How to Stop Your Toddler from Biting Others
Biting behavior happens more than you may think in toddlers and young children. Your toddler may exhibit many different undesired behaviors as they learn and grow what is and is not appropriate behavior.
Unfortunately, biting is a common problem with toddlers that many parents struggle with.
Biting behavior can be embarrassing, scary, and downright painful. It can also be incredibly frustrating if your toddler is a repetitive biter and doesn’t respond to your corrections.
If your toddler is experiencing issues with biting behavior, here are some steps you can take to stop it before it becomes a more pressing problem.
Why Do Toddlers Bite?
Before we talk about ways to stop this undesired behavior, let’s first take a step back and try to understand some of the reasons your toddler may be biting people.
There are a multitude of reasons that your toddler may be exhibiting biting behavior. Children this age are still learning how to control their behavior and may sometimes be having a tantrum and may act impulsively or without thinking of the potential effects of their actions.
Most children will stop many of these undesired behaviors as they grow and learn that they are not appropriate. Children will also eventually develop the ability to understand the consequences of their actions and adjust their behavior accordingly.
Here are some of the other reasons your toddler may bite others.
Your child may be teething and want to bite things because they are experiencing discomfort. They may also be biting to get attention from parents and caregivers. Children may also display biting behaviors to defend themselves (maybe when another child takes their belongings).
They may also be displaying upset feelings in uncomfortable situations, or when they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
How Can I Stop This Behavior?
One of the most important things to remember is that you must let your child know this behavior is not appropriate from the first incident.
Sometimes parents have a habit of laughing at their child’s undesired behavior because they feel embarrassed or don’t know how to correct it. Laughing at your child’s undesired behavior gives them positive attention and gives them the incentive to repeat that behavior since you’re giving them a positive reaction.
If your child is exhibiting biting behavior, here are some things you can do.
You should always let your child know when they exhibit a behavior that is inappropriate or undesired. However, the way you communicate this to them is extremely important. You do not ever want to yell or scream at your child when they bite.
What you should do is let them know that the behavior (biting in this case) is not okay and will not be tolerated. The fewer words the better for younger children. You can just say “no” immediately after they bite someone.
You should always correct your child at the moment. Do not wait to discuss it privately with them or until you get back home if you are out in public.
After initially correcting your child, you can also explain why biting is inappropriate, how it makes others feel, and why it is never an appropriate way to react, even if they are upset. You can also provide them with alternative ways to deal with their emotions instead of hurting someone else.
Giving Sympathy to the Victim
If the reason your child is biting is to get attention, comforting the bite victim is another tool to communicate that biting is not the way to get positive attention.
After correcting your child, direct your attention to the person who they bit. When your child doesn’t get any attention (neither negative nor positive) they will start to understand that biting isn’t the way to get your attention and will likely cease to bite.
Some children may also become very upset or even begin to cry after they have bitten someone. It is okay to go to your child and comfort them as well. Children rarely bite to be malicious.
Sometimes they immediately realize that they acted inappropriately or may even feel upset that they caused someone else pain.
It is also useful to comfort the bite victim together. This will show your child that the behavior is undesired and inappropriate. It will also help teach them to take accountability for their actions.
Tips on How You Should Not Respond
Rather than going punishment heavy, it is always more effective and meaningful to correct your child and give them a more appropriate way to respond to the situation.
If your child is verbal, you can also inquire why your child may have chosen to bite by asking them how they felt when they bit someone or what happened before they bit someone.
Your goal should always be to understand your child and get to the cause of the behavior. Not to punish them and make them feel like a bad kid. Children generally respond much better when you help them understand why that behavior is not okay.
You should also never tell your child they are “bad” but instead let them know that the behavior they exhibited was a “bad choice”.
Remember, the way you word things to your child, especially when correcting undesired behavior sticks with them. The way you handle it will shape their future thoughts and behaviors.
If your child bites someone, don’t panic and don’t feel embarrassed. Biting is an issue that many parents have to deal with at some point. Make sure that you react in a way that is appropriate to your child’s age and the severity of the behavior.
Remember it is okay to punish your child if biting is repeated behavior. However, before you run straight to punishment, make sure your child understands why it is not okay to bite and alternatives for the next time they feel the need to act out.
If your child has bitten someone for the first time, start by correcting the behavior. You can also try having a one-on-one with your child about their choice to bite.