Monday, March 12, 2018

The Biting Toddler

Toddlers do the most adorable things: Give unexpected hugs, squeal with laughter, and cuddle up to you when they're tired.
But as any parent or caregiver of a toddler will tell you, they also do some not-so-adorable things, like kick, scream ... or bite.

Biting is  a way for toddlers to get attention or express how they're feeling. Frustration, anger, and fear are strong emotions, and toddlers lack the language skills to deal with them. So if they can't find the words they need quickly enough or can't say how they're feeling, they may bite as a way of saying, "Pay attention to me!" or "I don't like that!" Tensions that can drive a toddler to bite can arise from things that have recently happened-- the birth of a sibling, the absence of a parent, a change in caregivers, a family move are significant changes.

The fact that a toddler has feelings that are being expressed in biting isn’t the fault of the parent, or of the toddler. Biting is like a runny nose: it’s common, it’s not fun for the child or the parents, and it can affect other children adversely, but it’s not the sign that anyone is “bad.”

With biting, it's important to deal with the behavior immediately after it happens. We always follow these simple steps when it comes to biting in our classrooms:

Step 1: Be calm and firm. Address the child with a firm "no thank you!" or "biting hurts!" We keep it simple and make it clear that biting is wrong. Our teachers remain as calm as possible, as this will help resolve the situation more quickly. 
Step 2: Comfort the victim. Our staff will direct their attention to the person who has been bitten, especially if it's another child. 
Step 3: Comfort the biter, if need be. Often, toddlers don't realize that biting hurts, so our teachers know that it is okay to comfort a child who may be feeling upset about hurting someone. But we do not reinforce this negative behavior if he or she bites to get attention.
Step 4: Redirect. Distraction works wonders with kids this age. If emotions and energy levels are running high or if boredom has set in, we redirect the little one's attention to a more positive activity, like dancing to music, coloring, or playing a game.

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