Biting in toddlers can be a serious problem that gets them into trouble with teachers and other parents and that stops them from socializing well with other children at school or playgroups. If your child bites then it is very important to stop them doing so early before the behavior becomes a pattern that is difficult to get out of. Here we will look at address the situation both in the short term and in the long term and how to stop them from biting.
In the Short Term
Prevent the Situation
If your child bites a lot then you can identify the patterns and this way anticipate biting before it happens. Keep a close eye when your child is playing or learning and then be ready to step in and swiftly remove them from the situation before they bite. This way you can prevent them getting into a pattern/habit of biting.
Tell Them No
Sometimes of course this won’t be possible and then you need to deal with the biting behavior immediately and firmly when your child first bites. This means that you should immediately tell them ‘no’ in a firm voice and remove them from the situation. This way they will be able to associate the response with the behavior – if you leave it until you get home and then smack them then they will struggle to make the link between the punishment and the crime.
Name the Behavior
You should also tell them firmly that what they have done is biting by saying ‘no biting’, or ‘no, that’s biting’. You are trying to teach your toddler to stop that behavior and to do this you need to teach them what it is. By saying ‘that’s biting’ you have labeled the behavior so that they can start to make connections. That is biting, and biting is bad.
Remove Them From the Situation
The reason you are removing the child from the situation is first and foremost to make sure that they stop doing it and to prevent the victim from being hurt. By doing this you are also able to take them out of a situation they were probably enjoying – so this way they learn that when the bite, the fun stops. You should then sit them in a corner or in a room so that they aren’t getting any attention and they learn that it’s no fun to bite.
However do not put them in another room until they have learned the other consequences of their actions – those being the hurt feelings and discomfort of the child or adult on the receiving end. Tend to the victim of the biting by hugging them and comforting them and make sure your child sees that they’ve made them upset. This way they will hopefully empathize with the victim and thereby not want to upset them again.
In the Long Term
In the long term you need to stop your toddler’s biting behavior by finding the causes for the behavior and addressing these. This way you can prevent the need for biting and help them to communicate in other ways. To understand how to prevent your toddler feeling the need to bite, you need to understand why they are biting in the first place. There are several possible reasons and these include:
Your toddler might feel they aren’t getting enough attention and recognize this as a way to get fuss, even if it is of the wrong kind.
Communication of Emotions/Defense
Your child may have problems expressing themselves and that then means that they might use biting purely as a form of communication and to show that they are unhappy or that they want a go with the toy etc. They can also use biting as a form of defense – much like a pet would.
Your child might bite purely as an experiment in order to find out what happens when they do it. This is how children learn, so you just need to quickly show them that the consequences aren’t favorable.
If your child is teething then this can be very uncomfortable and leave them needing to bite as a way to relieve this pain.
A child can use biting as a way to get what they want from other children or to gain power, and this is especially true in the case of siblings.
Addressing these issues then can be tricky or easy depending on the cause. To stop them biting for attention or control then simply make sure that you are punishing them in a way that gives them neither. When they bite, tell them off and them remove them from the situation and make sure they aren’t getting any attention. They’ll quickly learn that the way to get attention and to gain status is to behave well and nicely. You should make sure not to only use the stick as a motivator however, and to use praise as well as a carrot by saying things like ‘look at how well you’re playing with your brother’ or ‘well done for playing nicely’. This positive reward and attention will encourage that behavior. You should also make sure to be attentive to your child’s needs and to give them lots of attention so they don’t need to bite to get attention or whatever else it is they want. Meanwhile teaching them to use words to articulate what it is they need can also help to negate the need for biting, while if they are teething you can give themselves something else to chew on that is more appropriate such as a chewy toy.