Why toddlers bite and what to do about it Why toddlers bite and what to do about it
If your toddler has suddenly started biting other children, it’s time for you to step in. Here’s why it’s happening and how to stop... Why toddlers bite and what to do about it

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If your toddler has suddenly started biting other children, it’s time for you to step in. Here’s why it’s happening and how to stop it.

When your toddler suddenly decides to use you as a chew toy, it’s hard not to take it personally. And when their fangs broaden the search to other kids and adults it can seem like a grievous parenting failure.

You’re not alone
But rest assured, your toddler hasn’t evolved into an obnoxious mini human, nor are they a ‘problem child’. You are certainly not alone. In fact, biting is extremely common in toddlers and is part of normal development, says Warren Cann, psychologist at Raising Children. “They may bite if they are angry, frustrated or upset,” he says. “Toddlers lack verbal skills, so biting can be a way of expressing emotion.”


Watch your response
While it’s only natural to feel shame or anger when your child bites you or someone else, Warren says parents’ measured responses are crucial in dealing with the behaviour. “If a bite occurs, stay neutral and calm,” he says. “How you react to the behaviour now can influence your child’s behaviour in the future.”

Step in
Increased supervision of your toddler around other children means you can interrupt the behaviour before it happens. When your child eventually starts to understand how to communicate without biting and behaves better around other children, let them know it. “Praise your toddler highly for cooperating with other children and being gentle. If praise is more rewarding for the toddler, it can encourage them to respond in a more positive manner.”


A long-term approach
However, says Warren, “if biting persists, give your child a consequence, such as being removed from the situation for a ‘time out’. Often, this kind of toddler behaviour is about getting your attention, so sending them calmly for time out sends them a very powerful message about how you’re feeling. Take a long-term view – you’ll need to keep doing this several times for your child to learn.”

Henry Okafor

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