Discipline Approach for Dealing with Toddler Biting



Mom picking up girl throwing a tantrum
Steps for responding to toddler biting:

  1. Express empathy for the biter using words like "Uh-oh, how sad you decided to bite."
  2. Avoid acting in ways that draw the child's attention away from his poor choice:
    • Yelling at the biter or showing anger.
    • Giving a mini-lecture about the evils of biting.
    • Biting the child back.
  3. State the consequence using words like "Time for a little bedroom time" if the consequence is a brief timeout. Remember it's not the severity of the consequence that matters, it's the certainty of a consequence.
    • Gently pick the child up and place him in his room.
    • Allow the child to rejoin the group after a couple minutes.
    • Use this time to comfort the bitten child.
  4. Welcome the biter back using words like "It's great to have you back!" Things to avoid:
    • Warning the child: "You know if you bite again you'll be in timeout again."
    • Explaining why he was in timeout.
    • Scolding the child: "You should never bite. It was very mean of you bite."
  5. Repeat these steps if the child bites again. The child will soon learn that biting is never acceptable and results in removal from a fun situation.
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Mom holding girl throwing tantrum