When your child bites another we often react with shock and disappointment and other parents around us are appalled and disapproving. Biting is no worse than swearing, hitting or pushing however the parental response is often out of proportion to the “crime” of biting. Biting is one way young children communicate so if you have a “snappy” toddler here are 5 things to consider:
- Your child might be expressing emotions for which they don’t have words. Start emotional literacy early giving children words for their feelings and using them in everyday language: “I feel uncomfortable when you lean on me like that”.
- Young children use their mouths to experiment with their world. Be vigilant and get in early before your child bites. Know your child’s warning signs and gently remove them from the situation when biting seems a likely response.
- Biting is a useful tool for defence particularly when there is competition. It works. Reduce competition for coveted toys and parental attention particularly when other children are around.
- Your child might be using biting to gain power and control over complex situations they are not developmentally ready to deal with. Sharing and turn taking are difficult tasks to master; even adults are challenged some times. Help your child to understand biting isn’t useful and share your skills when you have to wait or share: “sometimes when I feel impatient and have to wait I sing a little song to myself to pass the time”.
- Be positive and watch for good non-biting behaviour. It’s the old advice: catch them being good and give them really solid information about how they are being good: “when you told Jacob that it was your turn for the toy I felt really pleased that you used your words. “
Be patient. Like most difficult childhood behaviours biting will pass as children grow and enter the next developmental stage of emotional maturity.