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Take a Bite Out Of Your Toddler's Bad Habit

written by: Sylvia Cochran • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 1/6/2012

Biting is sometimes a dangerous situation, especially in the daycare setting. Fortunately, there is a wide array of techniques designed to break a toddler from the biting habit. Read on for three behavioral modification recommendations for a toddler biting in daycare.

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    Biting and Child Behavior Development

    It is interesting to note that an assessment of acting out against the backdrop of acceptable behaviors has been standardized for children as young as 18 months of age. Biting in daycare, as you may well imagine, is considered inappropriate acting out. Unfortunately, biting and toddlers go hand in hand, and therefore grounds for behavioral modification for a toddler who engages in this kind of activity.

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    Why This Behavior?

    Before you have the opportunity to implement kid games and behavioral modification techniques for a toddler who bites at home or in the daycare setting, it is a good idea to understand why toddlers choose biting as a means for acting out in the first place.

    Generally speaking, toddler biting is a surefire means of communication. This form of acting out will get attention, and when a largely nonverbal child seeks to get a point across, biting is the equivalent of a verbal shout.

    The need for communication may also be augmented by mounting frustration, another reason for toddler biting. Moreover, Ashland University’s Family and Consumer Sciences Department(1) reveals that, in some cases, it is teething that may be to blame for biting behavior in young children; after all, the act of biting does relieve some of the pressure the not yet erupted teeth put on the gums. Armed with this knowledge, it is time for some behavioral modification techniques for a toddler who is biting.

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    1) Biting is Unacceptable Acting Out

    Do not counteract biting by biting the child back. Child psychologist Penelope Leach(2) reveals that this is a common parental response. This follows the school of thought that giving the child some of her or his own medicine will curtail this form of acting out, but it does little more than reinforce biting as an acceptable behavior.

    Instead, a firm “no biting" should get the point across. Combine this by offering attention to the adult or child who was bitten – not the biter – in order to be most effective.

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    2) Offer Kid Games and Toys that May be “Mouthed"

    If your toddler is teething, offer appropriate toys that may be chewed on. If necessary, take them to the daycare with clear instructions to the personnel. A well run daycare will offer such toys to a teething toddler.

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    3) Provide Communication Enhancing Activities for a Toddler

    Sign language is one of the premier educational activities for a toddler who requires nonverbal communication skills. If you have narrowed down your toddler’s daycare biting behavior as rooting in a lack of communicative abilities, you will appreciate Bright Hub’s Beth Taylor, who has written an article entitled “Sign With Your Baby - A Book Review on Infant Communication" and thoroughly explains why the concept of signing is a well documented means of enhancing preverbal communication.

    As such, it also has the power to curb acting out behavior. If possible, explain to your daycare provider that you are signing with your toddler and – if necessary – volunteer to teach the workers a bit of that sign language.

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    Sources

    1. http://www.ashland.edu/fcs/documents/8.pdf
    2. http://www.babycenter.com/404_my-toddler-bites-should-i-bite-her-back_14057.bc