How to Control Biting
Many toddlers bite because they are frustrated or angry. Sometimes children bite because they are trying to gain control over another child or because they feel powerless or frightened. Toddlers may bite because they are vying for the attention of an adult or another child. And it is not uncommon for a toddler to bite simply because he or she is overtired.
Biting cannot be prevented. Biting is a form of oral behavior which may continue normally into the second year, according to Dr. Carl Arinoldo, parenting expert and author of Essentials of Smart Parenting: Learning the Fine Art of Managing Your Children.
Biting can, however, be controlled. First things first: Do not react in an emotional manner to biting. It is important to remember that in handling toddlers, reacting to a behavioral issue in an emotionally charged manner may unintentionally reinforce the behavior that you are trying to eliminate. As a rule, never, ever use “biting back” as a technique to control biting.
There are a few strategies you can use to control biting. An immediate, calm, and firm statement of “no biting” and then distracting the child with an appropriate activity will help. Your response to biting should be quick, calm, and consistent. This will help your toddler learn to use words to express their feelings and learn to control his or her behavior.
You can also use a biting incident as an opportunity to teach your child that biting is inappropriate. Let your child aid in treating the victim, instructing them that biting “hurts” and that biting should not continue. Another strategy is to give your child ample attention when he or she is not making an inappropriate bid for attention. As an additional preventative measure, allow your child to take daily naps and make certain he or she gets a good night’s sleep.
Biting normally subsides after the second year. If your child continues to bite after he or she turns three years old, biting may be an indication of other behavioral problems, particularly if the biting incidents are numerous.