A biting toddler is no joke, friends.
A while back I wrote about How to Get a Baby to Stop Biting, and after using the steps I discussed in that post, we effectively managed to stop our son from biting. Funny enough at the end of that post I wrote, “I am vigorously reinforcing ‘No biting’ and keeping a very watchful eye, as biting will surely rear its ugly head once again at some point down the road.”
Well, that definitely happened. At 14 months, our son and biting fell madly in love, and as a mother, it seemed there was little I could do to break them apart. It’s one of those moments in motherhood when you realize you have a serious problem on your hands.
By serious I mean…
He was biting me incessantly, running after me with his arms and mouth wide open ready to chomp down.
He was also biting other children incessantly, running after them with his arms and mouth wide open.
For me, this was the breaking point. He was unsafe to be around other children without being watched intensely 100% of the time. I could not look away for a second. Something had to be done. There are several steps to lead your child down a bite free path (#5 is the clincher and probably the least wise of all!).
1. Tell the child “No biting.”
We worked really hard to teach “no biting,” knowing Jameson would eventually learn the meaning of this phrase through frequent repetition. In order to teach “no biting,” I get down to his eye level and look him directly in the eye. I wait until he is looking at me, then say “no biting” while using a grimacing facial expression. I try to convey a calm tone without yelling.
2. Walk away.
In my post about stopping baby biting, the number one thing that helped our son stop biting was sitting him down on the floor and walking away. It helped our son learn that biting is not rewarded with play, cuddles, or interaction from others. After telling my son “no biting,” I simply sit him on the floor and walk away a bit. You don’t have to go far.
I typically walk to the other side of the room and wait for a few minutes.
Returning to him after a few minutes, I remind him “no biting” and sit next to him. Some things that I read suggested saying “I love you” or offering kisses and cuddles at this point. However, we were dealing with a serious biting issue and my son was clearly confused that it was some sort of a game. I wanted to reinforce that the logical consequence of biting was not play or affection from me.
The whole process of saying “no biting” and walking away and then returning is only a matter of a few minutes. Then we move on with our day.
3. Examine the cause.
Toddlers may often have a reason for biting. Treating the underlying cause may easily eliminate biting, and if used in conjunction with the above two steps, I think there is a good chance for success.
Here are a few common causes I discovered:
- Teething → I try managing the child’s pain as best I can with teething toys to chew on and over the counter Tylenol, if needed.
- Boredom → I try to make things a little more exciting around the house. Dance parties are always fun!
- Frustration → I try to repeat back what I hypothesize my son is trying to do or say.
- Seeking attention → I try to offer more quality time.
- Tired → I start getting sleep in order by reading some good information about sleep.
- Lack of language skills → I use baby sign language and again try to repeat back what I think my son is trying to say.
- Experimenting → Sometimes kids are just testing the waters.
4. Prevent the problem.
If I know there is a type of activity or situation when my toddler is more likely to bite, I try avoiding those types of situations. This seems really obvious, right? And it isn’t always easy to avoid situations, especially when real life happens and you have to leave the house and be around others at some point. This brings me to my last and final step.
5. Avoid resorting to desperate measures.
As a mother, I hope to use gentle parenting methods throughout parenthood, especially since research shows that harsh discipline actually causes more behavioral problems than gentle parenting. But that’s a whole other post.
My son continued to bite me, my husband, and other kids. Actually, he pretty much tried to bite everyone. All. The. Time.
It was a terrible, terrible problem. After completing all the above steps, I was truly at a loss. I was in the midst of a motherhood crisis, incapable of teaching my toddler that biting was not okay. I talked to a lot of other moms about this topic, seeking advice. I researched about biting on the internet, scouring to find any method I could.
If you read expert recommendations they will tell you never to bite your child back. I agree that inflicting pain on your child is not a wise parenting method. If you read many forums I found parents advocating for biting a child back. Several parents that I personally spoke with told me to bite my son back. Other parents said biting your child and inflicting pain is abuse. These are merely the facts.
Because he was biting so frequently, I felt a lot of pressure to do something fast to get my son to stop biting.
And then it happened…
I bit my kid.
It was enough to hurt him without breaking the skin.
Horrible! It’s was one of my bad mom moments, but I was at a cross-roads. Something had to change, and I was willing to try anything at that point. I actively tried to prevent him from biting.
Horrendous, I know! I did not want to bite him, but I felt I needed to follow through. He was never bruised, nor were there teeth marks.
Now please, don’t send me hate mail…
I realize that biting your child isn’t a wise idea. I am in no way advocating for parents to bite their children. I am simply sharing my experience. In fact, if you have tips and suggestions for how to stop biting, I would love to hear your ideas in the comments because I could really use some help! I do not plan on biting him again. It’s just not the route I want to travel down. I am continuing with steps 1-4 to remind him not to bite others.
My son still needs gentle verbal reminders, but for the most part, we can go out in public again. He can be around other children without me worrying that his will take a giant bite of flesh, and that is a very good thing.
Want more on parenting?
- How to Get Your Toddler to Stop Biting, When Nothing Works
- One Thing You Can Give Your Toddler to Get Better Behavior
- 15+ Best Tips to Manage Aggressive Behavior in Toddlers
- 9 Parenting Tricks to Teach Kids to Listen
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