My son just turned 1 a few weeks ago. He has recently started biting me, hard enough to be painful and leave a mark. He only has four teeth, but makes very good use of them. I should note that he does not bite out of anger or frustration. It seems to me that he bites when he's very happy or excited about something (he'll crawl over to me and bite my leg if I'm sitting on the floor, for example). Every time he does this, I firmly say, "NO. No biting." He only seems to bite me. He has not bitten his dad, or anyone at daycare, where he goes 2 days a week. Is there a more appropriate way to help him stop this behavior?
From: Kathryn, Danvers, MA
You're on the right track, but I would add another step: Remove yourself from him. Literally. If he's in your lap, firmly (and at arm's distance) pick him up, place him on the floor and walk away. If you're on the floor, stand up and walk away. Do this every time it happens and use a voice that is not mean, but clearly no-nonsense. When he calms down (he'll be angry now, and frustrated, that you have removed yourself), tell him in a still firm but friendlier voice, "I can't be with you when you bite. Are you ready to try to be together again, without biting?" Repeat and repeat and repeat as often as you need to.
At the same time, anticipate when he might bite and head it off at the pass by naming the emotion that's fueling him -- "You're very happy, aren't you?! -- and giving him an acceptable way to express it: "Let's jump up and down together!" "Let's shout, 'Whoopee!'" Most of the time when toddlers bite, it's because they're frustrated, not because they excited, but lack of language is what's behind either behavior.
Absolutely tell the caregivers that he's going through this stage so that they will keep a closer eye on him. Biting is a common behavior -- and definitely not a harbinger of future behaviors -- that gets everyone worked up for obvious reasons; in fact, there's probably no other toddler behavior that challenges parents and caregivers as much. "No Biting, Second edition" by Gretchen Kinnell is a great resource.
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