When Your Child Bites, Can’t fall asleep, or Hurts Others or You

When your child:
It may mean your child:
Is still trying to put everything in his mouth (toddler).Does not feel sleepy.Is too young to understand.
Is teething and needs objects or harder foods to chew on (toddler).Feels afraid.Is inexperienced, angry or troubled.
Is using biting instead of words to communicate (toddler).Does not feel comfortable.
Does not understand that biting hurts (toddler).Wants attention.
Feels frustrated and has not developed other, more positive coping skills (pre-schooler).Is interested in other things.
So do not:
Bite your child back.Completely darken the room.Get angry, punish or hurt your child.
Encourage another child to bite your child.Reward or bribe your child.
Threaten your child.
Make your child feel badly by shaming, ignoring or withdrawing your love.
Make your child bite soap.Scold or punish your child.
Put your child to bed as punishment.
Tie or restrain your child.
You might try:
Providing close supervision of the biter and being ready to step in to protect other children.Avoiding over-stimulation near bed time.Attending to the hurt child first and involving the child who did the hurting in the comforting.
Comforting the victim first. Tell the biter that biting hurts. Involve the biter in comforting the victim by bringing a cool, wet towel to put on the bite.Reading, singing or playing with your child before bed.
Playing soft background music.
Observing when it happens, how often it happens, who is hurt and what happened before the hurting.
Providing an object to bite, such as a pillow or chewy toy.Seeing that your child’s needs are met before going to bed.Quietly separating the children.
Observing when your child bites, who the victim is, and your child’s reaction after biting.Tucking your child in bed with affection.Diverting their attention.
Helping your child to use words to cope with frustration.Allowing your child to look at books or play with quiet toys.Taking the hurting objects away, calmly and firmly.
Thinking about your time schedule, equipment, activities and guidance techniques. Are they creating or reducing stress for the children?Offering assurance that you will wake the child up (before snack, when the others wake first or whatever is important).Beginning to teach your child that hurting is not something to do.
Putting your child back to bed kindly but firmly.
Planning quiet activities for your child as he wakes up so he doesn’t just lie on the bed.

Permission to reproduce granted by Child Action, Inc.

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