“Welcome to Parenthood.” An adage you will find yourself being told, and even telling other parents, when a particularly ‘exciting’ thing occurs on your parenting journey; sleepless nights, pouring orange juice on your child’s cereal instead of milk, unsuccessfully potty training, and getting the notes coming home that your child is biting. I received the first of my ‘biting’ letters just a couple weeks ago. I ran through a gambit of emotions; I rationalized “Oh it’s natural, he’s getting his molars, they have to hurt, I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it!” I irrationalized, “He had to have been provoked. That’s so unlike him.” I cried, “What did we do as parents? I should have done better by him.” I denied, “It couldn’t have been that bad, he wouldn’t really hurt someone, even if it wasn’t on purpose.” I internalized, “I should have given him Tylenol, I knew he was a bit cranky, I should have read the symptoms.”
If your child does go through a biting phase, rest assured that you are not alone. It is a natural reaction in young children and can be a result of many different stressors or reasons. I am here to encourage and support you. As a parent who is going through it, I have a few suggestions that could possibly help your situation. Please remember that each child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Keep an open mind and breathe through it!
- Don’t Bite Back- Try teaching your child positive behaviors. Be clear and be firm but keep in mind if you are asking them not to do something, but doing it to them, it will send mixed messages.
- Remain Calm- Children do most things for a reaction, any reaction. As much as it may hurt, be mindful of how you react. Stay centered and try to keep your cool. It may be difficult in a surprised or stressful situation, but it may eliminate further biting if they do not get the reaction that they are looking for.
- Supervise Closely- Watch your child when they are around others, or when you think that they may be teething, or stressed. Try to stay ahead of them, if possible, to redirect them from biting.
- Provide Something They Can Bite- Especially with infants, they are looking for something they can sink their sore gums into. Even toddlers or preschoolers can crave that sensation. There are a variety of teethers and teething necklaces for the older children that can help satiate that desire.
- Redirect- After a biting incident occurs, remove the child from the situation. Have a firm conversation with them that helps bring awareness to their actions, and then redirect them to a different activity that may be a bit more calm or quiet.
- Read Books About Biting- As you read, ask your child questions about the characters. Some recommended titles: “No Biting” by Karen Katz and “Teeth are not for Biting” by Elizabeth Verdick.
Lean on your support system and find solace in the fact that this too is a phase.