Why do toddlers bite and how can we prevent it?

That morning could have made my ‘fun things to do in Maastricht with children’ list. Go to the Wednesday market. Buy a bunch of fresh fruit and bread. Walk to the river Maas. Wave at the giant Winnie the Pooh on the way. Sit on a bench and look at the sightseeing boats. Eat your bread and fruit. Remember to NOT put on a white shirt (as I did), white pants (as our toddler did) or a white t-shirt (as our baby boy did). Try to wipe everyone clean of fruit juice. Walk to the library, exchange your books. Most importantly:

Notice the signs that your toddler is about to bite his baby brother.

I just strapped the boys into the bike trailer and was attaching the bike to go home, when it happened. The writing was clearly on the wall. It was easy to see it with the wisdom of hindsight. I didn’t see it coming because we never had a biting incident before. I totally overreacted. It was this same incident that inspired my blog post on mom guilt. I’m happy to say that I haven’t experienced mom guilt ever since, so if you are struggling with mom guilt give it a read.

It never fails to amaze me what comes up, when I decode a situation through the number wisdom of Karam Kriya Numerology. Looking at this biting incident through the guidance of the numbers blew my mind. It gave me useful tools that massively improved my relationship with my son and made my parenting much more easy going and relaxed.

Biting is normal for 2-year-olds, but it is also avoidable. I will explain how.

Why does my toddler bite?

Toddlerhood is a challenging time for both parents and children. I guess as a parent of a toddler you know exactly, what I’m talking about.

What do 2-year-olds struggle with?

The age of 2 marks the start of something that can be called ‘the loss of innocence’ in an ‘Eve bites in the apple from the tree of knowledge’ kind of way. Toddlers at this age start to become self-conscious. Pride and embarrassment appear. They realize that they can be seen by others.1

My now 2-year-old son used to love looking at himself in the mirror. We made lots of selfies together. We made videos of ourselves being silly. You can forget it these days! I take out my camera and he runs the opposite way. This one turend out to be one of our most successful selfies recently.

Toddlers at this age realize that there is a gap between how they see themselves and how they are being seen by the outside world.1 Taking a photo or looking at their reflection in the mirror becomes a representation of this gap.

Have you ever read stories about people freaking out when the first photographs were invented? They were scared that photos were stealing their souls. That’s what toddlers are going through at this age. This also answers you question on why your toddler hates photos and doesn’t want to have his picture taken.

In Karam Kriya Numerology number 1 is representing our soul. Our very essence. At the age of 1 our world view is simple and easy. I am. I have my point of view. That’s it. Children at this age are self-centered.

As we are approaching the age age of 3, the energy of the number 3 is coming into play. Number 3 is all about being seen. How we are perceived by others.

Toddlers around the age of 2 become conscious of the separation between these two point of views. It is a necessary step on the way to start developing true empathy around the age of 4.1 We can only understand the point of view of others, when we understand that they can see the world differently from us.

This is an overwhelming process for toddlers. Do you know the saying to bite off more than you can chew? That’s how toddlers feel. They are trying to make sense of the world, all the expectations, rules and point of views. They start processing the world in a whole new level.

When they bite basically they are saying: I am trying to chew on this, but I can’t get my head around this. This is too much. I am overwhelmed. I am frustrated. I am gone too far away from myself. Help me come home to my Self!

What to do with a biting child?

Prevention is better than cure. Biting is usually an impulsive act. It often seems to happen out of the blue. When you notice the early signs, you have a good chance to prevent exacerbation by centering yourself and creating a moment of rest and grounding for yourself and your child

What are the warning sings for biting?

  • Grinding teeth
  • Chewing on clothes, shirt or other objects
  • Chewing on his own hands
  • Signs of being over-tired and overwhelmed
  • Signs of frustration (especially due to feeling of being out of control)
  • Playfully trying to bite
  • Wanting things (especially when your child is bombarding you with requests one after the other)
  • Going in loops with questions (especially with What? Where? questions)
  • Difficulty expressing himself and finding the right words.

Remember that your child is acting this way because she is in distress and NOT because she is naughty. The feeling that she is losing herself is at the root of her behavior. She is spiraling out of her own center. Your aware presence can be a powerful anchor. Your own energy needs to be centered and grounded. Having a daily practice for yourself to practice this without distractions is essential. Most of us didn’t learn this as children.

You are not rewarding ‘bad behavior’. You are helping your child to relax and get centered. Would you like someone to boss you around, when you are feeling upset and overwhelmed?

Remove distractions. Create a peaceful environment. Keep things simple, including your language. Speak slowly in a soft tone. Use simple words. Set clear boundaries.

Go outside, if you are in a busy environment. Give your child the opportunity to take a break. Hold your child while you are breathing slow and steady. Your relaxed breath helps your child to calm down and to feel safe. See your toddler for who s/he truly is. A couple of minutes of focused attention can do magic. Be intentional about it.

Once your child feels a bit more settled, you can propose one of these activities. They bring the earthy energy of number 1 into the play:

  • Playing with clay or play dough
  • Playing with sand
  • Digging in the garden
  • Playing with pebbles
  • Jumping up and down on a trampoline

Using essential oils can also be helpful. Activating the sense of smell can be relaxing and centering.

How do you discipline a 2-year-old for biting?

If a biting incident occurred, relax and make a clear statement: “No biting! Biting hurts!’ Where attention goes, energy flows. Don’t give biting much attention. Take care of the victim, who was bitten. It’s is good to point out the consequences of biting without blame or shame. Be neutral about it and see, how the natural interaction develops. Remember that biting is a sign that your child is in need of an inner anchor. Handle it accordingly as described above. Children don’t bite, because they are mean. They still need to learn, how to handle the overwhelm that is often at the root of biting. The biggest gift we can give our children is to stay present with them in these moments without judgement.

Remember that there is no point in giving your child a lecture on biting right after it happened. Your child is tired and overwhelmed. No one can receive information like that. Discuss it later or read a book about biting when you are both rested.

Is your child a biter?

If biting occurs regularly it is good to have a look at the following things:

  • Does your child get enough rest moments during the day? Does he need more ‘downtime’ to relax and do nothing? Does he get enough focused and undisturbed playtime?
  • Does your child get enough opportunities to cry and express his emotions? Is there enough support and holding to feel his emotions?
  • Has there been any changes in your child’s life recently that can be a source of tension?
  • Is there a situation, where your child may feel unsafe or helpless?

Btw. don’t ever call your child a biter. Not even jokingly. Avoid the use of labels. It is a sensitive age. We internalize many beliefs about ourselves at this age that we then carry on for the rest of our lives.

You can also reflect on these points for yourself. Our children often reflect back, where our own life feels out of balance.

I hope this was helpful for you. If you have any questions, just let me know.

Much love,

Orsi

References

  1. http://psychology.emory.edu/cognition/rochat/Rochat5levels.pdf

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