Why do Toddlers bite and How to Stop it?
Biting is a typical behavior often seen in infants, toddlers, and 2-year olds. As children mature, gain self-control, and develop problem-solving skills, they usually outgrow this behavior. While not uncommon, biting can be an upsetting and potentially harmful behavior. It’s best to discourage it from the very first episode. This article will help you to understand the reasons young children bite and give you some ideas and strategies for responding appropriately.
Is It Normal For Toddlers To Bite?
Yes. Pediatric experts state that biting is normal during toddlerhood and is considered a standard part of the toddler’s traits. The activity does not have a lasting significance or impact. Nevertheless, you as a parent will not like seeing your little one gnawing on everything and everyone around, so something has to be done about it.
Why do they Bite?
Kids bite for a number of reasons — and most of them aren’t intentionally malicious.
They’re in pain. When babies bite, typically it’s because they’re teething. They’re just doing it to relieve the pain of their swollen, tender gums.
They’re exploring their world.
Very young children use their mouths to explore, just as they use their hands. Just about everything infants or toddlers pick up eventually winds up in their mouths. Kids this age aren’t yet able to prevent themselves from biting the object of their interest.
A toddler may see another toddler in the playgroup bite and copy the action out of curiosity. We can say that toddlers may bite due to peer pressure since other toddlers around are doing it repeatedly.
They’re looking for a reaction.
Part of exploration is curiosity. Toddlers experiment to see what kind of reaction their actions will provoke. They’ll bite down on a friend or sibling to hear the surprised exclamation, not realizing how painful the experience is for that person.
They’re craving attention.
In older kids, biting is just one of several bad behaviors used to get attention. When a child feels ignored, discipline is at least one way of getting noticed — even if the attention is negative rather than positive.
Biting, like hitting, is a way for some children to assert themselves when they’re still too young to express feelings effectively through words. To your child, biting is a way to get back a favorite toy, tell you that he or she is unhappy, or let another child know that he or she wants to be left alone.
Teething: It can be counted as a valid reason for a toddler to bite. Teething can irritate the gums and biting helps ease the irritation and make the toddler feel better.
Why do Toddlers Bite Themselves?
Toddlers can bite themselves too. Self-biting is often motivated by frustration or teething and could be restricted to fingers. Toddlers with autism may bite themselves repeatedly to vent out their frustration.
How to Curb Biting?
With biting, it’s important to deal with the behavior immediately after it happens. The next time your child bites, try these steps:
Step 1: Be calm and firm.
Address your child with a firm “no biting!” or “biting hurts!” Keep it simple and easy for a toddler to understand. Make it clear that biting is wrong, but avoid lengthy explanations until your child is old enough to understand. Remaining as calm as possible will help resolve the situation more quickly.
Step 2:Comfort the victim.
Direct your attention to the person who has been bitten, especially if it’s another child. If there is an injury, clean the area with soap and water. Seek medical care if the bite is deep or bleeding.
Step 3:Comfort the biter, if need be.
Often, toddlers don’t realize that biting hurts. It’s OK to comfort a child who’s feeling upset about hurting someone. Older toddlers might learn from being allowed to comfort their friend after a bite. But if the biter is using the behavior to get attention, you don’t want to reinforce this behavior by giving comfort and attention.
Step 4: Offer alternatives.
When things have calmed down, suggest alternatives to biting, like using the words “no,” “stop,” and “that’s mine” when wanting to communicate with others.
Step 5: Redirect.
Distraction works wonders with kids this age. If emotions and energy levels are running high or if boredom has set in, help redirect a little one’s attention to a more positive activity, like dancing to music, coloring, or playing a game.
Discipline usually is not necessary, as most kids don’t realize biting hurts. Never hit or bite a child who has bitten, as this teaches the child that this behavior is OK.
If you’ve tried the steps above and the behavior doesn’t stop, timeouts may be effective. Older toddlers may be taken to a designated timeout area — a kitchen chair or bottom stair — for a minute or two to calm down.
As a general rule, about 1 minute per year of age is a good guide for timeouts. Longer timeouts have no added benefit. They also can undermine your efforts if your child gets up (and refuses to return) before you signal that the timeout has ended.
Creating a ‘Bite-Free’ Environment
Whether you feel like you’ve made progress with your child’s biting habit or it continues to be a work-in-progress, it’s important to create a zero-tolerance culture at home, daycare, and elsewhere.
Here are some ways to get your little one back on the right track:
- Be consistent.Reinforce the “No biting” rule at all times.
- Use positive reinforcement.Rather than reward negative actions with attention, make it a point to praise your child when he or she behaves well. You can use statements such as, “I like how you used your words” or “I like how you’re playing gently” to reinforce positive alternatives to biting.
- Plan ahead.Toddlers might be more comfortable and not feel the urge to bite if they know what to expect in new or high-energy situations. If biting happens at childcare, tell your child what to expect before you go. If a larger, more chaotic environment seems overwhelming, you might consider putting your child in a smaller setting.
- Find alternatives.As language skills develop, you can help your child find better ways to express negative emotions. For example, asking kids to “use their words” when they’re frustrated or upset can help calm them. If you need help, a doctor, counselor, or behavioral specialist can discuss ways to teach your child to manage strong emotions and express feelings in a healthy way.
What strategies are not helpful?
These strategies should not be used to address a child’s biting habit.
- Avoid labeling a child as a “biter.” Negative labels can affect how you view your child, and even affect the child’s feelings about him- or herself.
- Never bite a child back to punish or show him how it feels to be bitten. Biting a child sends the message that using violence is an acceptable behavior that can be used to solve problems.
- Avoid getting angry, yelling, or shaming a child.
- Avoid giving too much attention to a child who bites after an incident. While this is usually negative attention, it can still reinforce the behavior and cause a child to repeat it.
- Do not force a child who bit and the child who was hurt to play together.
- Do not punish children who bite. Punishment does not help children to learn discipline and self-control. Instead, it makes children angry, upset, defiant, and embarrassed. It also undermines the relationship between you and your child.
Although biting is common in babies and toddlers, it should stop at about 3 or 4 years of age. Excessive biting, biting that seems to be getting worse rather than better, and other hostile behaviors might mean you need to get additional help.
If you’re concerned about your child’s behavior, talk to your child’s doctor about finding its causes as well as ways to deal with it.