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Parenting Parent - Anger release

I LEAVE my two-year-old son in the playschool for three hours every day. He loves to bite other children. When I take him to the playground, he will attempt to bite someone too. His teacher commented that he has no friends in school, as all the children are terrified of him. My husband and I are very concerned. What should we do to break this habit? I am a working mother. – Worried Mother

Two-year-olds who are feeling frustrated and misunderstood will resort to biting when they cannot express how they feel. At this age, they are unaware of what is right or wrong. When they feel upset or insecure, they will use the only “weapon” they know to vent their feelings. He may even be biting to show his interest in the other person. He may have observed others giving each other a “love bite”.

Biting is an aggressive behaviour. It causes bodily harm to others and can also be frightening to the one who bites. The child feels powerful when he bites. Yet, this power that he has can be overwhelming. He may not be able to control it. It is up to his parents and teachers to help him manage this behaviour.

You have to find out why he is biting. It does not help much to say or do anything after he has bitten. Scolding him or punishing him may cause him to feel worse, and bite more. Some adults pound their fists on the table when they are angry or use foul language. Very young children bite when they are angry or frustrated.

Another reason could be that he finds biting arouses strong feelings in others. He may feel left out in groups of many. His biting may get him the kind of focused attention he longs for. Once you discover the reason behind his biting, you can try to prevent it before it happens.

If biting is a behaviour that is being modelled, try to remove this from the child. Help your child to learn how to use other ways to express his interest and strong feelings. For example, you can show him how he can touch someone’s hand gently and smile and say, “I like you.” You can also help him redirect his urge to bite others to objects made for biting. Tell him that people are not for biting. He can bite things like teething rings or sink his teeth into a bread roll.

Show him how he can use other means to express his anger. Observe your child carefully and know when he is about to “explode”. In other words, anticipate his moves. Distract him before his anger gets full-blown and out-of-control. If you know he is demanding for something or trying to get his message across, help him to use other means for getting what he wants. Model to him how he can use certain words or signs to let the other person know.

I used to show toddlers in group care how they can barter trade what they wanted from each other. If you want a toy that someone else is playing, you will bring along another toy to exchange for it. In the beginning, I had to constantly demonstrate the way it is done to the toddlers. I helped them to trade without fighting. Eventually, they learned how to do it by themselves without using any form of aggression. I reinforced their positive behaviour by saying to them, “You have shared with your friend.” “You are nice to your friend.”

Toddlers need to experience positive ways of handling challenges. As much as possible, cut down on power struggles. No one is a winner when an adult confronts a young child in a power struggle. When your child has stepped out of the boundary, respond to him matter-of-factly and stay calm. Avoid confrontations. If he climbs on the furniture, say to him calmly, “You can climb on the jungle gym in the playground.” At all times, offer solutions that are workable for your toddler.

Your toddler is still learning about his environment and how to get along with others. Making friends does not come automatically for a young child. He needs the adults in his life to help him learn how to make it happen. His playgroup teacher should plan activities where she partners him while he learns appropriate behaviour to do things with other children.


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