Toddlers biting is not that unusual,” say the childless pediatrician.
Please resist the urge to shake the doctor until her teeth rattle. There is little comfort in knowing most children bite at one time or the other.
So why do they bite?
Psychologists admit most children have bitten someone at least once, or been on the receiving end of a bite. Fear, anger and frustration top the list of reasons why children bite. Someone having bitten the child is the next reason.
Major, and even some minor, changes in a child’s environment can cause emotional upset a toddler does not have sufficient verbal communication skills to express. This frustration, born of anger or fear, manifests in aggression.
What do I do?
Investigate the nature of the circumstances in which the child bit to determine why. New baby, new home and/or new school are often the triggers for aggressive behavior. Toddlers do not have an understanding of their feelings and the words to say, “I don’t like this.”
This particular investigation should include all areas where the child is involved, including play groups and babysitting situations. Identifying the source of the behavior is necessary to keeping it from recurring.
This is too (much) fun!
Some children will bite to show they are excited or over-stimulated. They choose biting to change the focus of the activity. Time to calm the child is in order. Time out or a nap work equally as well.
Other children will bite as a misguided attempt at affection. When the little vampire sinks his fangs into your shoulder, before you snap, gauge her reaction to what she has done.
I wuv you!
If your child appears to be proud of the love nip, chances are he has mistaken biting for kissing. Gently showing him the difference will make the distinction more clear to him. Do this by kissing, not biting.
Does she have a quizzical look? She may be trying to see what effect biting has on you. The best reaction is to cloud up as if to cry and explain biting hurts. She may have seen this behavior elsewhere, or been bitten herself. Remember, baby’s mouth is where all information goes to be processed first.
Look at me!
Make sure that she will be welcomed at daycare, play school or preschool by checking with the caregiver. She may be gauging her playmates’ reactions to this new attention-getting technique she has discovered. She may have been on the other end of a bite.
The most important thing to keep in mind is children have no instinct to attack one another or you. Children’s primary focus is to explore, learn and play with their friends, family and siblings. Once you pinpoint the reason behind the biting, curbing it is really simple.
How many of your (grand) children bit a parent or another child? How did you handle it?
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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