Toddler Turned Shark

I have a biter on my hands. Unfortunately I’m not talking about a toddler nibbling on food, I’m talking about my 18-month-old chomping down on other people. He thinks it’s a game. When he bites it’s usually not because he’s upset and trying to retaliate, it’s because he’s excited. He gave me a huge smile and then bit down on my thigh when he saw me this morning (I had slept in). When Chris got home yesterday morning, he squealed in delight and then chomped down on Chris’ shoulder while he was hugging him.

Although we don’t like being bitten–it hurts and leaves a mark every time–and we always reprimand Mason when he bites us, I had never heard of Mason biting other children at school, so I wasn’t too worried about it. Then he started chewing on his classmates.

I arrived home Thursday night from happy hour and Mason’s babysitter (who happens to be his teacher) informed me that he had bitten two kids at school that day. I was absolutely horrified. And mortified, so mortified. Mason had been bitten by other kids at school before, but he had never bitten back (in fact he’s laughed when it’s happened). The teacher thought the sudden biting might be related to his transitioning to a new classroom with older kids. I suspect it might be teething-related; he’s cutting two top molars and a bottom tooth right now. But that still doesn’t make it OK.

Problem is, how do you teach a kid that a behavior that he thinks is funny is actually really bad? I know his little friends at school must bite hard because Mason bites hard, but despite the pain he still thinks it’s hysterical to bite people and to be bitten, apparently.  I’ve started to give him two-minute time-outs whenever he bites, and I tell him “It’s not nice to bite other people.” But I’m still not convinced he understands why he’s being punished, especially since he laughs his way to time-out. Any advice?

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  1. by miss Brenda

    On February 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Some kids explore by biting If your child experiments by biting immediately say “no” in a firm voice, and give him a variety of toys to touch, smell and taste and encourage sensory-motor exploration.f your child is learning to play with other children, try to guide behavior if it seems rough (take the child’s hand and say, “Touch Jorge gently—he likes that”) and reinforce pro-social behavior (such as taking turns with toys or patting a crying child).

    If your child is frustrated in expressing his/her needs and wants, state what she is trying to communicate (“you feel mad when Ari takes your truck” or “you want me to pay attention to you”).

    If your child is threatened by new or changing situations such as a parent returning to work, a new baby, or parents separating, provide special nurturing and be as warm and reassuring as possible, and help him or her talk about feelings even when he or she says thing like “I hate my new baby.”

    But the good thing by 3 years old the biting behavior usually goes away

  2. by Dawn

    On February 21, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    My daughter went through a biting phase when she was about 15 months old. It seemed to occur every time she got overly frustrated or happy. Like she was trying to express herself, but she didn’t know how and then “chop,” she’d bite one of us. I finally bought the book “Teeth Are Not For Biting” by Elizabeth Verdick and it worked wonders! She was so responsive to the pictures and the message “Ouch! Teeth are not for biting. Biting hurts!” I was actually amazed by how well she responded to it. The biting subsided quickly after that. Now it only happens every now and again when she is overly excited about something. Then we sit down and revisit the book. Works every time for us. Good luck and I hope your little shark stops biting soon! It really does hurt!
    - Dawn, merelymothers.com

  3. by Noreen

    On February 21, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    My son did the exact same thing, biting when really excited. He’s 15 mo now and hasn’t bitten in months. When he would bite I would immediately say in a calm voice “no biting”, remove him and then distract him to something else. He would cry a bit because he didn’t know that it hurt me, but after a couple of times he figured it out. I think the biggest thing is to not have a big reaction. That tends to get them going even more!

  4. by Adrienne

    On February 26, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Hi Heather,

    Something I do with my kids when they go through this stage is say, “We bite food, not people.” I use time outs when they continue to not listen too, but I usually try to redirect first and ask if they are hungry, and tell them to use their words (or signs) if they are using biting instead of communication. It also works for other behaviors such as kicking and throwing. I say, “We kick/throw balls, not people/toys/whatever.” Hope this helps!