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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

How I stopped my toddler from biting in 1 week



Teeth Yes, I stopped my toddler from biting in one week. But that's a bit of an oversell. It only took a week when he was 15 months old. But three months later, he started up again, so it took another week. And finally at 22 months he gave it one last chomp but we again got it stopped pretty quickly and haven't  had trouble since (that was 3 years ago).

I'm no behavior guru or Toddler Whisperer. Just classify this under "This is what I did" and you can take it or leave it. But considering that thousands of preschoolers are kicked out of school each year over behavior according to a Yale University study -- including a disturbingly disproportionate number of African Americans -- this is a behavior that needs to be muzzled pronto.

To stop hitting or biting
Your best defense is prevention. When I would see a situation escalating to one where he'd typically bite or hit, I'd scoop him up and take him to another room to calm down or distract him before he got a chance to. I always held him facing out during these periods, to block his chompers from access to my shoulder.

I'd give him some options of what he can do when he's mad such as punching a pillow or how to use his words. Focus on the tools he can use instead of screeching at him over what he can't do like I wanted to. I've also found a great way to get them to calm down from the book Happiest Toddler on the Block detailed in this article.

When the child is upset,  repeat back to them what they are feeling "You want that remote don't you? You are mad because Mommy won't let you have it. You are mad at Mommy!" It really works because the child feels "heard" and that you understand and empathize. Sounds crazy, but it worked. Don't knock it till you try it. You then distract them by finding something else to catch their interest or a toy remote they can play with. So again, focus on what he can do, not what he can't.

When he hit or bit, I put him down immediately or took him to a quiet corner or his room and used short phrases like "Biting Hurts" and "Mommy will not play with people who hurt her." Then I walked away.

Taking away your attention is about the worst consequence at this age. Try to keep a poker face as you do this, not yelling or freaking out even though I'm sure it hurts sooooo bad. Watch your language, girlfriend. I know those suckers can hurt but what they don't want to lose is your attention. Even yelling at them is attention.

After a few moments, return and offer comfort and talk about what to do instead when he's mad. Even if your child's language skills aren't up to par for a talk, he'll get the drift that when he hits or bites all fun stops and he loses Mom's attention. We had biting episodes at 15, 18 and 22 months and each time it stopped within a week with a combination of prevention and withdrawing attention.

-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne

[Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 10:56am]


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