Why Do Toddlers Bite?
Watch and listen to Ann McKitrick explain why toddlers bite others.
I wanted to take a minute today and talk a little bit about biting. I have worked with children for many, many years and some children just seem to be biters and nobody really understands why one child will bite where another child will not bite. But there is a period of time in the first couple of years of life where children learn to use biting to express themselves.
First of all, our young babies begin as they get teeth to begin to bite and so we gently tell them no bite, that hurts, all those kinds of things. But there comes a time in usually in the second year of life where a child who is playing or is just sitting alongside another child and they get frustrated and just in a moment of frustration they will just reach over and bite on another child. It’s a very sudden and very hurtful thing that happens when young children play together and it really can be a problem when one child is hurt by another child just in the the midst of their play.
Why Do Toddlers Bite?
I think it’s really important for us to understand that toddlers are not intentionally hurting anybody. They bite because it’s kind of a natural raw response to frustration. They don’t have the words to say to express what they need to express. For example, Don’t take my toy. They don’t have those words yet and so if you bite somebody, they will quickly drop the toy and beyond other things and you get what it is that you want.
Suggestions For When Toddlers Bite
A couple of suggestions if your child is biting. One is to understand and watch what’s going on. Be observant. Notice what times of day, in what situations does your child bite? What precedes the bite? what happens after the bite? Just look at all of the aspects of that behavior and then make it your job to be right there in those situations. We really just have to be right there with our toddlers and make sure that they are safe all the time but especially if you’ve got a child who’s prone to biting.
Another thing that we can do is give children the words to say. It’s a little bit tricky if you don’t know how to speak yet, but go ahead and give them words, tell them express with words what it is that you believe that they are feeling and also how the other child might be responding as well.
One thing to remember is we never ever want to shame a child and fuss at them or yell at them. We do not want to bite them back. It doesn’t help. It’s not going to teach them anything except that if you’re bigger then it’s okay if you bite and so we don’t want to communicate that to young children. Biting is developmental, it is expected with toddlers. Not everybody’s going to do it, but when it does, we need to not be too surprised by it.
If your child is getting bit, then it’s really important to teach them what to do in that case. Just to say no. To say stop, to put your hand out, all of those kinds of things. It’s a little bit tricky because they’re little too, but we can help the one who has been bit. Another thing to do if a child bites is to also help them make amends. If they bite somebody and it hurts them, then that child can go get an ice pack or a Ziploc bag with a few ice cubes in it and put it on the bite. If the person who’s been bit wants them to.
So those are just a couple of ideas and thoughts about biting. The good thing about biting is it doesn’t last forever. You don’t see very many older children who bite other kids. If that’s the case, then usually there’s some other things going on. But with toddlers in that probably 12 to 30 months of age, that’s when we see the most biting.