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Biting and Toddlers

Finding out that your toddler has been bitten or has bitten another child can be a distressing situation, but it’s not an unusual one and is a fairly common behaviour for children aged 1 ½ to 3 years of age.

Reasons your toddler may bite include:

  • Using their mouth to explore things around them as they want to know what it is like
  • Feeling frustrated, angry or overwhelmed at a situation
  • Their inability to play co-operatively with others
  • The reaction and attention they receive from biting may make them feel very powerful
  • They don’t know how else to express their feelings
  • Using it as a self-defence mechanism towards other children.

Here are some simple things to remember to help deal with biting:

  • Respond as soon as possible. Be firm and calm and try not to over react as this may encourage them to keep doing it
  • Quickly tell your toddler not to do it again and remove them from the situation to stay with you for a while
  • Comfort the child who has been bitten, regardless of why it occurred
  • Learn to recognise the situations in which your little one may bite, then you can try and distract them before they have the opportunity
  • If your toddler bites when playing with older children, explain to the older children that your toddler may feel a little overwhelmed. You can work on ways together, to make everyone feel more included
  • Help your little one feel as if they have some control in their life by giving them some simple choices, instead of saying “Would you like to wear the red shirt today?” ask, “Would you like to wear the red or blue shirt today?”
  • Get help from other parents in preventing your toddler from biting other children when in a group setting, ask that they be firm e.g. “No we don’t bite other people”
  • Never bite back if you are bitten, as this is very frightening for your toddler and demonstrates the behaviour you are trying to avoid
  • Be patient most biting behaviour disappears as quickly as it appeared without any lasting effects.

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