At tummies full of love – we love each bite given. But the parents of biting toddlers do not share the same sentiment.
With a red face and an embarrassed heart we as parents often do not understand this behaviour and it can cause feelings of despair and powerlessness.

Well, we are here to help by shining some light on the subject and giving practical guidance so that the bites given by our toddlers would be rather on yummy food and not other living beings.

Biting in toddlers is totally normal and can be expected. The word “frustration” is often the emotion driving this behaviour.
Toddlers are at a stage where they are now more aware of the feelings without having the proper words in their toolbox to verbalise their
them. Other than that; they also do not have the skills to know how they can communicate these words and feelings or how to stand up for themselves.
Their language skills are limited (not too different from adults in rage) and the level of verbal and non-verbal (sign language) differ from toddler to toddler. So it is inevitable that the frustration levels between two toddlers that are trying to communicate, but just don’t get it right. can be escalating really quickly and intensely.

And then the big bite…

Here are some practical guidelines you can try at home and school to lower the “toddler shark” bites between them:

1. Prevention is key: Read the room. When you can see that the emotional temperature rising within your toddler, try to guide or manage the trigger
causing frustration in your toddler.

2. Teach them the words and boundaries: Your toddler learns best how to communicate their feelings and needs by reflecting it to them. So for example, say the following: “Mommy can see that you are getting frustrated, because you want your toy back. How about you ask your brother nicely to give it back to you.”
It is also very important to set the boundary of “no biting in our house” as soon as it starts by keeping it safe and indirect: “In our house we don’t bite, because biting hurts.”

3. Give alternatives: Teach your child healthy coping strategies to help them with the feeling of frustration. You can say something like this: “Mommy can see that
you are frustrated, but we don’t bite. So how about we try to get that big feelings out by rather blowing bubbles or throwing a ball.” Sometimes you would be surprised about the creative ideas toddlers can come up with to get their frustration out, so give them the opportunity to also be part of their problem-solving skills.

With all things said, just know that biting in toddlers are very normal and this phase will also pass.
It is now the best time to start teaching your child about big feelings and the proper ways of dealing with them.
Good luck and happy parenting!

Lianca Fourie – Registered Counsellor specialising in Play Therapy (MA Psych – Play Therapy); George, Garden Route. – 072 123 6683

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