Biting is a very common behaviour among children. There are many parents like you who wonder why their calm and serene little one has suddenly begun to bite. Most children bite when they are teething. The reasons children bite may also be related to their age. An older child who bites is seeking attention and expressing frustration. Younger children may bite due to tender or swollen gums. Whatever be the case, it is important for you to find out the underlying cause to take some steps to eliminate the behaviour.
1. Respond calmly
If your child bites, you could do the following
- Remove your baby from that room or place to a quiet zone
- See if something is visibly troubling them like sleep or hunger. Address it and ease them back into whatever activity they were doing
- If you feel like your baby is biting in frustration and is old enough to have a conversation, ask them what is troubling them but do so only in private. Do not yell at or smack your baby
- Sometimes distracting them might also work as children might bite out of boredom or need for attention. In that case, gently suggest other activities they can do to engage themselves. Choose a calming activity like listening to a rhyme or reading a book which will help your baby regain composure.
2. Look for patterns
If your baby has made biting a habit, look for the following patterns
Do they cry at the same time every day? If so, maybe they are bored or hungry. See if you can move mealtimes forward by an hour or so. If you think it is sleep deprivation, try to make them sleep and see if the biting stops.
Does your baby display this behaviour when playing with someone in particular? Your baby might be expressing something they do not know how to speak out. Try to be with them at this time to understand what could be frustrating your baby. For example, it could be a playmate who doesn’t share toys or a caregiver who isn’t very attentive to your baby’s needs.
If your child bites during a particular activity like when they go to the park, or when they swim, you can look for possible reasons by this pattern. For example, if the park has mosquitoes, your baby could be getting frustrated. In which case, dab on some mosquito repellent moisturiser before heading out to the park.
3. Offer alternatives
When your child bites, instead of saying ‘Don’t bite’, try to tell them what they can do. Some fun alternatives are:
- A special hand gesture you can both learn together that could be your signature greeting
- A hi-five
- Break into a rhyme when they bite to distract them and also engross them in something else.
4. Teach empathy
If your baby bites a friend, ask them whether they would like to be bitten. It is not a good idea to ever smack your baby. Instead, ask them what they want. If the friend has a toy your baby wants, teach them to express it to the friend or wait for them to finish. Another important aspect of teaching empathy is to educate your baby that it hurts the other person when they get bitten. Make faces that express pain and sadness when they bite you so that they understand that they are actually hurting the other person when they bite.
5. Don’t smack or hit your child
When you teach your child that causing someone pain is not something that is allowed, make sure you don’t smack or whack your kid. When you do what you have told your child not to do, it confuses them. They do not understand what you say and tend to regress towards their old habits.
6. Work on communication
Teaching your baby to speak out on what is bothering them will help them express themselves instead of resorting to biting. If your baby hasn’t started speaking, you can try the following:
- Teach them to come to you or hug you when they need attention
- Teach them to point to the kitchen or a bottle when they are hungry
- You can keep things like water around them so that they can drink it instead of having to ask you for it or get frustrated by thirst.
- Leave some toys around as options so that when they get bored of the activity they are presently engaged in, they can choose what else they might want to do. This will solve the problem of them having to try to tell you they are bored
- Teach them to put their hands in their pockets if they feel cold instead of looking for you to help them out
7. Suggest gentle games
As a rule, try to avoid games that are overexciting. When your baby is at a stage when they follow and emulate everything they play, steer them in the direction of imaginative, melodious and gentle play. Avoid gestures like hitting the table when they bang their head on it as it promotes the thought that it is ok to cause something hurt if you have a valid reason. Encourage gentle games like
- ‘Hugging their favourite toy’ when they feel happy
- ‘Feeding the baby doll when they feel hungry’.
- Playing with the line-up of trucks pretending the living room is a garage
- Zooming an aeroplane around in the air
- Reading to their classroom of dolls
- Making different objects using clay
Most children give up the habit of biting once they cross the age of three. You can help them examine, understand and develop self-control over their feelings by being proactive in understanding the reason for their biting tendency.