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How to stop your toddler biting

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How to stop your toddler biting

You're standing at the sink washing dishes when all of a sudden, "Ouch!" You look down and see your tyke chomping on your leg. This behaviour has gone on for far too long. Maybe you should just take your grandma's advice and bite your tot back. That'll teach the little stinker not to sink those teeth into anyone else. Not so fast. Grandma is wise, but this is one piece of advice you should definitely ignore. There are more humane ways to stop toddler biting.

Not all toddlers bite, but a fair amount of them go through a phase where they occasionally snack on others. Sometimes, even the family pooch can get a taste of what a toddler's teeth can do. Don't panic. Tots don't bite because they're mean or malicious. They do it because it's a normal part of their development.

Young children do not have the language skills they need to communicate their wants, needs, and emotions. Biting is simply a way for them to tell you they are angry, frustrated, hungry, over-stimulated, teething, tired or excited. Toddlers also bite to express a need for attention or to satisfy a need for stimulation.

When your toddler bites, don't ignore it in hopes that it will go away. Your little one isn't going to realize suddenly that biting is wrong and stop. Ignoring the behaviour will send the message that biting is an acceptable way to deal with problems.
So how do you stop toddler biting without resorting to grandma's "foolproof" bite back method?

Pay attention to the things that happen right before your toddler bites. Does your tot bite when he's hungry? When he's in large groups? When you're chatting on the phone? When he hasn't had enough rest? If you can pinpoint what triggers your toddler's biting rampages, you can avoid putting him in these situations.

When your child plays with others, stand close by so you can thwart biting attempts. If you see your child trying to bite someone, gently place the tip of your fingers over his mouth and firmly say, "No biting. Biting hurts." You can also use a teething ring, toy or book to distract him.

Seeing your child bite someone is frustrating, infuriating and embarrassing. However, it's important to keep your emotions in check. If you blow your top, it's only going to cause more stress for everyone involved. If you are upset, take a deep breath and calm down before you handle your youngster. Don't take too long, though. You need to deal with your toddler's actions immediately. Otherwise, the kid won't understand why you're reprimanding him.

When your toddler bites another child, remove him from the situation and say, "Biting hurts and it is not okay," and then turn your attention to the victim. If you shower the perpetrator with attention after he bites someone, even if it's negative, it can encourage the behaviour to continue.

Teach your youngster how to put his feelings into words. For instance, if your toddler bites because someone snatched his favourite toy, teach your child to say, "I don't like when you take my toys." Your toddler won't understand at first, but over time, he will learn to express his feelings with words instead of teeth.


Jennifer Williams

Jennifer is a mother of two and a registered NHS nurse dealing with children on a daily basis. She writes about childhood development and her own experiences as a parent.

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