Handling Biting Behavior

piranha.jpgToday, Heather shares tips on handling biting behavior:

“Adie, my sweet 17-month-old daughter, has been tagged with a new nickname: Piranha! To our dismay, she is a biter and we all have fallen victim to her chompers. In an effort to nip this problem in the bud, I have sought the advice of teachers, childcare providers, child behavior specialists, and fellow moms of biters. Here are some tips for handling biting behavior:

  • Regardless of what may have provoked the incident, consistently show strong disapproval through words (e.g., “No biting. Biting hurts.”) and manner. Be clear that biting is unacceptable.

  • Avoid any immediate response that reinforces the biting, including dramatic negative attention. Remove the biter immediately without emotion and direct caring attention to the bitten child. We set up a pack-n-play within sight of our play area that we use as a cool down space for Adie.

  • Work with the biting child on resolving conflict or frustration in a more appropriate manner, such as using language if the child is able to.

  • Give your child an object (we have a teething toy) to bite on when they feel the need.

  • Examine the context in which the biting occurs and look for patterns. It may help to chart every occurrence, including attempted bites, location, time, participants, and circumstances. You may be able to profile the behavior patterns and the environmental context of biters and victims. Was it crowded? Too few toys? Too little to do? Too much waiting? Is the biting child getting the attention and care he deserves at all times or only when he acts out? Can you determine when he or she is likely to bite? Some children, for example, may bite not when they are angry or frustrated, but when they are very excited. Adie does both!

  • Teach non-biting responses to situations and reinforce appropriate behavior in potential biting situations.

  • Do not bite back or do anything that would reinforce the negative behavior.

    Hang in there and be consistent. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to solve biting overnight. Because biting is natural, age appropriate behavior for many toddlers, the most we can do is prepare for biting, maintain perspective while it is happening, and do all we can to minimize the occurrences.”

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    Editor’s Note: Click here for more tips on biting, via a column I recently wrote for Care.com.

    Image credit: Kai Piranha Dental Floss Holder, available at Wrapables