually, your child will use his words not his teeth. Until then, keep your cool and lead by example.