Why Do Toddlers Bite?
Posted by: Sue Atkins
In this episode:
Why Do Toddlers Bite?
Night Terrors Explained
How To Stop Nail Biters, Thumb Suckers and Nose Pickers!
Sue Atkins in Conversation with Amanda Seyderhelm Play Therapist, Author and Grief Specialist.
Connect with Amanda Seyderhelm
I’ve been working 1-2-1, coaching a mum & dad worried about their little girl waking in the night with night terrors.
Toddlers do the most adorable things: Give unexpected hugs, squeal with laughter, and cuddle up to you when they’re tired.
But as any parent of a toddler will tell you, they also do some not-so-adorable things, like kick, scream … or bite.
Biting is quite common in kids this age, but that’s little consolation if your toddler bites. After all, no one wants their child to be considered the menace of the play group, nursery or childminders. And worse yet, kids who are labelled “biters” may get asked to leave — a challenge that no working parent wants to face.
You may think biting is just another phase you’ll have to live through, but that’s not necessarily the case. There are ways to get to the bottom of your toddler’s biting habit. Here’s how to help curb this type of behaviour.
Vampires 🧛♀️ at the Nursery !
Biting amongst little ones is a distressing but common problem for parents. But why do toddlers bite and how can you prevent it?
Why toddlers bite..
I think it’s really helpful to understand why your toddler may start biting before you start trying to change their behaviour. One of the reasons is because toddlers have limited developed language at this age.
But some of the probable and common reasons that toddlers bite are:
Cutting teeth hurts and chewing on something usually relieves that nagging aching pain and since toddlers are egocentric and can’t put themselves in the place of others they don’t understand that they are hurting another child or you yet. It’s a natural stage in their development that you need to understand.
This explains the look of puzzlement, lack of concern and disconnection that you often see on their faces when you shout at them in horror and shock. They don’t understand about empathy or another person’s pain yet.
Anyone who has spent any time with babies and toddlers knows that they put everything in their mouths so this also includes other children and adults sometimes!
Biting is sometimes a way of learning about another child usually for babies, but sometimes for toddlers too, and is not a sign of malice.
Cause and Effect.
Around about 9-months-old, depending on the maturity of your little one, babies and toddlers begin to make the connection that their actions have consequences on the people around them. They quickly learn “If I bite my brother Joshua, I hear a high pitched scream from Mum and get a lot of attention. I wonder if she will keep coming over if I do it again.”
They are learning about getting your attention and any attention is better than being ignored. So one quick strategy is to pay far more attention to the person who has been bitten and to calmly but swiftly remove them from the scene of the crime and say ‘No biting!’ and ignore them for a few minutes.
Don’t try and stop your little one by smacking them or biting them back! They will just copy that behaviour next as you are their primary role model.
Biting can sometimes be a way of gaining attention so be careful not to give more attention to the biter than the victim. Remember a big telling off still means your child is in the spotlight – even if they are getting into trouble.
Toddlers are learning to have an impact on their world and biting definitely has an impact.
Frustration, Tiredness or Stress.
Some toddlers bite when they are tired or hungry. Sometimes toddlers bite when they feel rushed or when one of you is working away from home or is late home and they have missed you. It’s a combination of frustration, tiredness and stress. So just be on the look out for a change in circumstances and be understanding and compassionate for the underlying reason but not the behaviour!
Anxiety and Insecurity
Toddlers often resort to aggressive behaviour when they feel insecure. Pick up your little one and cuddle them when visitors arrive or they are going into new situations. While they are getting used to new experiences, let them stay close to you. Don’t vanish into the kitchen straight away chatting to friends for a coffee but show them how to play with new children by joining in yourself for the first ten minutes or so to reassure them.
What do I do when toddlers bite?
While it is important to know that biting is a common age related behaviour for toddlers, it’s just as important to accept that biting is not an acceptable behaviour.
You must help your toddler to control their urge to bite other children by responding quickly and firmly.
“Stop” is a better word that “No” as it captures your toddler’s immediate attention and describes the action you want to stop. It’s also a positive word as opposed to a negative one.
Then take immediate action because discipline for toddlers is most effective when it occurs immediately after their unacceptable behaviour. Where possible, the biting child should usually be dealt with first and should be removed from the situation and given some “Time out” and a chance to cool down.
Then you can look at the possible reasons for the biting and make judgements about how to help your child learn from the experience. If they are hungry, tired or stressed then it’s up to you to look at new ways to prevent those flash points but if it is over a toy show them better ways to share and express themselves.
Is your child a nose picker, a hair eater or a nail biter?
Here are some ideas to help stamp out your kids’ anti-social habits! 😊
In the Sue Atkins Book Club this week
How To Keep Safe: …in a sometimes scary world by Jo Fitzgerald
The Early Years Story Box by Stacey Kelly
Great books to Teach Kids Financial Literacy
- Financial literacy is an essential skill for every child to learn! Money is an integral part of modern life, and whether your child is a preschooler counting coins, an elementary school child saving for a new toy, a tween learning about investing, or a teen budgeting for school expenses or their first full-time job, there are plenty of opportunities to teach kids how to earn, save, spend, donate, and invest. And yet a recent study from the Girl Scouts found that only 12% of girls aged 8 to 17 feel very confident making financial decisions, proof that we need to do more to improve kids’ financial literacy.
In the Parentverse this week
Dr Gail Sinitsky – Creator of ‘Young & Mighty’ a social enterprise with a mission to nurture children’s mental health.
Nikki Saunders – Author of ‘My Awesome Autism’
The terrific two’s ! Raising toddlers positively
Don’t Stew – Ask Sue Parenting Q & A
Free ebook, The Positive Parent Daily Workout
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