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How to Stop Toddlers from Biting

Toddler female bitingBeing the parent of a biter can be downright embarrassing sometimes. If your toddler bites, you are probably familiar with the looks of apprehension from other parents when you walk into the daycare or the parent-tot programs with your little vampire in tow. They might guide their child away from the sand tray or the train table when you approach, politely excusing themselves to take their child for a glass of juice. But you know the real reason.

And when you look down at your cherub-faced angel it’s hard to believe that this same sweet child who just gave you a sticky kiss will suddenly grab another toddler’s arm and chomp into it like Jaws, causing a flood of tears and general chaos until parents or teachers can separate them.

So why do they do it?

Here are some possible reasons:

  • Teething pain. You might wonder why they don’t just bite on objects instead of people, but remember that toddlers don’t have the ability to think rationally. They feel the pain in their mouths and they want to bite into something to relieve it, plain and simple.
  • Frustration. Toddlers don’t have the verbal skills to express their frustration. If another child is invading their space they can’t say, “Hey, you’re standing too close to me, back off!” Instead, they communicate this by biting.
  • Oral stimulation. We all know babies and toddlers love to put things in their mouths. Most of us have removed countless foreign objects our children have picked up off the floor, inspected and shoved in their mouths for further evaluation.
  • Attention. This is a common one as well. While we might think it’s horrible that our child would want to hurt another child, they aren’t really thinking of it the same way. They bite, and there’s a big fuss. The other child cries, you get upset…and your child realizes she has the power to create all this just by biting. She’s not capable of really understanding her actions, and likes the power she feels when she bites and you react.

So what do you do?

If your child has started biting, it is very important that you watch him closely when he’s around other children so you can try to nip it in the bud. First and foremost, pay attention to when it happens the most. Is your child tired or hungry? Is there a particular child that he bites more often (this is pretty common)? If so, try to distract the child before the biting even occurs. If he looks like he’s about to bite, simply move him away from the child or distract him with a toy.

If he does manage to bite, make sure you pay much more attention to the hurt child. This will be the opposite of what the biter wants if he’s doing it for attention. Say to your child, “No. Biting is not okay. It hurts,” and then turn your attention to the other child.

Once the other child has been comforted, remove your child from the activity to show him that if he bites, playtime is over. This will set the foundation for time-outs in the near future.

Make sure you carve out some “positive attention time” with your child every day, even if it’s just 30 minutes of reading together. This will help her feel more secure and less likely to want negative attention from biting.

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Straight talk about sleep, parenting,
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My blog is a great place to find opinions, advice, the occasional rant, and some great videos about sleep.

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