Have you ever wondered: why do toddlers bite? Is it because of teething or is it just to get attention from others? Either way, this is socially harmful behaviour that can cause much embarrassment to parents.
Which is why the first step towards changing this behaviour is intervention.
Its best to start as early as possible so that they won’t grow up labeled as “biters.” While it is upsetting when you get bitten by your toddler, it’s important to know that toddlers still haven’t fully developed a sense of self-control. So this may just be how they express their feelings of frustration or something more.
To further understand why toddlers bite and what you can do to help them grow out of it, here’s a handy guide.
Why Do Toddlers Bite?
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Biting is common for infants and toddlers during the first few years of their lives. Just as every personality is different, children also have different reasons why they resort to biting.
If your child is constantly biting you, it might be to:
Express what they’re feeling. Younger kids are still learning to control their emotions and understand what they’re feeling. So they might use biting to communicate the feeling of fear, frustration, hunger, or anger.
Garner attention to themselves. Most kids use biting as a way to garner attention from family and those in the know.
See how the person they bit would react. Kids can be experimental and like exploring cause-and-effect. Which means they would simple bite somebody to see their reaction.
Defend themselves. Some kids also use this as a way to defend themselves from somebody they do not feel safe with.
Deal with teething. One of the most common reasons for biting is of course, teething. Since the teeth come out tearing the gums, it can be quite hurtful and biting is a way to express this pain.
There might be multiple reasons for them to bite, but know that once they learn better ways to communicate with you, it gives them an alternative to express their emotions that doesn’t necessarily involve a blunt bite.
What To Do When Your Child Bites?
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It definitely won’t help if you shame or punish your child for biting. Zero to Three says that pinning your child as a biter’ would only intensify this behaviour. It might even influence them to act out the label.
Biting your child back is also not a good idea, as it would only further encourage the behaviour, which is exactly what you’re trying to stop.
To prevent anymore biting and to help your child cope with their emotions, here are things you can try:
1. Set age-appropriate expectations for your toddler. Don’t forget that your child is just getting used to learning how to communicate with others and express themselves. So when you tell them “no biting,” keep it simple and calm, and explain why it’s hurtful to be bitten.
2. Take time to listen to your child. Ask them if there’s anything that’s bothering them or observe if they needed to release pent-up anxiety. You can also try to motivate them to “use their words” so they can share their frustration or anger instead of biting.
3. Stay positive. Reacting negatively to your toddler’s actions or punishing them for it would not help them overcome the habit. Instead, make sure to praise them when they behave properly and act accordingly to your expectations.
4. Bring your child to a smaller and more calm area. Your child might have been too overwhelmed by the people around them or affected by a chaotic environment. Take them to a soothing secluded area where they can relax and feel less stressed.
5. Redirect them with other things. To prevent your little one from releasing their emotions through biting, you can instead let them tend to other productive things such as colouring, dancing or playing games.
6. Don’t forget about the victim. If your toddler bit one of their peers, let them know how upset they were getting bitten. At the same time, comfort the other child as well as check to see if there is any serious marks or bleeding.
While it’s normal for kids to bite at an earlier age, you should expect them to stop when they attain the ages 3 or 4 years. Contact your doctor if this behaviour persists and/or only gets worse.
Remember that you’re not alone and it’s better to seek for professional help when you’re unsure.
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