Help! My Child Is A Biter!

Mother with her daughter

Your child is on their feet and starting to form words and it’s just delightful! Then, out of nowhere, they are biting! Biting you, their siblings, kids at daycare – it seems like they are biting everywhere they go.

Take heart, parents and caregivers! The biting stage may last for a week to a year depending on the child. Alzein Pediatrics is here to explain that biting is a common occurrence in growing up – and give you a few ways to stop it quickly.

When and Why Does Biting Start?
In infancy, a baby begins to explore their world through their mouth. Between the ages of one and two years old, they begin learning about cause and effect, experiencing more intense emotions and opinions, and also are trying to communicate in any way they can. If your child is feeling extreme frustration and doesn’t have the words to express that feeling, they may express themselves through biting. If they are seeking extra attention from you, they may bite as a way of getting a reaction – thinking that “bad attention is better than no attention.”

Biting is Going to Happen at Some Point
Every child bites something, but not every child has a biting problem. Some children learn quickly that biting is not the best solution and adapt other ways to express emotions while other children fall into a more prolonged habit of biting. Your child is unique, the situations are unique and every path of this behavior may look a little different.

If you notice your child becoming frustrated, intervene early before a bite occurs. Giving your child other options on how to handle their emotions or providing a distraction will diffuse the situation.

What To Do If Your Child Starts Biting
Methods to teach your child that biting is not an appropriate behavior include:

  • Stay calm, but firm – Look your child in the eye and calmly say “No biting!”
  • Model empathy for the victim –After telling the biter “No.” turn your attention to the victim. Model an apology, “I’m sorry you got hurt, that wasn’t right,” and address any physical wounds.
  • Assess how your child is feeling – If your child is upset that they unintentionally inflicted harm on someone, comfort them and explain what happened. However, if you suspect that your child is biting to get attention, don’t reinforce this behavior by giving the biter comfort.
  • Offer alternatives – When the situation is over and everyone is calm, talk about alternatives to biting. Biting is usually about communication, so teaching phrases like “No, thank you” or encouraging your child to get a grown-up for help in frustrating situations will assist in stopping the biting behavior. Have some fun and role-play this behavior with your child and their toys to help them understand the lesson.
  • Redirect – If emotions and energy levels are running high, redirect your child to a more positive activity, like dancing to music, coloring, or playing a game.

Above all, it is important to remember to be consistent in your response to biting. The more consistent you are, the faster you and your child will correct this behavior. Additionally, remember that harsh consequences will only teach them harsh behavior.

When to Seek Help
Children typically outgrow this behavior between ages three and four when they advance from the toddler stage. This comes as their communication skills and social behaviors improve.

While biting is indeed a common behavior in children, there are instances in which to seek medical intervention:

  • If your child is over the age of four and still biting as a way of communication or self-expression
  • Biting is accompanied with other negative behaviors
  • The behavior is becoming more common or worsening

If you see any of these patterns in your child’s biting behavior, call Alzein Pediatrics at 708-424-7600 or click here to make an appointment. Your Alzein medical professional will examine your child to determine if any medical issues are present and also assess your child’s mental well-being. Alzein Pediatrics is help you and your child eliminate any medical conditions and find ways to manage this behavior.

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