Every Momma knows just what their little one's tummy craves. We mix macaroni, spoon-feed spaghetti and brave the aftermath of a gooey go-gurt. But what do you do when your tiny one sinks his teeth into something other than your perfectly packed PB&J? A pre-preschool peer perhaps? We gasp in our aprons at the thought but the awful truth is that the biting bug is as common as a runny nose in Spring and almost as easy to remedy...ALMOST.
An Appetite to Bite
Toddlerhood is an age of exploration. It's an admiring trait when they're frolicking in the flowers or sifting in the sandbox but as any Momma who's unleashed their tot in the supermarket knows the curiosity is not always so endearing. Our little ones are testing the waters and our limits, forever asking your consequence to their action. "If I ______ then, ______." As their first and finest teachers it is our job to provide a consistent and appropriate response to their question, while also bearing in mind the limited tools they have to process such scenarios.
Cut your nibbler a little slack. Sometimes our little guys bite off more than they can chew. Young children don't yet have the social prowess, or words at all for that matter, to get what they want in an appropriate manner. Biting, along with its ugly cousin the push, is most often a communication of frustration or expression of emotion that renders tiny ones speechless. Don't assume that their clenched teeth are sign of mini malice, toddlers have yet to master their own emotions, much less gauge anyone elses'.
Managing your Muncher
The fangs have been drawn...now what? Your post-bite behavior is the key to preventing its recurrence. Channel your inner cucumber and keep your cool! Drawing an unnecessary amount of attention to the situation sends some little ones the message that their biting behavior elicits excitement and desired attention. Instead, take this moment to remove them from the scene of the crime. 'Time-Out" is a recommended option practiced by many parents in this circumstance. At The Little Nook we take "breaks," when our Nookers need a hiatus from the ring. Safely removing the muncher from the situation, our teachers verbally reiterate the reason for doing so. "Molly, you are taking a break because you bit your friend. That is not OK." Make sure to deliver this message on their level, not yours, crouching or bending to establish eye contact. Age, NOT action, is the determining factor in length of the break. A 30 second breather can feel like a lifetime to a twitching tot. Afterward, maintain their level and explain again the reason for the break and appropriate behavior.
Feed them Friendly Language
Throw your vampire a bone...they're hungry for it. Building a friendly vocabulary to dip into when scuffles arise is a major component in prevention. We feed our Little Nookers friendly phrases to cling to in the heat of the moment..."May I have that, please?" and "Please, don't do that." Slipping a go-to move in their back pocket, and REWARDING their use of it, is a sure way to reinforce positive choices and bite-free playdates. Is your little one not quite ready to spit out such a sentence? Demonstrate a friendly tap on the shoulder and encourage any efforts at verbal communication. Every step in the right direction is one that counts.
Something to Nibble On
Check out these links to see what other professionals advise for your itty-bitty biter...