You watch them get angry. You watch as they bare their teeth. Then you watch and before you know it they are chomping down hard on somebody. There is crying and tears. Howls of pain. That’s when you realize with horror it was your child who caused this nasty disturbance. It was your child that did the biting.
Teaching your child that biting is not good isn’t easy, especially if your child has a disability. It’s something as a parent you just can’t ignore though. Understanding the reasons why kids bite is the first step to helping your child stop chomping down on others.
One of the main reasons a toddler bites is because they are feeling afraid or frustrated and don’t know how to convey their feelings. By the time kids pass the toddler stage they have learned that biting hurts.parenting magazine
Some kids take longer to learn that biting hurts. Like my son for instance. He has mild cerebral palsy, and sometimes he has no connection to his feelings. No conscious it seems. He went through an extreme biting phase, especially at the age of three and four. One minute I’m forcing him to hold my hand in a busy crowd. The next he is gnawing on my fingers like carrot sticks.
I don’t believe that kids want to bite. I believe they do it because they cannot control their impulses. Babies learn to gnaw on our fingers at an early age as a way of oral discovery. Children have fears and as their fears grow, they don’t know how to handle those emotions. It’s not that a child is bad.
However, the parent of the child that is being bitten can become quite defensive. Tensions rise and anger mounts, especially if things aren’t dealt with appropriately. It’s only natural for the parent of a biting child to be concerned, but even more natural for the parent of the child bitten to become upset over the situation.
The worst thing you can do if your child is biting is punish, yell, scream or tell them they are bad. From infancy when a child bites using loud words like “Ouch!” or “That hurts!” conveys to the child that biting is wrong. For toddler’s you can make them apologize for their actions. Make them responsible for their behavior.
It’s hard to remember that our children have feelings. Ones they can’t always control. You may feel “Oh not another tantrum” or “He’s still biting” but this is a time for you to connect with your child. To provide for them the safety and comfort they need to help them sort out all those feelings they are having.
Reasons Your Child May Be Biting
- Relief from teething pain
- Explore cause and effect
- Oral stimulation
- Anger issues
- To get attention
- Hungry or to communicate emotions
So what can you do?
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of having my fingers used as a snacking option. I hate seeing Trace get so upset, let alone hurting another child for whatever his reasons are. However, I want him to stop biting and I want him to do it without me having to yell or get frustrated.
Here are some ways to help your child stop the biting
- Have the right expectations for your child’s age and consequences that match when biting occurs.
- Provide toys or activities that offer your child a way to relax and relieve their tensions.
- Use deep breathing exercises, yoga or other forms of relaxation to keep frustrations at bay.
- Offer gentle reminders that biting is considered “bad behavior”
- Never let babies bite on your fingers. Give babies teethers, toys or other teething aids to let them get their chew on as this will teach them biting people is not an option.
- Teach your child ways to release their frustration like yelling in a pillow, using a punching bag, or just taking a deep breath and hugging it out.
- Go for a visit to your local library and take out a book on biting and read it to your child. Your child seeing such a big place with a book on biting being bad will help them understand.
- Get to the bottom of the issue. Your child is biting for a reason.
For Trace, he bites out of frustration. I know it’s because he can’t always communicate with us and he hates getting frustrated. So he turns to bite. I’ve been following a few of these steps to help him.
Remember that not all children are the same. My pediatrician told me getting to the root of the problem (or reason for biting) is the first and most important step to stopping the behavior pattern from happening.