Around the time I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with my second child and my firstborn was a year and a half, he started biting me. It started out as little nips here and there, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. But when he started taking chunks out of my skin and, at one point, ripping my favourite dressing gown, I knew I had to do something about his biting. But nothing prepared me for the time his preschool teacher personally spoke to me about the issue. “Your son has been biting his best friend,” she shared. “And she’s been biting him, too.” I was horrified. And it made me wonder: Am I a horrible mum? What have I been doing wrong?
As a mum of both the biter and the bitten, I can tell you this phase is the absolute worst. If you have a biter, you’re either dodging the bites yourself, looking for ways to solve the problem or apologising to other parents. It also makes you question your parenting skills. Never mind that your little angel has the vocabulary of a much older child or that he’s dodged the picky-eater bullet. None of the positives matters. When you’re labelled a biter, you’re a biter for the rest of your preschool life. On the other hand, when you’ve got a juicy chunkster with yummy cheeks that just cry out for nibbling, sorry, but you’re going to have to teach them to be brave or how to run really fast.
Turns out that biting is pretty much standard behaviour for toddlers. Because our little ones can’t express themselves with words, they use other ways to show that they’re hungry/tired/upset/hurt. And we know toddlers are constantly going through ALL THE FEELINGS. It also happens more frequently when bub is teething because their gums feel sore. Which basically means – suck it up, Mum. You’re going to have to deal with this and become a human teether for awhile. In the meantime, here are some strategies you could try out once you see bub ready to pounce:
The good ol’ redirection method
Distract bub once he’s about to sink those chompers in. Hand him a book, your can of breath mints… anything, really, to take his attention away from the biting. This is the time to take advantage of those short attention spans, people!
Give them something else to chew on
If your tot is in major teething mode (and you’ll definitely know when this is happening), always have something to chew at the ready. Whether it’s a carrot, a washcloth or an actual teether, your best bet is having a cold chewie to soothe those aching gums.
This is what worked for us
When your little Dracula’s done chomping on your arm and it’s pretty much too late to do anything else, tell him firmly, “No!” Then, for your finale, give them your Oscar-winning tearless cry. Bonus marks for tears, if you can hack it. Explain to them that they’ve hurt Mummy and made her very sad. This usually does the trick for even the coldest of toddler hearts.
Show them how to deal
If your toddler is old enough to speak up and understand simple explanations, suggest ways on how to deal with others instead of biting. For example: If someone grabs your dinosaur from you, tell them: “No, that is mine. Please give it back.” If they don’t give it back, you can ask Mummy for help. Or: If you want to play with someone who won’t play with you, ask them nicely first.
The funny thing is, one day, my son just stopped biting. I never heard news from his teacher again, and my arms and clothes were finally bite-free. It was awesome! That’s the thing about these phases. Just like teething, they’ll eventually just go away on their own. But in the meantime, I still have another toddler that has yet to go through the biting phase…
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