Monday, March 22, 2010

What to do with my Biting Toddler?

Biting behavior in toddlers is a developmental response to frustration and anger. Remember that the communication skills at this age is very limited and they do not know how to respond to their environment. Toddlers who bite do not do this purposefully or maliciously. You can not assume that the child is willfully misbehaving. If you know that this is a developmental response we can intervene and teach him the right way to react to what he feels.

  • Do not bite him back because this is sending him a wrong message that biting is okay and he will be repeating it again.
  • Watch and re-direct - if he is at home and you are in the vicinity you can pretty much predict when he starts getting upset and will start to bite, try to re-direct his attention by showing him a different activity or a different toy, try to distract him. You can instruct the people at the daycare to do the same thing.
  • Teach - when a biting episode happens look into his eye sternly and talk in short sentences "biting is not good", "do not bite". Long winding explanations do not work with toddlers the meaning will be lost after a few seconds. Try to go and console the victim and make sure to let him go close to the victim to show him what he has done to cause harm.
  • Avoid playful biting - this can send mixed signals to the toddler that it is alright to bite
  • Time outs - If biting becomes worse we need to result to timeouts. One minute for each year of age. You look into their eyes and tell them in short sentences what they did wrong and go to the time out chair. This may take awhile before they understand it. Do not do this longer than the recommended time because if they stay there longer they might forget what was the reason they were put in timeout in the first place.
  • Change Day cares - you can try to look for a daycare with smaller class sizes, sometimes toddlers get frustrated when they do not get the attention so they will try to do things to get it whether it is good or bad.

First Aid for Bites:

  • after a bite wash the area very well with soap and water
  • call your pediatrician if there is a break in the skin because this might warrant prophylactic antibiotics, the mouth has a lot of bacteria which might result in infection

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