Teaching Your Child Not to Bite

Prevention Strategies

First and foremost, encourage a biter to use words. "Let your child know that when she gets angry or upset, there are alternatives to biting. She can say, 'I don't want to' or ask you for help in getting her message across," says Dr. Stahmer.

Follow high-energy activities with quiet play or naptime. Overstimulation is a frequent cause of biting. A calm, well-rested toddler is less likely to use his teeth.

Offer your child a biting substitute, such as a washcloth. With gentle reminders, a child who bites will chew on his washcloth rather than his playmate or parent when he's feeling testy or frustrated. Look for triggers. For example, if you notice that your child bares his teeth when a playmate touches his favorite toy, simply buying a duplicate can stop him in his tracks. But if biting becomes chronic, the reasons are not always so obvious. Two-year-old Michael Norris, of Phoenix, continued biting his playmates and his mother despite rewards for good behavior and repeated reminders to use his words. "At that point, I took him to the pediatrician," says his mother, AnnaMarie. "It turned out that Michael's allergy medication was making him irritable." The doctor adjusted his medicine, and the biting became less frequent, then stopped.

Chronic biting may also indicate that a child is in the midst of a difficult adjustment. Weaning, moving, or the arrival of a new sibling are changes that can shake up even the toughest tot. Says Dr. Stahmer, "Sometimes a little special attention from Mom or Dad is all it takes to nip biting in the bud."

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