David Coleman: Help! My daughter has started to bite!
Published 05/09/2011 | 11:02
WE HAVE a child who is nearly two. She started biting other kids and me and her dad about six months ago.
Recently it has been getting worse and now she is pushing and hitting other kids in her creche.
The creche said that they are not very happy with it as they have to have one person minding her constantly.
When she misbehaves, I sit down beside her with a stern voice and tell her it's not nice to do this and that she is hurting the other kids.
She then apologies but the apology does not count for much with her as she goes and does it again a while later.
I have also put her on the bold step but she doesn't stay too long on it.
I know she bites in frustration when fighting over a toy and she also bites for attention, without being provoked.
I don't know what else to do as I don't want to be giving her too much attention but the problem isn't stopping.
I OFTEN get queries about toddlers biting. It is a very common, instinctive reaction from many small children when things don't go their way. Often, the response of adults gives a subtle message to children that biting can also be a great way of getting one-to-one adult time and attention.
To deal with it, give a very firm verbal message that biting is not allowed and then move your child away from the child (or adult) that she has bitten.
Don't get into a long discussion about the niceness, or boldness, of the biting. The really important message she needs to hear is that she is not allowed to do it.
Two-year-olds need to know the rules, not why the rules are in place.
Comfort the bitten child, so that your daughter sees that the bulk of attention goes to the hurt child. Tell your daughter that when she can play without fighting then she can play, but if she bites she won't be allowed to play.
You don't need to use time-out as a punishment. Punishment time-out is a waste of parental (or adult) time and energy and usually results in children getting lots of individual time and attention as the adults try to enforce the time-out.
Sending a two-year-old to a bold step will reinforce a belief in your daughter that she is bold. This is not a good belief to grow up with!
I don't believe that two-year-olds are bold (they do occasional bold things which they need to learn not to do). Your message to your daughter should be that biting is bad (not that she is bad) and that biting won't be allowed.
Then it is a question of being vigilant and using lots of distraction, empathy and positive attention to keep her busy and engaged so that she doesn't need to bite; neither to demonstrate her frustration nor to get your attention.
Because she is in creche you need to discuss this approach with them too, so that you can try to keep some consistency in how she is managed at home and in the creche.
She should grow out of it anyway, but in the interim at least less children will get hurt.