Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Biting and How To Respond To It

Before toddlers develop language and are able to express themselves accurately, they often resort to more physical ways of getting out  heir emotions. One of these ways is by biting. As infants and toddlers are very orally fixated to begin with, it is very common that a child might express their frustration by biting. It is necessary to know how to respond to such behavior in order to prevent it from becoming a habit.

First of all, it is important to know why a child might decide to bite. Toddlers bite for many reasons--while fighting over toys, after being told not to do something, or even just feeling frustrated by their own body's inability to do something and acting out on whomever was closest to them. A toddler might also bite to get attention, if they are feeling threatened, or to feel in control.

Behavior such as biting can bring up strong emotions in us as caretakers.  The greatest gift we can give to these toddlers is remaining as calm and zen-like as possible.  Knowing why a toddler might decide to bite is helpful in preventing it before it happens. Watching children's behavior closely and looking for the signs that have lead to biting in the past will make it much easier to intervene. Other ways to prevent biting are to make sure that toddler's have consistent and predictable schedules and many activities to keep them occupied. It might also help to have appropriate items for a toddler to bite nearby, so that they are able to express their feelings without hurting anyone and they can be offered something else to bite.

While, ideally, it would be great to always be able to be close enough to step in before a child bites, that is not always the case. The way one chooses to respond to the situation after a child has decided to bite can determine whether or not it becomes a habit. It is important to use language that does not shame the child who has done the biting. Instead of saying "don't bite" rephrase it to "I won't let you bite", placing a hand to keep both children safe and offering the reminder, "Everyone likes gentle touches.  Let's practice!"  It is also important to say these things as calmly as possible, so the child does not see biting as a way to receive attention. If another child was bitten, it is helpful to explain the situation to them clearly and let them know that you understand that they are in pain.

Dealing with a child who bites can be very frustrating for adults, but it is important to remember that it is also frustrating for the child. Hopefully by keeping these things in mind, it can ease some worries and allow for a helpful response to biting.

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