Toddlers have strong feelings that are often difficult to express at their ability level of verbal communication. Toddlers may use biting to express needing personal space, feeling overstimulated or frustrated, overly tired, or simply for oral stimulation. Identifying the cause for your child’s misbehavior ultimately will lead you to the right strategy.
1. Identify triggers and troubleshoot to help your child through sensitive times of day, special events, or other challenging times.
2. Remember that biting is a primal, normal exploratory behavior. Skin is a familiar surface; babies learn with their mouths and use their teeth as tools. It’s our job to teach them how to use teeth appropriately.
3. Have consistent routines that allow for playtime with both parents. Even when you’re tired and busy, prioritize your parent-child connection and send the message that your child is most important to you (the first 30 seconds when you walk into your home after work is an important connection time!).
4. Give directions in clear, simple words that you’re sure he or she understands.
5. Acknowledge your child’s feelings by verbalizing your understanding of what you’re seeing (i.e. “I see that you’re sad about not getting what you want”). You send the message that his or her feelings are important and you value them, even when limits are in place.
6. Speaking of limits—be consistent and make sure that your expectations are age-appropriate. Children thrive on predictable limits and loving guidance.
7. Research shows that parental self-care and self-compassion supports healthier, well-adjusted children. They need YOU to take care of YOU first. As you do this and understand your needs better, you then are better able to tune in and understand your child’s needs and be more receptive to them. Being more responsive to your child’s needs will result in far fewer disruptive behaviors.