Don’t Bite Me Lil’ Kim
Kimberly is a child who——only when her mother is not around—- we call “Lil ‘Kim” for all the wrong reasons. Have you ever had to watch a child bite her mother? It isn’t pretty.
What’s even worse is when you are afraid you may be next and Lil’ Kim’s mom distracts you: “My toddler is a biter. She bites when she’s excited, when she’s angry, and when she doesn’t get her way. Should I bite her back?”
As much I wanted to, I could not say go for it.
Without a doubt, biting is the behavior that parents dread most. Not surprisingly, biters are often excluded from daycare or playgroups.
When your toddler sinks her teeth into your — or even worse, another person’s — flesh, the “bite her back” argument may seem like a logical way to stop her biting. Don’t do that, it’s wrongheaded.
Teeth are natural weapons for all young mammals, so your child’s first instinct is to use them when she feels threatened or needs something. She doesn’t truly understand that biting is forbidden, let alone “wrong.” So when she bites, even if she does it gently and playfully, immediately and clearly convey to her that biting isn’t acceptable.
If her “kisses” turn into aggressive nibbles, remove her from your lap with a firm “no biting.” She’s still too young for lengthy explanations about why biting is bad; it’s enough at this point to simply tell her that she must not bite under any circumstances.
Make sure, too, that you don’t inadvertently reward your toddler for biting. Of course, teeth marks get your attention, but don’t pick her up — even if it’s to reprimand her. If your child bites another child, focus your attention on the injured party rather than on the biter — who may take even negative attention as reinforcement for doing it again.
While you need to firmly tell your child that biting isn’t okay, actually punishing her for the behavior isn’t very effective at getting her to stop. In fact, punitive measures may put an angry or over stimulated child right over the top. And though parents are often counseled to bite their child back “to show her how it feels,” this is as pointless as it is painful.
Young children do most of their social learning by following their parents’ example, so biting your child or otherwise inflicting pain on her sets a bad example. After all, how will she learn that biting is wrong if you do it?
Biting must be stopped, but you won’t stop it by stooping to your child’s level. Aggressive acts stop when adults stop them. So instantly remove your child’s teeth from her victim’s flesh, show concern for the child who’s been hurt, acknowledge both parties’ feelings, and, as your child’s verbal skills grow, help her learn to negotiate with words rather than aggression: “We don’t bite. Can you use your words to tell me what you need?”
Biting is a surefire means of communication. It gets attention. I guess “Lil’ Kim” was just trying to get her point across.
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