We’ve come to accept that toddlers will experiment with developmentally appropriate behaviour such as biting, hitting and pulling hair. But what if they start lashing out a little earlier than expected?
One of our listeners Natalie has a nine-month-old son who has started to bite and pull her hair. She asked Kinderling Helpline’s Mothercraft nurse Chris Minogue what she can do to discourage him.
Biting is not on purpose
“The first thing is, the biting is not intentional,” Chris assured. She recognises this is a bit strange, but normally they bite at this age when they’re completely content.
If you recognise it as repeated behaviour, one way to stop it is to pick the child up, but not facing you so there’s not the opportunity to bite. Try this for a couple days, and Chris said, “usually it just goes away.”
Listen to Chris on Kinderling Helpline:
Hair pulling is a tactile response
Chris said “[Hair] is just fascinating to them. They see hair, they want to tactile touch it, and they pull it.”
Again, if this is a repeated behaviour and you’ve come to expect it, tie your hair back for a few days. “The less he does it, the less he knows that he can do it,” Chris comforted Natalie.
Use verbal warnings
If a child does bite you or pull your hair, make a verbal signal like “uh uh uh” to indicate that it’s not a nice thing to do. Then release their hand from the hair, or mouth from your body.
“Try not to use ‘no’, only because we use ‘no’ a lot in general in parenting. So this is just like a little warning sound,” Chris said. This distracts them from what they’re doing.
Chris assures that around this nine-month-old mark, kids are very tactile, and want to explore their sense of touch. If you are consistent with this advice, they’ll quickly forget to do it at all!
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