I'm a childcare expert – how to react when your toddler is a biter and how to get them out of the habit | The Sun

THE terrible two's can bring on all sorts of unusual and sometimes unbearable behaviour, and unexplained biting could be something you're forced to deal with.

So what brings it on and how do you make it stop? We reveal everything parents should know.

Why do toddlers bite?

Rachel FitzD, baby and parenting expert and author of “Your Baby Skin to Skin tells Fabulous: "Toddlers are awash with strong emotions – it’s why we find them so energising and exhausting.

"They don’t yet have the maturity for dealing appropriately with these often overwhelming and competing feelings and it is our job as parents to provide the safe and firm boundaries inside which they can experiment, learn and grow, whilst developing strategies for coping with the knocks and bumps of life."

Here, Rachel provides a simple step-by-step to help you handle your mini shark without too much blood being spilt.

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1. Diversion

The first step is to attempt to avoid it from happening in the first place, which is, of course, easier said than done.

"You don’t want your little one practising unwanted behaviour," Rachel says.

If you spot a bite or a hit about to happen, Rachel suggests quickly diverting their attention to something else like an aeroplane or an interesting toy. Or simply plant a better idea into their head.

For example, she explains: "If you see a mouth raised above a baby’s arm, you might say, ‘Ah, you’re wanting to give them a kiss? Baby likes a gentle kiss like this …’ and then show them how to kiss the baby gently. "

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2. Act fast

Sometimes, that bite or slap is going to happen regardless,despite your best efforts, and in this case, parents should act fast, Rachel advises.

"Use a short, clear, attention-grabbing word such as ‘STOP!’ as you dash in fast to physically separate the hurter and the hurt," she explains.

"Then describe what happened (the younger the child the shorter the description can be) so: ‘You bit Sam on the arm!’ for example.

"Next name any emotion which might be relevant such as ‘I can see that has made Sam really sad.’

"Then quickly state the rule making sure that your voice and face match your certainty: ‘bites hurt and we don’t hurt people!’"

3. Give a natural consequence

Rachel says: "Consequences spring naturally out of the event and make sense to children who have a strong sense of justice.

"So, it might be that the children need time to play separately until tempers have calmed."

While an apology is always a great idea, parents shouldn't force a small child to say it, says Rachel

"Apologies are hard to give when you’re feeling embarrassed and chided and are only a few years old, " she says.

" So lead by example and give the sorry to the hurt child [or person] whilst expressing your belief that your child will be able to show they’re sorry in time."

Apologies are hard to give when you’re feeling embarrassed and chided and are only a few years old.

After this simply ask the child gently if they'd like to say sorry, and if they clam up, don't make a big fuss. Simply say something like ‘bites need a sorry,' Rachel explains.

"Tell your child 'it can be hard to say sorry when you’re still feeling cross with your friend. I’ll say the sorry for now, and I know that, when your cross feelings have gone, you’ll find a way to show your friend that you’re sorry.’"

4. Don't drag it out

Rachel suggests moving on quickly. "Don't drag it out," she warns.

"Toddlers really can’t manage a long lecture and you have said all that needs to be said and dealt thoughtfully and compassionately with your little learner," she explains.

Then, reassure your child that '‘it’s never ok to bite someone, but, when you get bitey feelings, it is ok to use your cross voice or to come and find me instead so we can hug those feelings away.'

She says: "Giving your child more appropriate ways to manage their strong feelings helps support them towards more self-awareness and self-discipline."

Don't panic, it'll pass

Will it happen again? Rachel says probably, but there's no need to panic "if you have a little biter in your household."

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"With patience and compassion, along with firm and consistent boundaries your tot will learn that, whilst feelings of frustration and anger are perfectly normal, there are better ways of expressing ourselves than sinking our gnashers into the flesh of another human being," she says.

Rachel will be speaking at The Baby Show which is taking place from 21-23 October at Olympia London.

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