10 Tips to Put a Stop to Bad Biting Habits
Young children bite for a variety of reasons—teething, feeling frustrated, seeking attention, looking for a reaction, or just exploring their world. With a little guidance, however, the behavior can stop.
Here are 10 tips to help:
- Address it immediately. When he bites another person, explain in simple terms that biting hurts and is unacceptable. Be calm and loving but firm.
- Resist retaliation. Don’t bite back; children learn by imitation and this only reinforces the behavior.
- Try time out. Remove him to a time out area to calm down. In general, allow one minute per the child’s age. Shorter times can be effective, but longer ones may create more frustration and be counterproductive.
- Help him articulate emotions. If your child seems frustrated, angry, fearful or overwhelmed, attach words to what he is feeling so he can communicate those feelings to you in the future.
- Find alternative behaviors. If he is frustrated or angry, suggest other ways to express his emotions, such as hugging a stuffed animal or hitting a pillow.
- Redirect his attention. If biting is due to boredom or excitability, redirect him to a positive, engaging activity, such as reading a book, coloring, or playing a game.
- Address basic needs. Watch for signals that he is tired, hungry or not feeling well and meet those needs before his behavior spirals out of control. Moreover, if he is teething, provide a cool teething ring or cloth to bite into to relieve tender gums.
- Prepare for transitions. Before going into a new situation, tell your child what to expect so he doesn’t get overwhelmed.
- Consider change. Children who are experiencing a change in life or routines (i.e. new baby, new home, new setting) may resort to biting for attention. If so, be proactive by giving your child plenty of attention, so he doesn’t resort to biting. If the behavior continues, consider a different setting.
- Seek professional help. If biting continues past the age of four or five, address it with your pediatrician or behavioral specialist. ■