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How to Stop Your Child From Biting

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Most young children go through a biting stage, but children with developmental disabilities and behavioral challenges may be more likely to bite due to sensory issues, and less likely to understand that it hurts the other person. When my son started biting years ago, I followed the advice of a fellow mom on an e-mail list, and the technique worked very quickly to save me from those tiny teeth. It's not the most sensitive procedure, and you may be disturbed to use eye contact as a punishment, but if biting becomes a whatever-works situation for you, here's what worked for me.
Difficulty: Hard
Time Required: Count of Ten

Here's How:

  1. When your child bites you, immediately grab both of his hands.
  2. Make eye contact with your child and insist on keeping that contact as you count to ten. If the eyes waver, the count starts over. The hands will not be released until the count finishes.
  3. After a count of ten, say, very sternly, "No biting!"
  4. Release your child's eyes and hands.

Tips:

  1. Chewy toys and tubing may give your child a more acceptable outlet for her biting needs. They're available from occupational therapy catalogs. For a budget alternative, pick up some aquarium tubing from the pet store, put some knots in it, and tie it around your child's neck for a chewy necklace.
  2. It may be tempting to bite your child back to show him that it hurts, but that can backfire: Many kids with sensory integration problems don't feel pain very strongly, so you may in fact be demonstrating that biting's no big deal.
  3. Often, biting is a form of communication for kids who are frustrated or angry but can find no other way to express it. If you can figure out what's bothering your child and change that, the biting may go away on its own.
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