Being a momma to three little rascals, you’ve probably seen it all – the tantrums, the occasional hitting, and, yes, the dreaded biting. But when your munchkin becomes the biter or the bitten, it’s like a whole new ball game. It can make any parent break a sweat, trying to figure out what’s what. So, here’s the lowdown on toddler biting, folks, why it happens, what to do in both cases, and how to steer your mini-human towards safer ways to express themselves.
Alright, now, when does this whole biting show start? Most experts say it’s par for the course, happening between the ages of one and three. You see, those little chompers might start their mischief when your tot is teething. It’s like a temporary gum relief operation. But sometimes, it’s more than that. Your kid might be using their teeth as their version of “show and tell,” telling the world, “Hey, I’ve got something to say, but I can’t quite spit it out with words yet.”
Dr. Colleen Greene, a pediatric dentist, breaks it down, “Toddlers are still learning to express feelings effectively through words, so biting may be a way to get attention from adults before they have language to express frustration.” It’s like their emotional regulation system is still under construction, and when the going gets tough, their nerves go into “fight or flight” mode. Biting becomes their own little release valve.
But hold your horses, folks, biting isn’t always about aggression. Audra Nelson, a speech-language pathologist, says it’s sometimes a result of sensory imbalances, impulse control, or a lack of communication skills. So, they might be biting to tell you, “Hey, pay attention to me!” It’s their way of getting the grown-up world to tune in.
Now, if your munchkin’s the one with bite marks, we’ve got some tips for you too. First things first, take care of those bite wounds pronto. Clean ’em up with soap and water and if it’s bleeding like a faucet, give your pediatrician a holler. Then, have a heart-to-heart with your little one. Let them know it’s okay to feel scared or upset, and that you’ve got their back.
Emma Hubbard, a pediatric occupational therapist, adds, “Depending on the severity of the bite and the circumstances, it may be appropriate to communicate with the parents or caregivers of the child who did the biting.” This chat should be a tag team effort, aiming to keep both kiddos safe and sound.
Now, what if your bundle of joy is the biter? Don’t go blaming yourself, and don’t label your kid as a tiny terror. Biting is simply a sign that they’re still learning the ropes of managing their emotions. “Instead of feeling guilty, try to determine the cause of the biting behavior so you can redirect it,” advises Audra Nelson. Figure out what triggers the biting, whether it’s before or after specific activities, and what your little one is trying to say with their teeth.
“For attention-seeking biting, focus more attention on the child who was bitten,” suggests Nelson. And when you talk to the child who did the biting, keep the message consistent, like a broken record. “Biting hurts,” that’s the line. Then, steer them toward a different activity and lay on the praise when they behave like angels.
And if your child’s biting is a way of communicating, give them a more suitable language lesson. “Biting is not okay, but you can say no if you don’t like something,” is the new mantra. If your kiddo’s vocabulary is still in training wheels mode, help them express their feelings in other ways, like stomping their feet, making mad faces, or putting hands on their hips during some pretend play.
And if all else fails and you’re stuck in a biting conundrum, don’t hesitate to call in the pros. Your pediatrician, occupational therapist, or speech therapist can swoop in like superheroes, figure out the root of the problem, and hand you a playbook of tactics to tackle the issue. It’s all about teamwork, folks, ’cause raising these little tikes is a wild, unpredictable ride!