Biting

Everyone is challenged by frustration, viagra buy no matter what his or her age may be. Frustrated kids physically attack their siblings; frustrated teenagers talk back to their parents; and frustrated adults say and do all kinds of things they later regret. However, recipe no one except for toddlers has any excuse for engaging in hurtful behaviors! Toddlers lash out because they’re too little and too verbally challenged to handle their upset in more mature ways. Still, it is the job of parents to teach their small children both how to refrain from aggressive behaviors and also how to express anger in acceptable ways.

Frustrated Toddlers
The first lessons in frustration management begin when a child is just out of babyhood. Babies get frustrated due to fatigue, hunger, tummy upset, physical discomfort, wanting to be held and so forth. The only thing they can do about it is cry. Once a child learns a few words, he has a few more options. Instead of just crying, he can say things like “no want” or “want Mommy.” By communicating his or her needs, the child will be less frustrated and will be able to release a bit of the frustration that he or she encounters. As the toddler acquires a more elaborate vocabulary, it becomes more and more possible for him or her to reduce and relieve frustration.

However, the baby ways will still persist for a while as well. For example, frustrated toddlers will still sometimes be at a loss for words and just cry in frustration instead. Sometimes they will thrash about like earlier versions of themselves, flailing and stamping their feet. Often they’ll throw an item (a toy, some food or other object). Although these early expressions of frustration are normal in toddlers, parents still must intervene with “frustration education.” Even little kids can begin to learn to express their frustration in words.

Discovering that Biting “Works”
Many toddlers learn quite accidentally, that biting or otherwise hurting someone, is a particularly satisfying way to release feelings of helpless anger and frustration. At first, such a behavior is the product of desperation, adrenalin and infantile problem-solving skills. However, learning occurs rapidly when the toddler discovers the “power” of his or her violent action. The victim screams in sudden pain! The toddler realizes that he or she can actually use violence on purpose in order to communicate strong emotion.

Although many toddlers limit the use of their power to other people their size, they can and do also try it out on their caregivers. While they will sometimes attack teachers and babysitters, their favorite targets are often their parents. How should parents handle a biting/kicking/scratching/hurting toddler?

Helping Toddlers Stop Biting
Toddlers are too young for “real” discipline. Although some two-year-olds seem to understand the concept of negative consequences (i.e. “if you hit Mommy you’ll have to sit in a thinking chair”), most very small children do not really benefit from formal discipline. Discipline becomes more effective after around the age of 3. Even then, parents are just introducing the structure of discipline in tiny steps to these youngest candidates. Although many parents put a child in a crib for a few moments for biting, this strategy usually acts only to stop the present moment aggression. It is a “time-out” that  does virtually nothing to prevent the biting behavior in the future. Discipline that doesn’t “cure” the behavior is not discipline at all and should not be used (the word “discipline” means “to teach” – if the strategy is not teaching the child not to bite, there is no point in using it). However, there are always exceptions: if you’re child is biting less often because you have given him or her a time-out or another punishment, then your intervention IS working and you can continue to use it.

Most parents of toddlers will have to refrain from using discipline for biting and instead, address the misbehavior by managing attention. This means that a parent gives strong, positive attention to desirable behaviors and little or very mild attention to undesirable behaviors (like biting). (Distraction can also be used in these early years to simply steer a child away from undesirable or unacceptable activities that are not aggressive or hurtful.) There is a natural tendency, however, for parents to give LOTS of attention to undesirable behaviors. For instance, they may actually yell at a child who is biting. That yelling is an overdose of attention, sure to encourage lots more biting! Parents have to overcome their natural tendencies in order to restrain themselves when their youngster bites them, other adults or other children.

When Toddlers Bite Caregivers
It is essential that a child be stopped immediately from being aggressive toward his or her caregivers for several reasons. Parents must be seen as benevolent authority figures. This allows them to lovingly guide the development of their youngsters, teaching them right from wrong. A child must therefore learn early that he or she is not to attack the parent either physically or verbally. It is just as out-of-line to do so as it would be for an adult to attack a police officer physically or verbally! In addition, children need their parents’ affection in order to develop optimally. However, parents don’t tend to like their aggressive, violent youngsters as much as they like their cooperative, respectful ones. Teaching the child to be respectful is therefore in the child’s best interest – for this reason as well as myriad other reasons. The lesson begins right at the beginning; even small children are not permitted to behave obnoxiously. Of course, toddlers and pre-schoolers will all behave quite badly at times, but parents must step in and begin the process of gentle, but firm, loving guidance. It’s just not O.K. to bite parents, babysitters, teachers or other caregivers.

Toddlers can be discouraged from biting adults by experiencing the withdrawal of positive attention. Parents can display a strong differentiation between their normal, pleasant, kind, loving selves and their very displeased, uninterested self that comes forth when the child bites or hits. Thus, they may be playing happily with the child when something happens that causes the child to become violent. Now the parent looks seriously displeased, uses a very brief stern reprimanding “NO!” and quickly moves away  from the youngster. The parent should not engage in any sort of lecture or education (this actually provides too much attention for the misbehavior which can accidentally reinforce or encourage more of that behavior.) The parent should also not use a sing-song, soft voice, gently breathing out “no-o-o-o-o, don’t bite Mommy.” The voice must be short and firm (not angry). The facial expression should not be  friendly or gentle, but rather very business-like. This sort of “rejection” (really, more a temporary withdrawal of otherwise flowing positive affection) should not be used for other types of misbehavior, but only reserved for a child’s physically hurtful, aggressive actions (like biting). The trick here is to reserve the icy cold rejecting voice for this one behavior only. The child must immediately see that this is a behavior that the parent doesn’t like. It is essential that the contrast between this harsh face of the parent and the parent’s normal, regular, routine and consistent pleasant face be strong and clear. If the parent is routinely displeased, regularly irritated, often angry, etc., then there will be insufficient contrast to be able to effectively use this technique. Most toddlers who are used to a parent’s gentle, loving ways, will quickly learn to refrain from biting and hurting when this differentiation strategy is employed.

When Toddlers Bite Other Children
A similar use of withdrawal of attention can be used when a child bites another child. If the biting occurs in the school setting, parents should ask the teacher NOT to speak to the child about the biting behavior. Remember: one-on-one time with the teacher, intense direct eye-contact and a few minutes of speaking to the child all constitutes a highly reinforcing form of attention. With all that “quality time” with the teacher, the youngster is much more likely to bite again. Instead, the teacher should say only two words – “No biting” – and have the child sit in a time-out chair facing away from the classroom activity (i.e. facing a wall) for a couple of minutes. The other, non-biting children will be getting the teacher’s attention and the little biter will have lost a few minutes of attention.

The same sort of intervention can be used at home: everyone else remains “part of the scene” but the biting toddler is given the cold shoulder. As discussed above, the “thinking chair” can be used with children 3 years old and up.

If the toddler bites another child, the VICTIM should be given all the attention. The victim’s parent or caregiver should be given lots of apologies in the form of “I’m so sorry – we’ll be doing something about this after the play-date – we’re working on preventing this behavior.” If it is O.K. with the parent or caregiver, the victim can be offered a treat as compensation. Meanwhile the little biter gets virtually NO attention and certainly no treats! Minimizing words, eye contact and physical contact to a biting toddler is one way to strongly discourage the behavior in the future.

Frequent Biters
Consider Bach Flower Therapy for a child who frequently bites others. The remedies Impatiens, Cherry Plum, Chestnut Bud, Holly and Vine can be used. However, it is best to consult a Bach Flower Practitioner to create an appropriate, individually tailored remedy bottle that can help reduce the biting tendency in your toddler. You can find more information about Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.

If your child is not responding to your interventions and is so aggressive that he or she is being “expelled” from nursery schools, then consult a mental health professional for further guidance.

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