Guest blog column by Dr. Pam Phelps of The Creative Center for Childhood Research & Training Inc. and doctor of Early Education. Her posts answer parenting questions.
Dear Dr. Phelps,
My 2-year-old son is usually very well-mannered and loving, but recently he has started biting. Usually it happens if another child takes a toy away from him, if he doesn’t want to do another activity, if he gets frustrated, etc. He bites his 5-year-old sister at home and has also bitten children a few times at school. Why did he start doing this all of a sudden? Is there anything I can do to help him stop?
— Biting the dust in North Florida
Big sister needs to hold her hand up when he looks like he is going to bite and say, “No, do not bite me” in a firm voice (not screaming). You should move in and help him begin to use some sign language or a few words such as “play” or “turn.” This can later be moved into, “I want to play” or, “Can I have a turn?”
Young children often bite and it is usually over a toy. Toys draw children into social interactions and young children do not have language skills that allow them to discuss problems.
In group child care settings children often bite because there are not enough of the same kind and color of toy and/or the adults in charge are not paying close enough attention. Children need to be taught how to solve these conflicts. When adults are attentive they can intervene before the bite happens, modeling and scaffolding a positive social exchange. Time-out teaches nothing. A child on time-out knows no more when the time-out is over then he/she did before it started.