Biting is very common with toddlers. There is a lot that can be done to reduce and, ultimately, eliminate biting. However, labeling a child a biter can intensify biting behavior rather than making it stop. Here are some ways to reduce biting:
As you watch the child, begin to anticipate when a bite might happen. Children bite to cope with challenges or to fulfill a need. Maybe someone is too close to the child, or they need an oral stimulation. Additionally, lack of language skills to express feelings of frustration, anger and even joy, can lead to biting.
A few questions that can guide you to identify these types of situations are:
- Identify what happened right before the bite.
- Who was bit? Was it different children or the same one over and over?
- Where was the child and who was caring for the child?
- What was the child doing?
When you see signs that a child might bite you can:
- Distract the child with a book or toy. Suggest a walk to another area or a look out the window.
- Help the child verbalize what is bothering them. Examples: “You are too close to me.” “I don’t like it when you touch my arm.”
If the biting is due to a need for oral stimulation, offer the child something he or she can safely bite and chew – a cracker, a teether or a vegetable.
Toddler biting behavior is quite common, but it usually stops by age 3 to 3 ½. If the biting is not decreasing over time, it might be a good idea to request an assessment from a child development specialist. There is no quick fix, but there are many ways to have the child express emotions in a more appropriate way.