Biting is a normal behaviour in toddlers; they bite for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons are: to express feelings of anger or frustration, fatigue, to seek attention, to explore the world around them. Although most toddlers eventually outgrow the biting phase, it is a habit that should be discouraged right from the start. There are several ways to change your toddler’s habit of biting.
1. Understand the cause: Watch your toddler closely to understand what causes him to bite. Most of the time, toddlers bite to seek attention or out of frustration and anger. Spend enough time with your child so that she doesn’t feel lonely or ignored. You can indulge in some activities like playing together or telling her a story to make her feel that she is being showered with attention.
2. Remind your child: Keep reminding your child every now and again that biting hurts. Also, look out for signs of unrest and discomfort in her, and address the issues immediately. This will prevent her from resorting to biting out of frustration or irritation. Occasionally, reinforce to your child that teeth are for eating and not for biting. Such positive reminders go a long way in helping a child learn self-control.
3. Stop play biting: Engaging in play biting with your toddler can send out the wrong signals to your child. He may assume that biting is a way of expressing love and affection, and having fun. So, the next time he wants to show his love to someone around him, he might indulge in biting. However, unfortunately, he may not understand the difference between a soft bite and a hard one, and thus end up sinking his teeth deep and hurting the ‘victim’.
4. Offer chewy toys: If you find that your child often has the urge to bite things, give her a chewy toy, teething rings or a piece of wet cloth. Tell her that it is okay to bite the toy when she feels the urge to bite.
5. Maintain schedules: Don’t change your toddler’s mealtimes and bedtimes. A hungry and tired toddler can turn cranky and throw tantrums, and resort to biting. So, ensure that your child is fed at the right time and receives adequate rest.
6. Help your child relax: Some children feel scared or overwhelmed by the goings-on around them. This can cause them to bite in an attempt to regain control. If you feel that your child is feeling scared or overwhelmed, reassure her that there is nothing to worry about and everything is under control. Also, if you see a situation developing where your toddler would end up biting, act in time to diffuse the situation.
7. Allow an outlet for feelings: Sometimes, allow your child to cry and throw up a tantrum. This will give him an opportunity to give vent to his feelings of irritation and anger. It will also prevent the situation from progressing to the point where he feels the urge to bite to show his frustration.
8. Offer choices: Toddlers are very independent and prone to exerting control. So, offer your child opportunities to make choices to help her feel in control. Simple things like allowing her to choose the shoe she wants to wear can help her feel in control. This will go a long way in reducing her biting behaviour.
9. Console the victim: Separate the victim from your child and attend to him. Seeing the victim get all the love, attention and sympathy can prompt a toddler to stop biting. If possible, involve your toddler too in consoling the victim. Also, take this opportunity to talk to your toddler and understand what prompted him to bite.
As a parent, remember that modifying a child’s behaviour takes time. So, be patient and unrelenting in your efforts to change your child’s habit of biting. However, if you are unable to change your child’s behaviour over a period of time, take the help of a professional to pinpoint the reasons and come up with strategies.