I hate to say it but my 14 month old son is a “serial” biter, he bites me, his classmates and even MY MOM. This is embarrassing and it hurts. Help!
Don’t despair, biting is quite common for infants and toddlers and if handled with sensitivity and patience the phase is usually short-lived. There are a multitude of reasons for your bundle of joy to become a “serial biter”. Infants and toddlers learn by touching and tasting so young children may not understand the difference between tasting and biting. Other causes of biting are: teething, imitation, asserting their independence, stress, an attempt to gain attention and frustration.
Strategies for Preventing Biting:
- Try to determine the situations when biting incidents most frequently occur. A tired, hungry or overexcited child may lash out at unsuspecting child or adult. Being prepared and knowing your child’s cues may be the key to heading off a biting episode.
- A toddler’s bid for attention can precede a bite. Children that bite soon discover that a strategically placed bite will certainly get a grown-ups attention. Encourage your toddler to use language to communicate with you. This will help head off further biting incidents. Teaching your toddler to say “more juice” for example will preclude the need for him/her to give you a good bite for not understanding what they want.
- With infants simply giving them something to gnaw on may keep them from gnawing on you!
- Play biting or giving “love bites” sends mixed signals to your infant or toddler.
- If a child is experiencing a stressful emotion situation like a move to a new home, divorce or even a lack of daily routine this can cause children to act out. Predictable meal times and bed times and extra snuggle time and attention for children experiencing emotional turmoil can go a long way to minimizing the stress in a child’s life.
- Your response to a biting incident can also serve to minimize or increase the likelihood of the recurrence of biting. When a child bites looks directly into the child’s eye and with a firm but calm voice let them know that biting is not acceptable. Yelling or very emotional outbursts may reward your toddler’s need for attention.
Finally, take a deep breath, and know that you are not alone. Many toddler parents face the dilemma of learning how to redirect the behavior of their beloved biter. At Tartt’s Day Care Center’s in Boston we specialize in the care and education of infants and toddlers. We understand that when a child bites parents are stressed and often embarrassed. Our strategies for redirecting a child’s behavior involve encouraging language, teaching nurturing behavior and understanding that patience and love make all of the difference.
“Ask The Director “ is written by Wanda Geer in collaboration with Anita Handy and Nida Wright. Director’s at Tartt’s Day Care Centers Inc. their combined childcare experience totals 40 years.