My toddler bites — What do I do?

Is your little chomper sinking his fangs into others? Get expert tips to stop your tot’s bad (but normal) behaviour!

Tots-My-toddler-bites-What-do-I-do
You bring your mini-explorer to a nearby playground to play with his pals when, suddenly, one of his playmates lets out a sharp cry of pain. You rush over to find that your pint-sized vampire is gnawing on his friend’s arm.

If your kiddo bites people, you aren’t alone. In fact, biting is a normal part of your child’s development and he will outgrow it eventually.

So, why does he do it? While toddlers bite for a variety of reasons, communication is the main cause, notes German European School Singapore counsellor Dr Hana Ra Adams. A child often demonstrates strong emotions like anger and frustration through physical means. To prevent biting incidents from happening, get to the root cause of why he bites.

Dr Adams explains, “The more you know about what caused the behaviour, the easier it will be to have strategies to manage it.” Here are possible reasons for his errant behaviour:

       * He’s teething Biting can relieve some of the pain from your sweetie’s swollen or tender gums. This process can begin from as early as 4 months. Getting him a teether can prevent him from sinking his teeth everywhere.

       * He’s trying to get your attention This is especially true of older children who bite ― your mini-me is using his bad behaviour to be attract your attention, even if it means that you’ll dole out punishment.

“As with any rules, it’s important to have clear expectations and consequences, so that junior understands that you do not condone biting.”

       * He’s exploring the world It’s the reason why he’s popping everything into his mouth. Like his hands, your tot’s uses his mouth as a tool to explore his surroundings.

       * He’s frustrated or tired Since he doesn’t yet have the ability to use words to express his emotions, your mini-me will resort to acting out his unhappiness physically. So, figure out if he’s angry with you for taking his toy away, unhappy, or if he just wants to be left alone.

Biting doesn’t mean that he has an angry personality. Dr Adams advises that you continue to send a strong message regarding the behaviour you find unacceptable. She adds that as with any rules, it’s important to have clear expectations and consequences, so that junior understands that you do not condone biting.

When you see your mini-me biting a friend, Dr Adams points out that it is vital for parents to approach the matter carefully. She suggests these steps:

1. Remove yourself and your kid from the situation that’s causing him to act out Give yourselves space and time to think, calm down and collect your thoughts before explaining your child’s misbehaviour. Lashing out at your child in the heat of the moment may end up making matters worse.

2. Emphasise that biting is not right but don’t shame him Dr Adams advises that you say: “We do not bite (insert friend’s name here). It hurts him when you bite.” When your child is old enough to understand, help him empathise with others. Ask him, “Would you like to be bitten? How would it feel if you were bitten?”

3. Verbalise your thoughts and feelings Using words to describe how you feel will help him identify his emotions. Dr Adams shares, “Say what you think might be the cause and allow your child to explain how they feel.” So, be sure to use words like “angry”, “pain” and “tired” in your questions. Once he’s older, always encourage him to use words instead of physical force on another person.

4. Always ask him to apologise Doing so will help your child understand that making mistakes is normal but it’s even more important to make amends. Should your child be too upset or angry to apologise, make sure you check on the other child.

5. Give your child enough attention throughout the day Setting aside time in a day to talk to and play with your child reduces his need to act out in order to get your attention. Ensure you spend more quality time with your child especially when major changes — like welcoming a new sibling to the household — are happening at home.

Photo: iStock

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