Regardless of whom the biter is or the age of the recipient, biting is never fun.
My daughter used to be a biter. She didn’t bite her friends though. She only bit me. Recently a friend of mine expressed her frustration with her one-year-old son who is also a biter. He bites other one-year-olds. Regardless of whom the biter is or the age of the recipient, biting is never fun. It’s important to curb the behavior as quickly as possible, but it is definitely one of the more difficult behaviors to get under control; at least that was my experience.
Toddlers bite for a number of reasons. Sometimes biting is simply a way to ease the pain of teething. Unfortunately, the target of the bite is often a person instead of a teething ring. In some cases the biter is curious as to how the other person will react so he bites and watches intently to see what happens. This can also happen if a child sees another child biting and mimics the behavior because the reaction is so interesting to them. Since toddlers are not yet aware that other people have feelings, they aren’t able to understand that they are hurting someone. Another reason a child may bite is out of frustration. If someone has taken his toy away or he is feeling overwhelmed for any reason, a child who hasn’t learned to use his words yet may retaliate by biting the nearest person. Similarly, a child can become frustrated due to lack of attention and may simply use biting as a surefire way to get someone to notice him. No matter what the reason, it’s important to stay calm and address the situation immediately, especially if you can’t stop it before it happens.
One of the most important things you need to do when you are dealing with a biter is keep a close eye on your child – it’s hard, but if you know that your child is prone to this behavior you should watch him closely when he’s in the presence of other children. If you do miss a moment and biting occurs, some experts recommend removing the child from the situation immediately. If your child is repeatedly removed he will eventually connect the biting with the end of activities, but having to get up and go can definitely become frustrating for the parents. Before removing your child, make sure the bitten child is OK and be sure to give the injured playmate a visible form of positive attention. This will reinforce the fact that negative behavior will not be rewarded and that the victim is going to be the target of affection.
When you discipline your child for biting, quickly say, “No biting” and remove the child from the situation. Once everyone is calm, advise your child using age appropriate language that biting hurts the other person and that it’s not acceptable. A three-year-old will understand this much better than a one-year-old, but you still need to tell them both. A younger toddler may simply be told “biting hurts,” but remember, he may not understand. As children get older they will understand that other people have feelings such as pain. If you do have an older toddler who has bitten someone, I recommend that you have your child apologize for his actions.
Another thing you can do to help stop the biting before it happens is to make sure that there are plenty of toys to go around. Have more than one of the popular toys if necessary. Make sure the toys are age appropriate. Frustration can arise when a child finds a toy too difficult to understand. When you see your child heading toward another child or even observing another child in that “he looks kind of yummy” way, try to intercept your child and engage them in a toy or some other no-contact activity. You can also keep teething rings on hand and offer these to your child as an alternative when you see your child is ready to chomp down on their friends.
Finally, when you are planning play dates, consider scheduling them for shorter periods of time. Let the kids play together for about fifteen minutes then separate them for a bit. Giving your child a break will help alleviate frustration if he’s adjusting to being around other children. Also, keeping the play times short will give you a break from having to hover over your little one to make sure he’s not biting anyone. Most children do grow out of it with consistent parenting. If you are having a very difficult time with your child’s biting habit, please be sure to discuss your concerns with your pediatrician.
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