Make the Behavior Acceptable

Lately, we’ve been struggling with Little S wanting to bite. He’s cutting seven teeth and everything is going into his mouth. He wants to bite on toys, found objects, and people. Couple that with frustration and he wants to bite quite often. This is a new issue for me because Little A wasn’t a biter, but she also teethed much later. As I was wracking my brain to figure out how to deal with the biting issue, I remembered advice from our Parent Education teacher. She said, “When you’re struggling with unwanted behaviors, try to make the behavior acceptable.”

The idea is that if your child is doing something you don’t want them, you set parameters and allow for the behavior. For example, if your child loves to throw things, you set the parameter. Say, “We only throw balls outside.” Then if possible at that moment or later on, take them outside and give them a ball to throw. 

I took this idea and applied it to Little S. When he looks like he is about to bite or has something in his mouth that I don’t want him to, I say, “We only bite your banana brush. Go get your banana brush.” It isn’t perfect, but usually that command excites him and he goes to find it. He then continues chewing on it until the desire passes. I carry the banana brush around with us and give it to him if he needs it. The funniest part is now Little A has caught on, so she will instruct him to find his banana brush when he gets frustrated with her and wants to bite her. It’s helped quite a bit defuse those situations in our house. (A side note: He’s not using it to actually brush his teeth, he’s just biting it.)

Here are some other examples that we use at home to make the behavior acceptable:

  • When the kids try to draw on objects around the house, I give them paper and say, “We only draw/write on paper.”
  • When they want to jump on the couch, I move them from the couch and onto the floor saying, “We only jump on the floor. Show me how you jump like a kangaroo.” 
  • Little S also loves throwing things, so we have a basket of balls he can throw. When he looks like he’s about to throw something, I remind him, “We only throw balls. Can you find a ball?”
  • Some kids love to hit, so one option is to fill paper lunch bags with newspaper and string them up in an open area. Then allow your kiddo to hit the filled paper bag with a rolled up newspaper “bat.”

I feel like this is a great tactic and it’s been so helpful in our home. Is this something you do? Which activities do you make acceptable for your child?

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