Toddlers who bite

You’ll be glad to know that biting amongst toddlers is common. It’s not just your child who does it! In most cases it’s just a phase they go through. We take a look at why toddlers bite and ways to help eliminate their biting altogether.
In this article we take a look at the reasons why toddlers bit and ways to help stop the biting.

Biting amongst toddlers is quite common. It’s not just your child who does it, and in most cases it’s just a phase they go through.

Why toddlers bite

There are many reasons why toddlers bite, but ultimately it’s their way of coping when they’re unable to express their frustration, when they're over-tired, when they're unable to communicate effectively or they're stressed.

Biting is a substitute for their words and feelings.

Toddlers don’t always have the necessary language skills to communicate effectively with others about their feelings. Instead they bite someone when they can’t explain what they want or feel.

Life as a toddler can be stressful as they learn about the world around them.

Toddler tantrums and the 'terrible twos' are common and it’s not unusual for biting to occur during one of their fits as a means of expressing their anger.

Biting can make them feel powerful because of the reaction and attention they get as a result of biting someone else.
Having to share things such as toys and books is one of the most common triggers for biting. Toddlers who are still too young to understand the true concept of sharing and taking turns, often resort to biting other children.

Commonly, although not always the case, it’s the youngest child in the family who is the family biter. While their older siblings can easily communicate their needs and get what they want, toddlers are often frustrated when they can’t do the same.

Anticipate the biting

By trying to understand the underlying cause of why your child is biting, it will help you develop an effective response and ultimately eliminate their behaviour.

Firstly try to anticipate when a bite might occur and identify the kinds of situations which often lead to your child biting others.

For example:
  • What was your child doing right before they bit someone?
  • Who was your child playing with?
  • Do they always bite the same child or different children each time?
  • Where was your child when they bit someone?
  • Who was looking after your child?

Ways to help stop the biting

If you see signs that your toddler might be about to bite someone:
  • Try to keep your reaction as minimal as possible.
  • Kneel down to your toddler’s level and say ‘Biting hurts. Don’t do it.’ They might not understand to begin with, but by explaining every time, they’ll soon get the message.
  • Remove them from the situation to prevent further biting.
  • Wait until they are calm and explain in age-appropriate terms why biting others is not okay.
  • Suggest how they might handle the situation that is triggering the need to bite with examples they can understand.
  • Try distracting your toddler with a book or toy or go for a walk to help reduce the tension and shift your child’s attention elsewhere.
  • Suggest ways they can share with their friends and take turns playing with the same things.
Although it's not always easy, remember it's a phase they're going through and it will soon pass.

When you do catch your little one playing nicely, make sure to praise them to help reinforce their good behaviour.

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