What do you do when your toddler bites?

Understanding why toddlers tend to bite can help you deal with their biting effectively and teach them how to stop biting. If left unchecked, this may develop into a child behavior problem.

One thing to understand, for instance, is that biting is a normal activity that children will go through as part of normal development. Knowing that your child’s biting isn’t uncommon, however, won’t ease the pain of the bite. Experts agree that blame should not be placed on the child, parent, or teachers when it does happen.

You know babies use their mouths to explore because they’re not co-ordinated enough to do much else. If they bite, it’s quite likely that the act is merely a way to explore or because they are overly stimulated. Infants may also bite because they are teething and need the pressure of something along their gums to help ease the pain they’re feeling. Regardless of the reason, infants are not aware of any pain they may be causing if they do bite you.

Toddlers, those between 12 and 36 months, will continue to use their mouth as a way to communicate, not just with speech. Since they may not be not able to use language to let you know what they want, some toddlers bite. They use it as a way to get what they want and control their environment. Despite this propensity to cause pain, it is quite possible that toddlers don’t understand the pain they inflict. Still, you want to begin to teach them that biting is not appropriate and that it hurts.

What do you do when your toddler bites?

- Respond immediately when your toddler bites by telling them “Ouch, that hurt mama.” This tactic will work beginning as early as four months old.

- Don’t bite back. Even though you may feel like biting them would be the only option, it will convey to them that biting (or any violence) is acceptable.

- Explain to them, if they are able to talk, that it is better to use words than biting to get your attention or to get what they want. Even if their speech is limited, you can help them learn to say one word such as “stop” or “mine.”

- When your toddlers are older, two or more, you can have them help with first aide for those they’ve bitten. This will teach them to learn how to be nurturing instead of hurtful.

- Look for environmental factors that may lead to your toddler biting. Are they fearful, over-stimulated, or over-tired? If you can recognize the triggers for why your toddler bites, you can work toward eliminating those triggers.

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