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Your Biting and Attitude Questions – Answered!

Why does my child bite?  Why does my child have such an attitude?

Thanks for submitting your questions this past week.

why does my child bite

child image via Shutterstock

Q: Why do some kids bite each other?

A:  Biting can be a problem for some kids as they start teething and many children go through a biting phase between the ages of 1 and 3. There are a number of reasons children may bite. Maybe they are craving attention, maybe they are in pain, maybe they are upset or maybe they are just exploring the world around them. Biting can be a comfort thing for children as they feel the need to bite.  If their mouth is starting to feel pain they may bite the first thing they see, which may be you!  Biting can also be a learned behavior.  Some kids have toy puppets with large mouths that when playing may bite each other (I am just as guilty of this myself).  Kids see the puppet biting innocently and think it is ok for them to do this because they see this as something fun.

There are lots of great resources out there to help.  Teeth Are Not For Biting is a book that we have in our office that may be some help.  If  biting starts to become a problem, I beg of you is to please not bite your child back.  This is very confusing for the child who is already not sure of what is acceptable and what is not.  By biting the child back this will only confuse the child more. Is your child hungry, tired or craving attention? Most often biting is a sign of something  – if your child is older or this behavior continues you may want to talk to your child’s health care provider.

Q: My soon to be 1 year old got a bit of his attitude from his mommy. And he likes to show it to me on a daily basis. He hits things out of my hands, hits people in the face, and hits other babies in the face. Baby has never been so much as popped on the hand so I’m not sure where he got the idea to smack at things. He also arches and tenses up in little temper tantrums if I don’t get a piece of food to his mouth fast enough or I take away the remote or cell phone. 
I’m just not sure how to redirect him and help him understand that his behavior isn’t acceptable. How do I establish good discipline now so I’m not faced with an out of control toddler?

A: Good question.  I am encouraged to hear that you are concerned about this now and realized that the future is coming with the “attitude from his mommy”.
First thing we need to remember is their feelings and emotions are very limited and one dimensional.  We (adults) are capable of feeling several emotions at once, however a child, till about the age of 7ish, can only feel one emotion at a time.  Your son wants to communicate to you that he wants what he wants.  This is all.  He wants more food, he wants the remote/phone and he wants the other people out of his face.  Now for the hard part…what to do about it.  Children also have short attention spans and are very distractible.  A trick that worked for my daughter was to pick her up and spin in a circle with her close to me.  She forgot about the initial problem and had lots of fun.  It was also hilarious to see them dizzy for the first time.  When a child reacts in any type of negative fashion, they are trying to communicate with you.  They want to tell you that there is something wrong and you need to fix it and this is the only way they can communicate with their limited communication skills.  A good tool for some babies/toddlers is baby sign language.  Whatever tools you use, just remember that children have a point to make and this is what has worked for them in the past and they need help learning new communication techniques.

Do you have a question you would like answered by Trevor? E-mail your questions to [email protected] with the Title ASK TREVOR in the subject line.


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Saturday 5th of June 2010

Biting can also be the symptom of something bigger. My 18 month old wasn't talking (at 15 months he said NOTHING, not dad, not mama, nothing), threw tantrums, and bit everyone and everything. He's my second and I knew something was wrong. It turns out, he has Sensory Processing Disorder and biting is incredibly common for sensory kids. With or without a diagnosis of SPD, speech therapy can help ALOT for biters. We have to take crunchy or very chewy snacks (granola bars, beef jerky, ect) and when he looks like he might bite, he gets a snack. It works for him!

A. Smith

Saturday 5th of June 2010

When I was young I bit everybody! My teachers, friends - you name it, if I was upset I was biting. Thankfully my daughter hasn't shown any of these tendancies yet but she's still pretty young so advice like this is truly a blessing. I'll be bookmarking this post just incase she takes after me and those teeth start showing! Thank you :)

Sippy Cup Mom

Saturday 5th of June 2010

These are great Q & A's! I'm worried my son is starting to get an attitude, but I have to remember he is just trying to communicate. I like the distraction part.

My son doesn't bite, but you never know! He has a friend that does though, so I'll pass this on!

Thank you!