Biting is among the most bothersome and embarrassing kid behaviors. Take comfort in knowing this behavior is usually temporary, and much more typical than you may think. The most common reason toddlers bite is because they don't yet have the ability to handle their frustrations. Whatever the cause, toddler biting is clearly upsetting to all involved. And do beware: biting is known to continue as kids get older if not dealt with. Your job is to stop this practice before it becomes a habit. So here are a few steps and parenting tips to help you stop your toddler from using this annoying habit.
- Confront the biter ASAP. Intervene the second your child bites. Name the behavior so he learns the term: "That's biting!" Then in a very stern voice say: "You may not bite people!" Firmly express your disapproval, and quickly remove him from the situation. Child discipline is something you must learn to do if you hope to stop this and other child behavior problems.
- Meet with all caregivers. If your toddler has developed a history of biting, you'll need to take emergency action. Arrange a meeting with other caregivers (such as playgroup parent, daycare worker, babysitter) with whom he's displaying the behavior and decide what you will do if your child bites again. If you're all on the same page, you will stop the behavior much faster.
- Decide on a consequence. If biting continues, you must set a consequence that everyone understands: such as a brief timeout or going home. Make sure to enforce the same consequence the second your child bites and use it any time or place he resorts to the behavior. He needs to know you are serious.
- Focus on the victim. Even toddlers need to know that their behavior impacts others and biting hurts! So focus your concern on the victim in the presence of your child. "I'm so sorry! That must hurt. What can I do to help?" Doing so models to your child how to convey sympathy and puts the attention on who really deserves it.
- Help your biter make amends. He might help wash the spot of the bite on the victim, offer the child a Kleenex or band-aid, draw a picture to apologize, say he's sorry, or give the other child a toy. Guide your little one so he knows how to make a caring gesture.
- Call the victim's parents. Apologize to the child's parents on the spot or with a phone call. Better that you make the call than someone else.
- Teach words to replace the biting. Toddlers typically bite because they haven't developed the verbal skills to communicate their needs or frustrations. So teach your child words to do so. "Say, 'I'm mad.' Or "Tell your friend, 'I want to play.'"
- Practice, practice, practice. Practice the new words together, until he can successfully use the words on his own. Remember to let him know how proud you are when he uses control and tries his new skill.
- Anticipate and supervise. If your child has developed a pattern of biting, then supervise play times closely. You can then immediately intervene and stop it before it happens. Distracting a toddler from the situation or offering an alternative is sometimes helpful: "Let's go play with the blocks!" You may have step in a few times before the behavior is stopped, so watch closely then intervene immediately.
- Remain vigilant. Keep track of how often your kid bites to make sure the behavior is diminishing over time. If you've consistently used the techniques to end this aggressive behavior and it still persists, get outside help. And no matter what you hear from other parents, do not bite your kid back! It is not helpful, and in fact, you're only sending him the messages that kids can't bite, but adults can.
This parenting advice should help you learn how to stop this bad behavior in children. Good luck!