Month 15 Worry: Is My Biting Toddler Normal?
The most common medical concern for parents of children this age
Your 15 month old is well adjusted, doesn’t seem stressed, and is well nourished. So why is he aggressively gnawing on his little friend at playgroup?
What’s the Issue?
Biting, hitting, pinching, and hair pulling are common 15-month-old behaviors and certainly aren’t an early indicator of sociopathic behavior. But when it is your child who is the biter, or worse yet the bitee, you may feel pressured to spring into action. But what can you do?
Consider the Numbers
In my practice, there’s nary a week that passes without my receiving a frantic toddler-parent call about this issue. And research of slightly older kids suggests the problem lingers for a while: In one North Carolina survey, 6 percent of preschoolers bit or pinched another student at least once per week. Males and females exhibited all “anti-social” behaviors in equal numbers. (So the idea of the aggressive boy stereotype doesn’t seem to hold true.) And 40 percent of all preschoolers exhibited at least one anti-social behavior each day. So your little Dracula is in good company!
What Parents Can Do
Keep your toddler’s behavior in perspective: Physically, right now is a trying time: His motor skills are immature; he may not be walking with much stability yet. And his speech musculature is a bit immature, as well. He may be struggling to make basic “m,” “k,” or “l” sounds.
Developmentally, 15-month-olds bite and hit others as a means of communication (usually communicating their frustration) and reaction-seeking. For example, a toddler certainly wouldn’t be expected to verbalize his significant fatigue since getting through the last holiday when his sleep schedule was off. He might just bite. Or a toddler may bite another child and immediately stare wide-eyed as his victim screams. (A similar reaction could be observed in an older child who tips over the first of a line of dominoes and watches in fascination as the others fall successively.)
Knowing that your child is not biting simply because he loves the taste of blood may be reassuring. If the behavior continues despite distraction and redirection and if adult caretakers are having difficulty handling the behavior, consult your pediatrician. And certainly check with your pediatrician if your child has other complicating developmental issues such as Down syndrome or Autistic Spectrum Disorder. In these instances, dealing with such behaviors can be a little more complicated.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN