When toddlers bite...
Beware of the toddler – he bites! While one in 10 toddlers will be termed “biters”, it’s important parents nip this anti-social habit in the bud. To find out how best to deal with your little biter, read on…
You’ve excluded yourself from playgroup, the childcare centre is phoning you daily with new reports and the next door neighbour’s child has a huge bruise on his arm. You are the parent of a biter and probably feeling like a pariah.
But you can take solace in this – one in 10 toddlers are biters. However, so you and your child can resume your social whirl, it is important you take measures to deal with this.
Find out what sort of biter you’re dealing with and how best to react.
The Experimental Biter
– this child bites to test textures and explore their world. Make it clear to them that biting is unacceptable.
The Frustrated Biter
– this child may lack the skills to cope with situations or communicate their feelings. They bite out of frustration, not to hurt anyone. But carers should react with disapproval and explain that biting hurts others and is not allowed. Frustrated Biters respond to being taught language skills to express their feelings and needs, and to positive reinforcement when they communicate effectively. In the meantime, watch for signs of rising frustration.
The Threatened Biter
– this child bites in what they feel is self defence. They may be overwhelmed by their surroundings, and bite as a means of regaining control. Deal with a Threatened Biter as you would a Frustrated Biter.
The Attention-Seeking Biter
– this child sees the response or attention they get from biting, and want that attention again. Any response, even negative, reinforces their behaviour. Give this biter attention when they are not biting and minimise the attention when they do. Provide choices throughout the day and reinforce positive social behaviour (like sharing and saying thanks). If the biter gets attention when he is not biting, he will not have to resort to aggressive behaviour to feel a sense of personal power.
With all biters, keep your approach calm and educational. And at no time should an adult bite a child back (despite the best advice-giving intentions of your aged uncle).
This article was written by Fiona Baker, former editor in chief of Mother & Baby, Pregnancy & Birth and Wondertime magazines for Kidspot, New Zealand's best resource for pregnancy and parenting.
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