Tips To Deal With A Toddler Biting
Why do children bite?
According to the Women and Children's health network, there are four different types of biting:
- Experimental biting: For babies and young children, using their mouth is a way of exploring the world. Sometimes this can turn into a game. At some point, a baby will bite the breast whilst feeding or bite a parent or carer.
- Biting from frustration: The coping mechanisms of children under three are not developed, so biting and hitting are both ways children express their anger when they are overwhelmed in situations. e.g. another child taking their toy.
- Biting under stress: Due to their lack of communication skills, very young children will often put their frustration into actions. Biting can be an expression of anger or pain. Young children can find it very difficult to express what they are feeling, they just act.
- Biting from feeling powerless: If the child is feeling frustrated from being the smallest in the group, either in a family or other group, the child can sometimes bite for a feeling of power and once they get a reaction, they will continue to do so. The youngest member of the family is often the biter.
Strategies for parents
If a baby bites you while you are feeding or holding her, quickly put the baby down and say "no" firmly. Do not laugh or let your baby think it's a game. Continue to use this strategy while the baby continues to bite. Your child will soon see she's not getting the desired reaction.
Biting from frustration
Try and avoid or put a time limit on situations where your child may bite e.g. playgroup. Monitor the child closely and intervene when it looks like the child may bite. Distraction is the best intervention method. Find a new toy or activity the child is interested in and point him in that direction. If you do miss intervening and your child bites, be clear and firm in your response and be consistent with the consequences i.e. remove the child from the situation or activity. Talk about the child's feelings and assure him you understand he was cross but biting is not the way to deal with it. It can be very difficult for a child to understand and react appropriately to these feelings of frustration. It can take time to learn.
Biting from stress
It's common sense but try to find out what is causing your child's stress is this situation. You may not be able to stop the stress but if you know what the trigger is you may be able to intervene before your child reacts. Look to play and stories to find ways of helping your child deal with his feelings. Be patient as this may take some time. Ask other parents in the group for support in dealing with your child's biting. If everyone is consistent in their behaviour, the child will get the message quicker.
Biting from feeling powerless
Ensure your child has a voice and he's being treated fairly. Ensure the bigger children understand the youngest child's perspective and ask them to help him feel included and an equal participant. If the children are very young, constant adult supervision is necessary to ensure everyone is protected. If necessary, take the younger child/children away and designate a separate play space. If a child bites, remove that child from the situations and keep him with you for a while before returning him to play.