Deal with toddler biting

YOU go to pick up your toddler at daycare and are devastated to learn that he bit another child that day.

If it's any consolation, biting is pretty common among young children but it does need to be dealt with.

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It is also the most common reason kids get expelled from daycare. So when you are choosing a daycare, ask about their biting policy. If they have none, be leery. Qualified daycare staff will know that biting is not unusual and will be trained to handle the situation.

And that's important. While biting is typical that is not an excuse for ignoring it and hoping it will go away. It needs to be handled. From the beginning, youngsters need to know that biting is unacceptable. Toddlers bite for a number of reasons and it's important determine the cause. Then you will be able to deal with it. If you let it go, it can become a habit that they will not outgrow.

The first step is to determine the reason.

Young children choose biting as a way to make a point because they haven't the ability to express themselves and biting does get them attention.

They may also be frustrated when they can't play with the toy they want. When you are watching toddlers play, it's important to pay attention to a child who is frustrated because he can't get his needs met. Help him and the other kids figure out how they can each play with the toys. Remember, these young children do not yet understand the concept of sharing so the trick is to find a way for them all to find things to do that meet their needs. Instead of asking one child to wait, find another truck or car so both kids can play with vehicles. They will be ready to share when they are preschoolers.

Some kids bite because they see other kids doing it. If you have a known biter with your child, keep a very sharp eye on the situation. You don't want them to learn that biting is a way to handle any situation.

When you figure out the reason for his biting, it is easier to develop a plan that will avoid his need to bite other kids.

When it happens deal with it quickly. The minute a child bites, respond by saying, "No biting!" and in a very stern voice add, "Biting is not OK, it hurts!"

Now remove him to a quiet corner so he can calm down.

Never, ever bite him back. He will not learn that biting hurts, he will see that adults also bite people so it must be OK.

Focus on the injured party. Give him the attention and look after the bite. Wash the area and if the skin is broken cover with a sterile dressing. Keep an eye on the area for a few days and if there are any signs of infection such as swelling or redness, take him to his doctor.

Once the biter has calmed down, involve him in soothing the injured party. He might get him a stuffed animal or a tissue if he's been crying.

If your child has developed a habit of biting and is in a daycare, let the staff know. Work with them to develop a plan for handling the problem and make sure it is consistent at home and at daycare.

If the problem does not resolve you will want to seek professional help.

Once kids develop the ability to express themselves verbally, they do not typically bite. It really is a reaction from a frustrated young child. If a child over the age of seven is biting, there may be some underlying emotional issues and you will want to seek professional help.

Kathy Lynn is a professional speaker and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. If you want to read more, sign up for her informational newsletter at www.parentingtoday.ca.

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