A common problem that crops up in babies between ages 1 and 3 is biting others. Babies usually bite out of frustration, but some bite because they want attention or are anxious, jealous or teething. Unfortunately, biting is a major reason why some toddlers can’t stay in day care. Whatever the cause, if your child bites you or another child, take these steps:
- Say “no bite” in a firm but calm and disapproving voice.
- Firmly hold your toddler or have him or her sit down.
- Tell your child that biting hurts and isn’t OK.
- Don’t bite your child. While biting may show him or her how it feels, your child may be encouraged to bite more. Likewise, don’t spank or tap his or her cheek or mouth since this, too, shows that aggressive behavior is OK.
- Try a negative consequence: For instance, don’t hold or play with your child for one to five minutes after he or she bites you or someone else.
- Praise your child when he or she refrains from biting.
- Don’t let anyone, including other kids, laugh or treat biting like a game.
- Don’t give in to your child’s demands when he or she bites.
These strategies will help prevent biting from becoming a habit.
Call your healthcare provider any time your child’s bite completely breaks open the skin, causing a puncture or a cut. Call during office hours if:
- the biting has lasted for more than four weeks despite your having tried all the strategies suggested
- the biting is accompanied by other behavior problems, such as temper tantrums, hitting or throwing things