The Root of the Problem
Toddlers often bite out of frustration or anger. If their basic needs such as
hunger, thirst, toileting, naptime, and attention from an adult are
unmet, the resulting frustration brings on a bite. Meeting these basic needs
puts a stop to many occurrences of biting.
Countless children bite playmates during altercations over a toy, a snack, a
pacifier, or a position on an adult's lap. It is a defensive,
self-protective action. Teaching the child to deal with his feelings in an
acceptable manor ends this type of biting.
Some children bite as a way to bully others. This is a behavior problem
exhibited by strong willed children. Prompt intervention is required. Firmly
explain to the child that this is not acceptable behavior and that you will not
It is important to address every biting occurrence. Waiting to intervene until a
behavior pattern develops makes putting a stop to biting
harder for you and the child.
* Firmly tell the child that biting is not nice and that he is not to do it
* Provide immediate consequences for the behavior. Remove the child from the
play area. Initiate a time out or withdraw a favorite snack,
privilege, or toy. Be sure that the child is aware that the punishment is a
direct result of biting. Ask them why the punishment occurred so they
have clearly understood it's because of biting. Provide reminders that further
biting will result in undesirable consequences.
* Instruct the child to apologize for biting. Explain that biting hurts both
physically and emotionally.
* If biting occurs with an older child, ask the child why they felt the need to
bite. He or she may be able to tell you what feelings or actions led
up to the incident.
* Teach your child constructive ways to deal with frustration and feelings of
anger. Have them kick a ball outside, talk about their feelings, switch activities, or seek out the soothing comfort of a favorite toy or
* Provide praise and reward for every instance your child handles a period of
frustration or anger without biting.
* Be consistent with punishment for biting. Instruct other caregivers what to do
when biting occurs and create a unified front. Never allow
biting to slip by unpunished.
* Biting your child is not recommended. This models unwanted behavior and
confuses the child. If it is OK for you to bite him, why is it
unacceptable for him to bite another child?
You can stop biting behavior with consistent, early intervention. Set clear
behavior expectations and understandable, age-appropriate
consequences for biting. Balance punishment with positive praise when your child
chooses to react appropriately instead of biting.
by Lily Morgan
Finally...if your child's biting continues
to be a problem, you may want to
check out a program called
The Total Transformation to get a handle on
this difficult behavior. It's developed by James Lehman, MSW, who has worked for
years with troubled teens and children!
*Check out our "I
Didn't Bite Today" behavior chart!
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