To stop a toddler biting, firstly, ask lots of questions about biting so they know what to do.

  • If Jack hits you, what do you need to do?

Yes, you need to say in a big loud voice ‘No, stop it Jack– that hurt!’

  • And how might you feel?

Yes, you might feel angry.

  • And what can you do when you feel angry?

Yes, you can shout. It’s ok to shout.

  • Is there anything you can do that’s better than shouting?

Yes, you can tell Jack: ‘Don’t hurt me. That’s not OK’

  • And if he takes the toy you’re playing with what can you say then?

Yes, you can say‘No, stop, mine! Or you could say: ‘I was playing with that. Please give it back!’

  • Are you allowed to bite Jack?

No- that’s right – biting’s not ok

  • What can you bite?

Yes, you can bite food, and you can bite on a teething ring. And yes, you could bite teddy.

  • Why can’t you bite people?

That’s right because it hurts.

  • Is hurting people ok?

No – we keep people safe.

  • If you felt upset, who could you ask for help?

Yes, you can ask mummy –or Mrs Watson –that would be a good thing to do when you’re at nursery.

Secondly, be vigilant and try to make sure they don’t bite again.
From now on you’re going to need to be really attentive to stop them biting.
If you think your child is getting frustrated move closer and talk them through what they need to do…

  • ‘Ella’s standing next to you at the sandpit, and I notice you’ve clenched your jaw. Are you feeling like you want more space?
  • What can you say to Ella to tell her?

Say ‘Ella I need more space, can you play on that side of the sandpit?

  • ‘What will you do if Ella doesn’t move?

That’s right, you can move!’

Be really alert –
If your child looks like they might bite quickly move in and put your hand on their forehead to stop them– then quickly move them away from the situation.

And lastly, give them lots of positive attention when they don’t bite.
If they haven’t bitten anyone in the last half hour, praise them for not biting.
If they didn’t bite, when they might have in the past, praise them.
‘Well done – you didn’t bite! You used your words. You remembered the rule – We keep people safe – good for you!’

So to stop a toddler biting,

  1. Ask them lots of questions about biting.
  2. Be vigilant and try to make sure they don’t bite again.
  3. And give them positive attention for not biting.

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The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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