Stop Toddler Biting

At some point in the early years, every parent wants to know how to stop toddler biting.

Following the TEACH tool's five-step conflict resolution process will be instrumental in helping you stop biting with empathy and compassion while reinforcing the limits.

You can take the struggle out of parenting while promoting cooperation and strengthening your emotional bond by building experiences rooted in trust.

Do you want to successfully stop toddler biting?

First, make sure that your toddler's biting is not due to a need to reduce stress orally. This is our first and greatest soother and for many children, simply providing the child with a safe chew toy or bracelet will successfully stop toddler biting.

Oral habits tend to be hereditary, so take this into account when assessing your child's need for oral comfort. You may also consider seeking a sensory processing evaluation with a qualified doctor or therapist if you are concerned about your child's oral habits.

If your child's biting is stemming from anger or frustration then it is important to take time to be present and conscious with your child so you can effectively stop toddler biting.

Remember that when children are small - they have little access to the brain function that allows them to make better choices.

You are actually shaping your child's brain patterns and creating pathways which will later inform future situations on how to respond, each time you interact with your child, whether negatively out of fear or positively with openness.

Are you reacting or responding?

When you react - it is often unconscious, based in fear and automatic.

When you respond it is based in love and because of a conscious decision to act in a way that makes the relationship with your child stronger.

This is how a biting scenario might look when approached from the traditional, unconditional parenting perspective.

Child B clenches tightly onto Child A's arm with her teeth as Child A screams in pain as. 

Child A clasps a limp raggedy doll.

Parent attempts to separate the children and Child B becomes extremely upset.

Parent attempts to make Child A safe and comforted before attempting discipline.

Parent also practices self-empathy to regulate any intense feelings.

If the child is your own, approach the situation with the biter when she is calm or being supported by another adult.

Conscious Parenting Responses to Stop Toddler Biting

Parent: It looks like we had some very different ideas about the toys and Child B bit you! (breathe and state the situation without judgment)

Child B: She took my dollllll!!!

Parent:(to Child B) She took your doll and that made you very MAD. (reflect back child's feelings)

Child B: Yes, I want my doll, she took my doll, I want it back NOW!!

Parent:(to Child A) And you wanted a turn playing with this very special doll.

Parent: You must have been surprised to have that doll taken from you so fast. (engage and empathize)

Child B: (nods)

Parent: And you had such a hard time waiting that you thought biting your friend would be a good way to get your doll back. (acknowledges needs and communication)

Child B: Yes I wanted my doll.

Parent: You wanted your doll and Child A was not giving it to you. (continue to mirror and reflect the situation and feelings back to Child B until she becomes regulated)

Child B: YES!

Parent: You're very mad right now and you are not able to stop your body, I can see that. You're upset! It is okay to be frustrated.

Parent: I can see that you were not able to control your body and I want you to know that biting people is not safe at all and not okay to do to our friends.

Child B: But I wanted my doll!

Parent: It looks like you were having trouble coming up with a new way to ask for your doll. (connect and problem solve)

Child B: (nods)

Parent: If you are ever feeling upset or scared, I want you to know that you can come and get a grown-up - we will always help you if you are having trouble making a safe choice. Can you think of another way that might work right now?

Child B: (may offer solutions or you can help suggest depending on developmental stage)

Parent: I am afraid our friend looks upset and her body might be hurting. I'd like to help her feel better, can you help me do that? (how does it feel?)

Tips to Stop Toddler Biting

1. Wait for the children to calm down - watch for physical cues that let you know they are responsive and starting to move back to a place of regulation. You may need to empathize and acknowledge feelings and needs for a long time.

Children have varying abilities to regulate their brains depending on their personal stage of development and what may happen quickly with one child, may take another 15 minutes or more.

2. Do not move past the E-A step of T-E-A-C-H until the child is regulated and open to problem solving. When you see your window of opportunity -

3. Do not demand apologies. Forcing children to apologize becomes an easy scapegoat for future incidents but employing empathy and asking a child to notice another person's feelings teaches compassion.

As you model the lessons you hope to impart, you become more effective at reducing unwanted behaviors and you increase the chances that your child will feel sorry for causing harm.

4. We must turn to empathy and compassion - not only for the child who was hurt with the bite but also for the biter.

Children will learn that their behaviors are not always acceptable when they feel supported in their need to express their feelings freely and without judgment. When parents become a safe space for children - they will learn to come to you when they are feeling overwhelmed.

What do you think? I love hearing from you, so leave me a comment below. Share your stories, post your challenges and if you benefited from this article, consider sharing it with a friend!

Stop Toddler Biting: Return to Home