We’ve all had those shameful moments in parenting when our children do something less than desirable.
They may announce they need to poo during a fancy dinner party. They may tantrum in the middle of the supermarket. Or, they may bite another child on the playground.
If your child has a habit of biting, either you or other people, know that you’re not alone. Biting is actually very common for toddlers. But it is also something you probably want to prevent from happening.
First things first, WHY does my toddler bite?
There is no one-size-fits all reason when faced with the question of why does my toddler bite. Parenting coach and Blissed Out Mums owner Heather Lindsay explains, “The reason a toddler may be biting is different for each individual child. If you placed five children in a line who have just bitten another child, they will probably have all bitten for a different reason.”
Some children may bite because they are angry or frustrated. Others may bite for attention or because it gets a reaction out of their parent. Biting can also be a way for toddlers to express that they are feeling overwhelmed or scared.
“It is essential to understand that all behaviour [including biting] is communication,” Heather tells Mum Central. “When our child does something they are trying to express a need, want, desire or an emotion.”
Toddlers are busy learning all sorts of new skills. But their language skills aren’t quite developed enough to fully communicate what they need and how they feel.
“As they grow, they will then be able to have more appropriate ways to communicate their needs to those around them.”
But, until then, it’s our duty to teach our toddlers that biting is not appropriate and to be aware of the signs that it could happen again.
How to stop toddlers from biting
Be proactive in prevention. Look for the warning signs that your toddler could be getting worked up and remove the triggers from the equation before the biting begins.
“Understand what mood they are in, or if they’re in a situation that may upset them or push them to act out.
If you are a parent of a child who bites another child when he or she has to share toys, then make sure your child plays only in an area with multiple toys and has an adult close to helping with sharing,” Heather suggests.
“If you are a parent of a child who bites when they start to get overwhelmed, overstimulated or overtired, try and avoid situations when you child feels this way in the first place. This may mean having play dates in the morning not in the afternoon, avoiding noisy, overstimulating play centres, making sure your child sleeps well.”
What to do if your toddler bites
Try Heather’s 5’C to Discipline approach. This is effective in addressing all inappropriate behaviour, including biting toddlers.
1. Remain Calm – A child does not learn a lesson when they are shouted at. They hear and feel the emotion behind your words but they won’t understand the lesson.
2. Contain – Removing our child and ourselves from a stressful situation not only helps us and our child to remain calm but allows our child to more easily hear what we say.
3. Connect – Before disciplining our child we should connect with them. It could be simply asking them if they are okay, or giving them a hug or perhaps even just looking at them in the eyes. Ensure that your child knows that you are there for them, and with them. Get down on their level, sit down and be close to them.
4. Correct – Use clear words and phrases. Reinforce the expectations you have for your child. When we talk to our children about behaviour then we must speak about ‘unacceptable behaviour’. When we discipline, it is the behaviour we are wishing to change, not our child.
5. Communicate Love – Remind them that we are connected to them, appreciate them, and of course love them, even when they have unacceptable behaviour.
We’ve all been left feeling ashamed, angry, frustrated and confused as to why our toddlers are acting out. Although it’s perfectly normal for toddlers to tantrum, hit, even bite, it’s not something any parent wants to deal with, especially when it keeps happening over and over again.
If you are wondering why does my toddler bite, keep the above points in mind. Be patient. Be proactive. And, most importantly, be aware of how your toddler is feeling.
Want more useful toddler advice? Check out this smart hack for helping clear a blocked toddler nose.