No! You may not bite your child. This may seem odd to have to write for some readers, but quite a few have tried the technique with the good intention that the bite will teach the offending child empathy or at least a very clear cut, equal, and fitting punishment. Biting must be stopped, of course, but you won’t stop it by stooping to your child’s level. Aggressive acts stop when you, the adult, stop them. When parents are faced with situations like these, they feel helpless, alone, and embarrassed. Most often, parents feel poorly because they don’t know what to do that actually works!
If your child just isn’t moving past the biting stage (very normal, by the way), instantly remove your child’s teeth from his victim’s flesh, show concern for the child who’s been hurt, acknowledge both parties’ feelings, and, as your child’s verbal skills grow, help him learn to negotiate with words rather than aggression. The Mastering Parenting approach would look like this:
- Establish the rule: No Biting.
- Use lots of “Think Throughs,” part of Preparing for Success, asked at a neutral time before and outside of biting incidents. Be sure part of Preparing for Successincludes coaching for other ways to handle the urge to bite.
- Use Descriptive Praise anytime that your child uses his words rather than biting or appropriately handles his feelings.
- If a bite occurs, go to the wounded child. Demonstrate care and concern for the bitten toddler by checking the wound site, saying something kind, and take responsibility by speaking to the other parent.
- Turn to your child. Be calm. Be curious of why the child is biting and help him understand his feelings through Reflective Listening.
- Calmly follow through with an age-appropriate Consequence.
I will be addressing each one of these positive-approach methods, mentioned above, in various posts, over the next month or so, but the bottom line is that biting has a difficult time diminishing when parents lose their cool and kids get criticism and reprimands after they do the wrong thing. In an agitated toddler’s world, attention is attention. Avoid indulging in negative attention.
While biting is very common behavior, it usually stops by age 3 to 3 1/2. If your toddler continues to bite, or the number of bites increases instead of decreases over time, it is probably a good idea to request an assessment or address it at family counseling. I can help you identify the reason for the biting and develop a strategy for addressing the behavior.
Punishment – especially physical punishment – teaches fear, distrust, and self-protective strategies. Parents who have chosen to use the Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting skills have quickly and effectively solved serious behavior problems – without resorting to biting or physically punishing their children.
How did you stop biting, in your home?
Amanda draws upon formal counseling theory and education, on the job training and personal life experience. She is skilled in structural family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and Christian counseling. After earning her graduate degree from The College of William & Mary, she starting using the techniques she teaches parents in her own home. Parent after parent that she has worked with say the methods changed their lives. These methods WORK!