When it comes to parenting, there are many things you can’t teach or learn on the job. How to Stop Toddlers from Biting? How do you know what’s expected or appropriate? What do you do when your child bites their peers? What’s the difference between accidental and intentional biting?
It can be especially challenging if you’re a new parent or haven’t had much experience with biting. The best parents are those who learn from their mistakes, correct them if possible, and strive at all times to prevent their children from biting again.
Fortunately, there are ways for parents to deal with toddlers who bite. With the right approach and strategies, parents can learn how to stop toddlers from biting effectively.
How to Respond to Toddler Biting Behavior?
Toddler biting is a common behavior that parents encounter. While it can be difficult to know how to respond, there are ways that parents can respond in a way that will stop the biting.
1. Remain Calm
When your toddler bites you, it’s natural to feel angry or upset. It’s essential to take deep breaths and stay calm to teach your child how to handle emotions in an appropriate way.
If you respond with too much emotion, your toddler may think that biting is a way to get a rise out of you. Instead, remain calm and say, “I don’t like it when you bite me.” You can also say, “It hurts when you bite me.”
A gentle tone and manner communicate better to your toddler than harsh words. As you respond to your child’s biting, maintain a soft tone and focused eye contact. This will help the child understand their mistake instead of someone yelling at them.
2. Provide Them With Ways to Express Themselves
If your toddler is biting, it can be hard to know how to respond. But the best thing you can do is ensure that your child has plenty of ways to express themselves. This will help them feel like they have an outlet for their feelings and needs, so they don’t have to resort to biting.
Give your child a chance to express themselves by doing these things:
- Give them time and space for independent play.
- Talk about what makes you mad or sad, and listen when they talk about how they feel.
- Read stories together about kids who are sad, mad, or upset and talk about what they did when they felt that way.
- Teach them how to use words to express their feelings instead of biting
- Help them learn to deal with strong emotions by providing opportunities for activities and interactions that involve frustration and anger.
Providing your child with opportunities to express themselves will help them learn to handle strong emotions more appropriately than biting.
3. Show Empathy and Understanding
If your toddler bites you, it’s important to respond in a way that shows empathy and understanding.
Start by putting yourself in their shoes. Toddlers are learning how to communicate, play, and get along with others; they don’t have the skills yet! They’re not trying to hurt you—they want someone to play with them or listen when upset.
If your toddler bites you, try saying “ouch!” or “no biting” in an understanding tone of voice. Then offer them something else to chew (like a teether or toy). If they continue biting after that, remove yourself from the situation and give them some space for a few minutes.
4. Take a Timeout
A timeout is a good way to help your toddler understand that biting is unacceptable. It’s also important to remember that you should not use time outs as a punishment but rather as a way to teach your child how to manage their emotions and learn better ways of expressing themselves. You don’t want them thinking that biting will get them what they want—it won’t!
When you tell your child they are getting a time out, give them plenty of warning beforehand so they know what’s coming. Then, when it’s time for the timeout, be firm and consistent with your expectations. Make sure you stay in the room with them for the entire time (at least five minutes), but don’t engage in any conversation with them or try to reason with them about why they’re getting this consequence. Don’t give yourself any wiggle room either—if you say “five minutes,” stick to it!
If the biting continues after the timeout ends, take another one immediately after it expires—and then keep going until the behavior stops completely.
5. Model Appropriate Behavior for Your Toddler
A good way to teach your toddler how to handle their emotions is to model it for them. You can talk about your feelings, show them how to use words instead of their hands or mouth, and encourage them to do the same.
Help them learn anger management and self-calming techniques by doing these things:
- Model how to use words instead of biting, kicking, hitting, or throwing things when you’re angry, upset, or frustrated
- Tell them about times when you felt angry, upset, or frustrated and what you did to deal with those emotions.
- Teach them calming strategies like counting to ten (or another number), taking deep breaths, and using a “quiet place” in their mind.
Don’t Make This Mistake When Your Toddler Bites
Punishing your child for biting can be tempting, but this doesn’t work. Punishing your toddler for biting will only make them more likely to repeat the behavior in the future. Punishment can only lead to a whole host of unwanted behaviors when it comes to biting.
Do not react immediately with anger or shocking surprise. This can scare your toddler and make them even more defensive.
While you may be tempted to chase after your toddler to punish them, this is not recommended. Your child could become fearful, or you might stumble and fall, leading to many other problems.
This kind of reaction is never a good idea because it will likely make your child feel bad about themselves, which is never good for your child’s self-esteem.
Understanding What the Causes Toddlers to Bite
Biting is a common issue whether you’re the parent of a toddler or an older child. Understanding what causes your child to bite and how you can prevent it will help you deal with the problem more effectively.
- Teething: If your toddler is teething, they may be biting as a way to relieve the pain or discomfort.
- Self-soothing: Children who are used to being coddled behave by biting to cope with stress when they can’t get what they want.
- Lack of language skills: Toddlers are still learning how to use words to communicate their needs and wants, so if they don’t know what to say, they’ll resort to physical means.
- Overstimulation: Sometimes, toddlers react to overstimulation by biting. If they’re tired, hungry, or don’t have enough space or things to play with, they may resort to biting as a coping mechanism.
- Attention seeking: If your toddler is biting to get attention from you, step back and ignore them for a few minutes. This will help them learn that biting won’t necessarily get them what they want—it’ll only earn them time out.
- Pain or discomfort: Sometimes, your toddler doesn’t have the words to express themselves about a feeling. This doesn’t make it right to bite, but it is a sign that they need help.
- Imitation of others: If another child is biting at home or daycare, your child may also begin to imitate this behavior.
- Curiosity and Exploration: Some toddlers bite because they are curious. They bite to see what it feels like, or they bite as part of the learning process that goes along with discovery.
Best Tips on How to Stop Toddlers from Biting
Biting is normal behavior for little ones. However, it is important to guide your child to control this habit. Here are our best tips on how to stop toddlers from biting:
1. Identity What Triggers the Biting
When your child bites, the first thing to do is to determine what is causing the behavior. There are many reasons this happens; as such, you need to figure out the underlying cause and how to address it.
Whether unintentional or not, biting can be an unsafe habit you need to stop. To do this, you must first find out why your child is biting.
2. Provide an Alternative
The best way to stop a toddler from biting is to provide an alternative. Your child may be biting because they are teething or frustrated with themselves. Giving them something else to do will help them relax and stop them from biting.
Distract your child from the object of their desire by offering them something else of equal value—like a toy or snack.
3. Use Positive Reinforcement
Toddlers are naturally drawn to biting because of the sensation it provides. It makes them feel powerful, and it helps them explore their environment. But biting can also be a way for toddlers to get attention or express displeasure.
You can use positive reinforcement to get your child to stop biting as a way to redirect the behavior. Encourage them with positive words like “good job!” or “stop biting your sister!” and reinforce them with hugs.
When they’re doing something good, give them a reward like a treat or praise. This will encourage them to do the right thing in the future.
4. Consistently Follow Through
If you tell your toddler not to bite and then let the behavior slide, they’ll learn that biting is acceptable, and it will be harder to change their behavior down the line. So, when your toddler bites, follow through with a consequence appropriate for your child’s age (and also try to make sure it’s connected with the incident in some way).
6. Teach Calming Strategies
If your toddler bites, it’s time to teach some calming strategies. When they’re biting, don’t scream or yell at them—this will only make them more upset and confused, and they’ll keep grinding. Instead, try one of these simple tactics:
- Practice mindfulness: Kids also need to learn how to focus their attention on one thing at a time—and this can be especially helpful for toddlers prone to biting.
- Encourage social skills: Another way to help kids overcome their biting behavior is by encouraging them to make friends with other children who aren’t as aggressive or anxious as they are.
- Engage in activities: Remember that plenty of healthy, fun activities are available for your child. Playing with toys, feeding and bathing them, and arranging their toys can all be ways to help distract them from their biting habit.
What Are the Best Times to See a Doctor?
There are many reasons why your child may bite other children or adults. These reasons may include teething, a lack of language skills, and immaturity.
Some toddlers may also have other underlying issues that cause them to bite. These issues can be more serious, and if left untreated, they can lead to even more serious problems in your child’s behavior in the future.
As a parent, it’s important to be aware of any changes in your toddler’s behavior so that you can address them as soon as possible. Seek medical attention if you notice any of these symptoms associated with biting:
- Your child is highly clingy, anxious, or depressed at home, daycare, or in the classroom.
- Your child starts biting other children more often than usual.
- Your child shows signs of aggression towards people at school or around the house.
- Your child shows signs of anxiety, restlessness, or nervousness.
Professional help is always necessary when dealing with any behavior causing your child discomfort or distress. For some children, biting can go as far as to become a habit, and if it causes damage to the other person in the process, your family doctor may recommend a medical intervention.
We all want our kids to have sweet, kind, nurturing personalities. So when they bite, it can feel like a major blow. But the truth is, this behavior is just a normal part of their development—and a phase many parents remember with laughs rather than tears.
Biting can be easy to handle in some cases and difficult in others. The development of your child’s behavior and the underlying issue or cause behind their biting can vary greatly.
Are you looking for a reliable daycare center or preschool that can help you with your child’s biting issues? Then, NY Baby Steps is the place for you. Our center strives to help all children reach their full potential with various activities that teach social skills and improve communication skills.
At NY Baby Steps, we are committed to providing the best possible education for your child. We know how to help children develop the social skills they need to live healthy, happy lives, so contact us today!