Q: Why is my toddler biting — and how can I stop it?
A: If your toddler is biting other children, play dates can quickly go south. But it doesn’t necessarily mean your child has serious behavioral problems.
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Biting can happen if kids are teething, feeling frustrated about not being able to verbally communicate their feelings or because of a need for more oral or sensory stimulation.
If your child bites another child, here are some ways to handle it:
- Intervene right away, but remain calm.
- Make sure the child who was bitten is not hurt.
- Tell the biting child in a very neutral tone that biting is not OK.
- Redirect the child to another, more positive activity.
While it’s common to say things such as “we don’t bite our friends” or “we don’t bite mommy or daddy,” this actually gives the children permission to bite others that aren’t their friends or family. Instead, focus on making brief statements, such as “we don’t bite.”
Talk to your child’s caregivers if the biting continues. Also, remember that it’s not out of the ordinary for children under age 2 to bite others. It does not mean your child is bad — it just means they’re going through a phase.
If the biting continues, or you feel you need additional assistance, there are many books written for both toddlers and parents, such as “Teeth Are Not for Biting” by Elizabeth Verdick and Marieka Heinlen or “Little Dinos Don’t Bite” by Michael Dahl, as well as songs and videos that can assist with addressing the behavior. Talk with your pediatrician. They can provide additional assessment and reassurance.
— Child psychologist Kate Eshleman, PsyD.