It’s hard to say when this whole biting thing started to go downhill exactly. It’s been a part of our lives for so long now that it’s become a bit of a blur. I’ve spent hours scouring the internet for how to get your toddler to stop biting.
I’ll just take a step back for a moment and share that my son is 22 months and he absolutely loves to run and climb and play in the dirt. He has a spirit of adventure in him that I admire and wish I had more of in myself. He finds his greatest happiness in life’s smallest adventures.
Chew on a few sticks outside? He’s in heaven.
Climb up and down a hill just because? He’s in heaven.
Bang on the table just for fun? Yes, he is still in heaven.
All this chewing, climbing and banging is great until he gets around other children. Around other children, these things translate into biting and hitting. I can tell you that I’ve tried just about everything to teach him that biting and hitting are BIG no-nos. It’s almost shocking that this is still such an issue because our son lives in a very peaceful and loving home.
So if you are like me, and you find yourself wondering how to get your toddler to stop biting all the time, here are a few major lessons that I’ve learned along this biting journey.
You have to dig deep to find the trigger.
You probably already know that addressing hunger and tiredness is really important when addressing a biting issue. I’ve been gently reminded that by parents often. I’m going to assume that you are dealing with a bigger issue that you’ve already tried those two common-sense things and they aren’t really the root of the problem here.
While I can’t say for sure what the trigger is for other children, I can tell you that, for my son, being indoors with other children for too long is a major trigger for him. After about 30 – 45 minutes around other children indoors, he starts to get overstimulated and overwhelmed. He doesn’t quite know what to do with himself, so he just starts tackling and biting other kids. Oddly enough, he almost always tries to bite other children in the face.
The other trigger for my son was going to story time at the library. There is a computer in the children’s room, and my son sees it and wants to play on it. He cannot play on it, and I cannot make the computer disappear. After being in that room for too long, he becomes more and more frustrated that he cannot have the computer, and he will start to take his aggression out on other children through biting. We stopped going to story time because it wasn’t worth it any longer. We may try it again in the future, but for now we are taking a break.
So again, each child is going to have a different circumstance or situation that tends to set them off, but look at when and where the biting is typically happening, and go from there. Dig deep to find the trigger.
Seriously, do avoid using extreme measures.
I share this with a lot of humility, but I have tried things like spanking, yelling and biting him back to curtail this biting issue. I am almost always offered this advice from other parents when sharing about our serious biting problem. This is not an exaggeration. People tell me to bite my son back all. the. time. It’s the number one piece of advice I get from parents face-to-face.
So now that I have tried all of those things and they haven’t worked, I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that those methods don’t work when you have a legitimate biting issue at hand. The only thing biting and spanking my son back taught him was that it’s okay to bite and hit people. It perpetuated the problem in our home.
While biting, hitting and yelling to teach your child a lesson may sound awfully tempting, try to avoid going to extremes. I’m not going to say that I never raise my voice, but I am working on not yelling every day.
Think progress, not miracles.
Teaching a toddler just about anything takes a lot of diligent time and effort. Whatever you discover works best to get your toddler to stop biting, be consistent and keep trying. It’s easy to convince yourself that it isn’t working when a miracle overnight doesn’t happen.
Give your methods and interventions at least a few months to see progress. Yes, just progress. Not even that the biting is gone completely, but simply a few months to see that the biting is less than it was a few months prior.
Tell other parents right away, up front.
One thing that I started doing was to tell parents immediately that my son was a bad biter when we were around other children. This wasn’t to make them aware that my son was “bad.” It was simply to help them know and anticipate what might happen. The best way to nip biting in the bud is to catch it immediately and offer a correction to a child. So if that comes from myself or another parent, that’s okay.
First, this also helps other parents know that it’s okay to reprimand your child. Not that other parents need permission, but many other parents don’t feel comfortable intervening when they should.
Second, this helps parents keep a watchful eye. Often times other parents don’t even have biting on their radar. They are enjoying a conversation with another parent and checking-in every now and then. However knowing that another child may be aggressive towards their child helps keep everyone on guard.
How to get your toddler to stop biting.
1.) Say, “No biting. Please be kind and gentle. Can you show me how to be kind and gentle?” This helps toddlers learn what to do instead or what the desired behavior is.
2.) Remove the child from the situation / trigger. This is huge when it comes to minimizing the biting.
3.) Sit the child down somewhere a few feet away and stay near your child. Repeat the words “No biting. Can you show me how to be kind and gentle” as many times as you feel is needed. I personally don’t set a specific amount of time before my son is allowed to get up because of his age. At the present time, I typically allow him to get up whenever he gets up. The goal is really just to move him to another area and make him sit for a short bit—to snap him out of it. It’s now common for him to get up and give me a hug and show me that he is gentle.
4.) Rethink what triggered the biting, and avoid that trigger if possible.
So are any of these things biting cure-alls? I wish that I could give you a resounding yes. They won’t cure toddler biting, but they will help you to address biting in a practical and purposeful way if you are struggling right now. You will see progress if you are consistent. My son still bites from time to time, and if he is presented with his typical biting triggers, it’s almost a guarantee for a bite. BUT things are A LOT better than they were!! I can only hope that after enough time, effort and much diligence that my son will outgrow this nasty habit completely. In the meantime, we are doing everything we can to make progress towards the goal of zero biting.
Want more on toddlers?
- The Secret Only Moms of Toddlers Really Know
- How to Help Toddlers Cope with Big Emotions
- 10 Empowering Ways to Improve Toddler Listening
What are your thoughts about how to get your toddler to stop biting? Let’s chat in the comments!