Earlier this week I was writing about why toddlers bite and I shared some tips you can use to help your child express their feelings in a more appropriate way.
To recap… tips include you being a:
- Detective – discover the triggers to your child’s biting.
- Teacher – help your child to understand and label their feelings.
- Role model (the hardest one to do at times!) – use everyday moments to teach your child how you manage strong feelings.
- Coach – guide your child as they interact with others.
This ‘to do list’ might sound overwhelming, but helping your child express their emotions in positive ways will benefit them and you in the years to come.
What to do if your child bites:
So now the big question: What are you supposed to do if your child bites? The answer may depend on why your child is biting, but here are some basic strategies:
- Stay calm.
- In a firm voice, remind your child of the rule “Use your words, biting hurts.”
- Pay attention to the hurt child or adult instead. This shifts the attention away from the child who did the biting. The child who bites often gets a lot of negative attention, which can accidentally reward the behaviour.
- Acknowledge your child’s feelings.
- Talk about what happened. Talk about what they could have done instead of biting.
- Help your child make amends and begin to play again.
Here is a great clip from parents2parents showing how you can manage aggression.
Like in the Modern Family clip from the first blog, you can get a lot of advice from others. As much as Grandma’s advice to just “bite her back” is well intentioned, it (a) hurts your child, (b) shows your child this is acceptable behaviour if you are older and bigger and (c) does not teach your child acceptable ways of expressing feelings.
Try not to label your child as a biter, or shame her by saying “Bad girl”. Focus instead on the behaviour and different ways to express those feelings.
Please remember your child will not stop biting overnight. Expressing emotions in non-hurtful ways is a work in progress for most children. It takes time, practice and a lot of patience from caring adults!
If however despite all your hard efforts your child continues to bite or you are worried, talk to your doctor or dial 311 in Halton. Help is out there, you are not alone.
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.