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How to Handle and Discourage Toddler Biting

Understand Why Some Children Bite and How You Can Stop It

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Children Playing Together

Toddlers Playing under Supervision

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When Toddlers bite, it is upsetting to all involved -- parents, caregivers and the children. Most toddlers who bite will stop after being corrected a few times. However, some continue to bite. Persistent biting in toddlers is sometimes related to delays in speech and language skills.

Connection Between Toddlers Biting and Speech Delays

Toddlers with speech and language delays cannot express themselves to other children or adults. Many toddlers also have difficulty understanding what others say to them. This difficulty communicating frustrates speech delayed children and can cause them to bite others in response.

Speech and language delayed toddlers may use biting to control their interactions with others in their environment. For children with speech problems, biting can say, "Stop bothering me. I was playing with that."

Ways to Prevent Biting and Teach Replacement Behaviors:

  • Refer toddlers who are behind in speech and language development for evaluation. Speech therapy can help with speech delays can reduce biting and other problem behaviors.
  • Closely supervise toddlers. Adults should circulate among children in daycare rather than watching from a distance.
  • Be alert to disagreements and intervene before biting occurs.
  • Model appropriate language for all toddlers in a classroom or in the home. This helps them learn appropriate ways to cope with frustrations. Modeling language can help the children develop the communication skills to play appropriately.
  • Be patient. Language skill development takes time. Toddlers may need several months of intervention and redirection to learn new speech skills and appropriate behaviors.
  • Move frustrated toddlers to another play area or help them choose a different toy or activity when disputes erupt. Use time-out if needed.
  • Keep play areas orderly and stocked with adequate toys and supplies for all of the toddlers.
  • Ensure adequate space for play without crowding.
  • All toddlers need schedule structure and routines to understand what is expected of them. Establish predictable routines.
  • Keep toddlers' energy and nutritional needs met. Provide appropriate nutrition, play time, and nap time.
  • Maintain a peaceful atmosphere in classrooms. Avoid over-stimulating toddlers with rough play.

When Biting in Toddlers Occurs

Be prepared to address biting by toddlers before it happens:

  • In daycare, staff should be trained to watch for biting. They should also have training infirst aid for biting.
  • Contact the parents if the bite requires medical attention. Parents should always be informed if their child bites or has been bitten.
  • Allow the biting toddler to see that the child he injured is being helped. Move the children from others until they have been calmed.
  • Never allow anyone to bite the toddler back to "teach him that it hurts."
  • Be prepared to explain to parents how you addressed the biting. Reassure them with steps you will take to prevent toddlers from biting in the future.
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