Biting is a developmentally appropriate behavior for toddlers. Many children experiment with biting between the ages of 1-3. The child’s caregivers play a pivotal role in helping the child develop more positive problem solving behaviors during this time.
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. See more at: http://families.naeyc.org/learning-and-development/child-development/understanding-and-responding-children-who-bite#sthash.z7m5UZsx.dpuf
Children bite for a variety of reasons.
- A lack of impulse control. Young toddlers have a minimal amount of impulse control. As they grow and develop their impulse control also grows and develops making aggressive behavior less and less of an issue.
- An inability to express themselves. As children become more independent they are also expected to be able to express their needs and wants on their own. For some children this is a very challenging task as language skills may take longer to develop.
- Break in routine. Children thrive with routine and consistency. A break in routine may cause confusion and frustration with a child sometimes resulting in biting.
- Sickness, hunger, or being overtired. A child who is not feeling him/herself and is not able to communicate that they are not feeling well may very well resort to biting to help ease their frustration and discomfort.
- Unrealistic expectations. Often unrealistic expectations are imposed upon a young toddler. Expectations such as waiting an extended time for a turn or having to share a beloved toy. Not being able to meet these expectations can often result in biting.
- Oral/Sensory Stimulation. A child may be teething or just have sensory needs are not being met.
Parents/caregivers can help to prevent biting by doing some of these things.
- Be aware of children’s verbal and non-verbal cues. Being in tune to the child’s cues will enable the caregiver to role model appropriate communication for the child that does not include biting.
- Keep a consistent routine. Or when that is not possible make sure that everyone involved with the child is aware that his/her routine is off and the child may need more support than usual.
- Be sensitive to a child whom is not feeling him/herself. A light snack of a handful of cheerios and a small cup of water to tide a child over until lunch may be all it takes to help him/her feel better. A quiet spot where a child can rest (not necessarily sleep), relax and take a break from other stimulation may also help to ease any frustration when a child isn’t feeling great.
- Make sure expectations are age appropriate. Most children don’t start to understand the concept of sharing until the ages of 2 and 3. Whenever possible, provide extras of favorite toys to avoid sharing conflict or put favorite toys out of sight when other children are over.
- Sensory play is a huge part of a toddler’s day. Provide many opportunities for children to explore with their five senses. Teething can be very painful. Provide teething toddlers with a teether or other tools to help relieve some of their discomfort. Here is a link with some teething strategies. http://www.babycenter.com/0_teething-remedies-how-to-treat-teething-pain_10357438.bc
Occasionally, a toddler will bite on a more frequent basis causing anxiety for the caregiver and often even more frustration for the child who is biting.
If this is the case, some more permanent strategies will need to be put into place for that child.
Try logging the child’s biting attempts or bites. Figuring out what thing or things are precipitating the bites will help the caregiver better meet the child’s needs.
Make sure all the adults who interact with the child are on the same page when redirecting the child when biting does occur. When a child bites, address them with in a firm (non-yelling) voice with a simple 2-3 word sentence. For example: No biting. Biting hurts. Immediately meet the needs of the child who was bitten and then redirect the child who did the biting to a different activity that will hopefully meet their needs better. When adults react differently to biting instances it can be confusing for the child.
Avoid situations that could potentially trigger a bite, situations such as areas when children are crowded together in small spaces or situations where a wait could be too long.
Above all else, remember that this is a stage that the child is working through. Every child will need different strategies based on their personality and learning style. The most important thing is for all the adults in the child’s life to provide them with a nurturing and loving support system as the child works through this stage.