Do you have a biter on your hands? Biting is among the most bothersome and embarrassing kid behaviors. I remember the horror the first time I saw one of child in our playgroup I quickly learned that biting is usually temporary, and much more common than I had thought. The other moms and I read up on biting behavior, and shared what we'd learned with one another. We learned that infants and toddlers often bite to relieve teething or gum soreness, or think it's just a game. Preschoolers typically bite because they haven't yet developed the coping skills to deal with stress appropriately or the verbal skills to express their needs. Whatever the reason, we knew that this behavior is clearly upsetting to all involved. And has been known to continue as kids get older if not dealt with. Our job was to nip this behavior before it becomes a habit. Here are a few Mommy Secrets and steps you can take to help you handle this annoying (but common) behavior:
Step 1. Confront the Biter A.S.A.P.
Step in the very minute your child bites and call it what it is: "That's biting!" Then in a very stern voice say: "You may not bite people!" Firmly express your disapproval, and quickly remove your child from the situation. Remember Mom: No matter what you hear from other parents, do not bite your kid back! It is not helpful, and in fact, you're only sending him the messages that kids can't bite, but adults can.
If your kid has developed a history of biting, you'll need to take emergency action. Arrange a private meeting amongst your child and other caregivers (such as his teacher, coach, daycare worker, babysitter) with whom he's displaying the behavior. Create a consequence everyone understands: this could be the loss of a privilege, time out, or going home. You'll want to all be on the same page and consistently enforced whatever consequence you all agreed upon. All the moms in our playground, for instance, decided to get on the same page together. Because we all responded the same way (yes, their was one mom who was a bit too laid-back, but we knew we couldn't change her behavior), we were more successful in stopping our four-year-old Vampire Wannabees.
Step 2. Comfort the Victim and Boost Empathy
Kids always need to know that biting hurts! So in the presence of your kid focus your concern on the victim. "I'm so sorry! That must hurt. What can I do to help?" Doing so shows your child not only that his action caused pain but also how to convey sympathy. If possible, find a way to help your child to make amends. He might offer the victim a Kleenex or band-aid, draw a picture to apologize, say he's sorry, or give the other child a toy. Do also apologize to the child's parents on the spot or with a phone call. (Word to the wise: I learned the hard way that it is far better that I make the call then having the parent hear the story from someone else).