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  • Writer's picture Sally Rustomji

Why Do Toddlers Bite?

Toddlers are a lot of fun. They are entertaining and have a way of melting our hearts. However, as they grow, they can become more difficult to handle. They’re learning about the world and themselves, and sometimes that means they’re going to bite. It can be very difficult for parents and educators, but with a happy attitude and a few tips to work together, hopefully this will be a phase that does not last to long.

Understanding why a toddler bites is the first step to helping manage the biting. Sometimes the reason may not be clear, but other times it can be quite obvious. It might be normal behavior for a child, but it happens for a variety of reasons. By biting, toddlers may aspire to:

1. Relieve Teething Pain

Teething is one of the most common reasons for biting. Babies and toddlers can’t tell you that their gums are sore and need something to chew on, so they may try to bite you instead. New teeth fill in, and their gums may be sensitive, so they may bite to relieve the pain.

2. Get Attention

Toddlers bite as a way to get attention from parents and other people. They’re learning about their world and are trying to figure out how they fit in. When they see people or hear sounds that capture their interest, they may bite to get closer or learn more about something. The act of biting can be a means of attention-seeking.

3. Express Their Emotions

Biting is a way for toddlers to express their emotions. They’re trying to tell you what they’re feeling, but they don’t have the words yet. Toddler biting may be a cry for help, but it’s also an attempt to express the anger or frustration they’re feeling.

4. Change In Routine

Mealtime, bedtime, and other daily routines can be difficult for toddlers. They’re struggling to understand their world, so disruptions in their habit may frustrate them. Sometimes they may bite as a way to get back at you or express their frustration at the change.

5. Must Feel In Control

Biting is a way for toddlers to feel in control of the situation and themselves. If they’re unable to control their body, they’ll bite as a way to gain some control over it. They are asserting independence and power.

The Best Way To Handle Toddler Biting

Knowing the reasons behind the biting and having a plan to prevent it will help you handle toddler biting. You can use these tips and tricks to help you.

1. Create a Positive Habit

The most common reason for toddler biting is to get your attention. If you can prevent them from biting by ignoring them, they’ll stop biting. Establishing a positive habit can help, but it may take some time. If you can get your toddler to bite a toy instead of you, they’ll learn that biting isn’t the way to get attention and will stop doing it.

To create a positive habit, you need to work on the following:

  • STAY CALM – When your toddler bites you, it can be a scary and stressful experience. But try not to let it get the best of you. When you’re upset, you might respond in ways that make the situation worse, which is not what you want. Your child will learn from your actions and respond accordingly, so if you react calmly, it will help them learn how to respond similarly.

  • PATIENCE – Toddlers learn by copying. So, if you’re patient, your toddler will be too. If you start getting irritated, they’ll likely follow suit and start feeling frustrated. If you show patience and kindness, your toddler will be more likely to respond the same way.

  • IGNORE IT – If your toddler bites you, don’t respond with bad words or other negative behavior that encourages them to continue chewing. Instead, ignore it. Pretend they didn’t bite you and act as if nothing happened. If they know that you won’t react negatively, they’ll be more likely to stop biting altogether.

2. Distract Your Toddler

If your toddler bit you, don’t let their bad behavior bother you. Adults are trained to deal with one or two bites, but toddlers bite to get your attention, so you’ll have to show them there’s a better way than biting. If they bite you, don’t respond in anger or get upset by it. Instead, distract your toddler from their bad behavior and play with them.

Distraction is a good way to keep your toddler biting fingers safe and away from trouble. Rather came up with an idea for specific activities to distract toddlers, but you can use anything you have on hand. 

3. Reward Positive Behavior

If you notice positive behavior in your toddler, reward them with a fun activity. Toddlers biting fingers can be frustrating and annoying, but they learn as they grow older. Positive reinforcement will help them make more positive future choices and encourage good behavior. Whether it’s a surprise, an ice cream treat, or a happy dance, rewarding positive behavior will enable it to continue.

Toddlers are just trying to figure out how the world and their bodies work. They’re learning what comes naturally and what their environment expects of them.

4. Establish A Daily Routine

In toddlers, biting is a natural part of learning how to use their mouths. They are testing out their teeth and gums, exploring their new world of food and drink, and figuring out how best to communicate with you and others.

5. Be consistent

If your child has a dummy at home, do not withdraw this when they are in childcare. Children may be used to biting down on a dummy and so they are looking for something to replace this. Children do not understand why this has been taken away from them. If you are removing a dummy during childcare sessions then it should aslo be removed at home. Be consistent with approaches.

What Should You AVOID When Handling a Toddler Bite?

When dealing with a toddler’s behaviour, there are a few things you should never do:

1. Shouting or Shaming

Yelling or shaming is never a good approach when handling a toddler bite. 

Shouting at your child will not help you calm him down, and it will likely worsen things. It can also make your child scared of you, which is not the goal here!

2. Forced Apology

Biting is not an intentional act on your toddler’s part. It is a behavior that develops as they grow and learn. If you want your child to stop biting, you must make them feel safe enough to express their feelings. This means taking a step back and letting them know it’s okay.

3. Bite Back

You probably think you’re a good parent by biting back, but it’s the worst thing you can do. Bad child behaviour can only be changed with good adult behavior, so bite your tongue and think about what you’ll do next before you do it.

4. Reward System or Bribery

Don’t try to bribe the child from their bite by giving them a treat or attention. This will only reinforce their biting behavior, and they will continue to use it as a way to get what they want.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with bites from toddlers is not easy, but there are many ways you can help. If you follow these steps, and work together with your childcare provider your little one will understand that it’s unacceptable to bite people, and they’ll learn how they can use their natural biting instincts in positive ways.

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