Dos and Don'ts for Curing the Biting Phase

Although the risk of injury from a toddler's bite is small, the event can be upsetting to all concerned.

Biting into an apple is a good thing. Biting into a playmate is not. Toddlers, especially when they're frustrated or angry, may dig their teeth into a playmate. Most are confused that their friends don't react calmly -- as an apple would. Keep in mind that children who bite almost never do so to be intentionally nasty. In virtually all cases, the biter feels emotionally overwhelmed and may be acting out his or her stress. Here are some suggestions for dealing with this behavior.

DO DON'T
• Tell your child clearly and briefly that biting is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. • Lecture your child. A long explanation just provides reinforcement in the form of lots of attention.
• Let her know that you understand she wants to be good and acknowledge the feelings that led her to bite. • Overreact. This is a tough one. If you act very upset, you could frighten the child who has been bitten and the biter -- unnecessarily.
• Substitute something to bite -- a piece of bagel, a teething ring, a wet washcloth. • Bite your child back or force him to bite himself.
• Help your child formulate better ways of getting attention and give her lots of reinforcement and praise every time she uses such methods. • Pay too much attention to a child who bites. This is particularly true in group settings, where other kids may imitate the behavior in an attempt to get attention, too.

From It Worked for Me! by the editors of Parents magazine. Copyright © 1999.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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