On Davids’s first day at daycare, he bit another child’s butt. Imagine the shame, the horror. My toddler BITING another child! I’ve heard of toddlers biting in daycare, but not my child!
This sentence was uttered to me by a friend of mine, and the name has been changed to protect the innocent, or maybe not so innocent, you decide!
After a long conversation about how they dealt with this biting incident, I was intrigued. Although this is not something I have had to deal with, I wanted to know what steps they took to stop their toddler from biting.
So I asked them, and this post is built from their response, so enjoy!
Is it normal for a toddler to bite?
On Davids first day at Daycare, he bit another child’s butt. The teacher swore that he aimed to bite off the child’s balls.
Chaos ensued, and a long meeting in which we were informed of David’s indefinite suspension from daycare. “Nothing this bizarre has ever happened in the history of this school. Yes, children have bitten other children, but not so recklessly and so severely,” complained the daycare staff member. “Please consult a child psychologist, buy anti-biting products, or whatever is necessary to transform him into a civilized member of society.”
According to child psychologists, biting is a part of the toddler’s development.
Children grow out of this phase at age three or four.
Sometimes, biting is a toddler’s strategy of coping with the travails of teething. Other times, toddlers weaponize their teeth in self-defense or as a show of strength and curiosity.
Anyway, my spouse and I were desperate to dissuade little David from sinking his little teeth into every skin he came in contact with. After much research, we uncovered countless strategies that effectively curbed our toddler’s horrible habit.
Not only will it improve David, but when your toddlers biting in daycare, it will also affect other children and even the adults!
Steps You Can Take To Stop Your Toddler From Biting
Rather than resign David to his fate, we started implementing the following steps to dissuade David from biting.
Step 1: Improve your child’s communication skills.
According to one child psychologist, David lacked the words to express his frustrations. Biting was the only way he knew to say, “You just hurt my feelings” or “That’s mine; give it back!”
When David learned to communicate his frustrations in simple sentences, he didn’t see the need to sink his teeth into anyone’s body. Things improved further when he learned other non-verbal communication strategies.
We provided stuffed toys and pillows he could embrace and clout during moments where words proved inadequate. And because prolonged activities made him feel frustrated, we introduced sufficient breaks in-between activities.
Step 2: Use appropriate tools and products
David developed a taste for biting when he started teething. Back then, he soothed his itching gums with his fingers or someone else’s skin. Once the teething phase was over, he began biting to get attention, exact revenge, or vent his frustration.
David wouldn’t have morphed into a Daycare vampire if we had used the appropriate products and gear.
For instance, a cool teething ring effectively soothed his baby sister’s gums when she started developing a taste for biting. A clean washcloth (or napkin) is another effective tool that stops David’s sister’s biting habit.
Placing a wet washcloth in the baby’s mouth reduces the sensitivity of the gums.
Step 3: Instruct your toddler in clearer and more positive action words.
While some parents use negative words like don’t and can’t, I have found that active verbs like ‘do,’ ‘speak,’ and ‘go’ are more effective.
We instructed him on the right actions to take with David rather than emphasizing what he wasn’t permitted to do. ‘Don’t bite’ or ‘stop biting’ was communicated in clearer and more direct words like ‘what’s on your mind? Speak up’ or ‘go and hug your stuffed teddy.’
Various studies show that negations confuse the brain and make it more difficult for humans to follow instructions. The brain responds more to affirmative statements and active verbs.
So when you say ‘stop biting’ or ‘no biting.’ The brain takes the ‘biting’ and jettisons the preceding words. Use the right words when teaching your children to stop biting.
Step 4: Resist the temptation to retaliate.
If I got a dollar every time someone asked me to retaliate, I would be a millionaire. But I must confess that there were times when I wanted to grab David’s little arm and sink my teeth in. But as an educational psychologist, I understand that retaliation is only counterproductive. Children might not obey every instruction that leaves your mouth, but they will surely imitate your actions. Again, a recent research study has shown that corporal punishment can cause behavioral problems in children.
As the biting episodes became more infrequent, we introduced another deterrent. We called it the ‘Lemon rule’.
For every bite he delivered on the skin, he received a thoroughly washed, unpeeled lemon to sink his teeth into. And since he didn’t like the bitter taste of the lemon peel, he completely lost his taste for biting.
These steps were very effective for us. Some of these strategies might not appeal to you. Please don’t feel compelled to adopt them. I have listed them here because they worked for my toddler David, the chronic biter.
Should I Worry If My Toddler Exhibits Other Aggressive Behavior?
It is important to note that toddlers often resist change. Your toddler might exhibit aggressive behavior at the onset of every new phase.
Rather than worry, it is advisable to take steps to dissuade your toddler from reacting violently.
Here are a few things you can do when your child exhibits aggressive behavior.
- Create a safe and positive environment for your child to thrive in.
- Be gentle and patient with your toddler. They pick up the vibes and retaliate when you exhibit aggression and impatience.
- Spend quality time with your toddler. Spending quality time with David taught me a lot about his needs. When I satiated his basic needs, he rarely wanted to show any aggression.
- Boredom elicits mischievous behavior in children. Be creative. Sing, dance, draw, color, and fly a kite.
Recommended Gear To Help Stop Your Toddler From Biting
My success story will not be complete without the gear I used to help stop my toddler’s biting habit.
In the beginning, I was reluctant to purchase or even use them. I wasn’t sure they would work. And because we were swimming in debt, my spouse and I couldn’t afford to waste money on gear that wouldn’t stop my toddler from biting.
But desperate times call for desperate measures. We didn’t want our toddler to get kicked out of his next daycare, so we agreed to invest in some quality gear that could help David quit his bad habit. The following recommended items were the most effective in solving our problems:
Here are 5 excellent books about biting for toddlers that should help your toddler change this habit.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I stop my toddler from biting at daycare?
Find out why they have developed a taste for biting. Cool teething rings and wet washcloths reduce biting episodes in teething children, instruct the daycare administrator to use them on the toddler when they become irritable.
When your child comes home from daycare, converse. Ask questions like ‘How was your day?’ or ‘What did you say when your classmate took the object you wanted?’ Engaging toddlers in conversations helps them develop stronger communication skills.
Toddlers are less likely to bite when they possess excellent communication skills.
Why does my toddler bite when they are excited?
Biting is a phase in every child’s development. Toddlers often bite because they cannot express their excitement and frustration in words.
According to another theory, toddlers bite because they are curious to know what reaction their actions will evoke. They are just exploring their environments.
Why does my toddler bite Mom only?
Mom seems to be the sole recipient of all bite attacks, probably because mom is the most familiar and most loved one within the vicinity.
Another reason might be that the toddler craves mom’s attention most of the time.
Why does my toddler bite Dad only?
This is likely because the toddler loves their dad too much and is excited to get his attention.
Another reason might be that toddler spends most of his time with dad, and biting dad is a toddler’s way of pushing the boundaries, exploring the environment, and warding off boredom.
Could my toddler have a medical issue?
According to experts, biting is just a phase in a child’s life. It is doubtful that your toddler’s biting habit is a symptom of a medical problem. However, there is a small chance it could be.
If you are worried, it is best to get your toddler checked out!
Biting is one bad habit that pops up during the first few years of early childhood. As children get older (often around their third and fourth year of life), they generally stop chomping on other people’s skins. But because children mature at different rates, some may take longer to stop biting.
Be patient with your toddler, buy some of the recommended gear on our list and take steps to help your toddler improve.
However, you shouldn’t hesitate to consult a pediatrician or behavioral psychologist if your child seems to be biting and exhibiting more aggressive behaviors.