Untraining Vampires

image credit: Sharon Drummond

Lately does it seem like your child is studying how to be a Vampire, and not for Halloween either? It is not uncommon for toddlers to bite, especially if they have limited language skills. Preschoolers may occasionally bite because they are excited, over tired, or feeling a loss of control.

The other day while at lunch with my energetic but very tired 3-year-old grandson, he leaned over towards his mom and tried to bite her forearm. As an active preschooler, it appeared to him that our luncheon had gone on too long.

Here are appropriate and effective ways to deal with children that may engage in biting others:

  • An adult must intervene quickly, calmly, and firmly. Most frequently the biting is a reaction because the child feels out of control which can be very frightening to him. The parent or caregiver therefore needs to stay in control his/herself.
  • Reassure both the biter and the victim; inspect the area where they were bit. This will demonstrate not only the victim’s safety but also consequences and the seriousness of the biter’s behavior.
  • Encourage in a non forceful manner that the child comfort the victim with hug, words or pats. This will demonstrate that gentleness and kindness are expected.
  • Give the child words to use such as “can I play with that” or “now it’s my turn”.
  • Assess what led to the biting; is the child tired, bored, over stimulated, possibly feeling frustrated, or territorial.
  • Offer alternatives for the child to express feelings of frustration or anger such as clay to pound, coloring a picture, or tossing a ball.
  • Avoid over-stimulation of your child.
  • Evaluate the child’s environment, to ensure ample play space equipment, toys and teach taking turns with toys.
  • Praise the child’s appropriate and cooperative behavior.
  • Never bite the child back, as this is confusing and not responding in a teaching manner.
  • Discuss the situation with the child’s pediatrician if they continue this behavior.
  • Make this a teachable moment. Point out that all biting hurts.
Has your child bitten you or someone else? How did you handle it?
–Kim Steggles MA, LLP, Beaumont Parenting Program 

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