How to Teach a Toddler not to Bite Siblings

Parents, when did your adorable, sweet, toddler start to behave more like a tiny, angry little snapping turtle?  Let’s be honest, the first couple of times we thought it was a little cute, but now your little one has turned into a full-on biting machine and your other children have become the prey.  Don’t worry; your little biter’s behavior is normal.  Let’s first look at why toddlers bite.

Your toddler is still operating out of their lower brain processes, and they don’t have the high-tech wiring needed to manage their feelings of anger or frustration.  Almost all kids will try out their chompers on somebody else at some point.  There still little, uncoordinated, and kind of weak, so they’re not able to effectively hit or kick very well.  What they do have, is their sharp teeth, and biting is one thing they can do with ease.  Biting is a form of communication.  They bite to show they are frustrated, confronted, or sometimes it’s as simple as wanting attention. 

Being the parent of a biter can be tough, as is being the parent of the one bitten, biting behavior may persist longer in toddlers who are lagging behind in development.  These toddlers often have trouble speaking; have poor visual perception, or motor skills.  What can you do to help your toddler not bite and save your other children from feeling more like prey?

First, you need to look at a couple things: Are aggressive behaviors going on at home?  Are your other children engaging in hitting or other forms of physical aggression?  Your toddler may be getting mixed messages that these kind of aggressive behaviors are okay. This especially happens when your toddler gets a positive reaction from you or the other children, such as laughing.  Your toddler thinks that it is funny to bite and enjoys seeing his siblings and you laugh when he bites.  The following 5 tips may help your tiny snapper stop from biting.

Separate the biter and the victim immediately. 

Be comforting towards your other child and don’t overreact, yell, or engage in a lengthy lecture.  Take your toddler aside and calmly explain, “Please don’t bite. Biting hurts, and you hurt (insert siblings name) when you bit her/him.”   When it is clear that your toddler is biting out of an inability to communicate, help them find the right words that will help him to express his feelings.  They may not understand your message right away and it might not completely stick, but it’s a great message to begin sending. 

Never bite back.

You wouldn’t hit your toddler if they hit you, so don’t bite back if they bite you.  Biting back is very confusing to a toddler and when you bite back, you are giving the green light to biting.  Your bite says that it’s okay to bite someone if you’re angry or upset with them, but your words say that it’s not.  Biting your toddler might scare them enough to stop biting for the moment, but it’s unlikely to keep him from doing it again.

Avoid a double standard

What parent hasn’t nibbled on their toddlers toes or fingers playfully saying, “Mommy’s going to eat your yummy toes/fingers”.  But, this can also send the wrong message and your toddler isn’t aware of how hard they are actually biting.  It is best to avoid any confusion by banning biting for everyone.  Sorry, moms. 

Take biting seriously.

Try your hardest not to laugh when it happens the first couple of times.  Nothing encourages biting more than reacting towards this behavior is a positive way.