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How can I cope with a toddler who bites?

I know that it is very upsetting to be on the receiving end of a bite, and even more so to be the parent of the “bite-ee,” but we have to look at this as normal toddler exploratory behavior. Babies at this age still get a lot of their information about the world through their mouths. Plus, they’re often teething, and they’re not the greatest at explaining their wants and needs. So a bite now and then is really understandable. Some toddlers even bite to convey their love and affection for someone! Modifying the environment usually does the trick in minimizing biting.

First, give care and attention to the “bite-ee” if he or she is upset, and certainly if the skin is broken. But if the child isn’t upset, don’t make a big deal out of it (you don’t want to unnecessarily reinforce the biting). Do show the biter what to do instead. "We don’t bite people, but you can bite this special toy! This is yours to bite!"  (You might want to buy one of those chewie things that Early Intervention specialists use for toddlers; we have one at home.  It’s a little different than what you get at the regular baby store. They’re nearly indestructible, and they’re fun to chew.)

Analyze what came before the bite. Was the child tired? Overstimulated? Teething? Take care of those issues first, and you should see a reduction in biting.

At home, be unemotional about biting, but firm. "No biting. If you want to bite, bite this instead." If he bites you, say, without reacting too strongly, "Ouch. That hurt. No biting. Here’s your bite toy." And then move on. If you have to be a broken record, do so -- you might have to for awhile. But he will eventually stop.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.