Every day, there is a new discovery for a child, especially toddlers. What they could not do yesterday, they are
struggling to do today with some persistence, and tomorrow they are successful without effort. This is so for your son who probably has more freedom of movement in the home than his cousin. At the same time, each child develops differently. One child may be absorbed by the new motor skills, the next child might be absorbed by their immediate environment, and another child of the same age might be more interested in relationships/communication. In other words, not all children develop the same skills at the same time. So your son, who has discovered what his legs can do, is absorbed by what else he can do with his legs.
Being absorbed by what he can do is rather annoying for him (from his point of view), to be ‘prevented’ from doing ‘running around’. This is your son’s ‘work’, and he wants to get on with his work. He is learning how to cope with different floor surfaces, how to keep his balance, how to get from A to B, how to direct his legs in the direction that he wants to go, and how to redirect himself as well as coping with the different types of furniture, the height of the furniture, the shapes, the obstacles they present and their weight – along with a lot of trial and error. Your son has not got time for anything else, so of course he is going to be upset about being ‘held back’.
Children bite for different reasons:
- To discover the nature of what they are biting, or to relieve the irritation of teething.
- Typically, they bite because they are frustrated. Whereas with the experimental biter, it suffices to say “no”; with the frustrated biter, care needs to be taken of the bitten child, and then some time to explain to your son (I think he feels frustrated by his cousin), that biting hurts, and why it hurts, which makes biting an action that is wrong. Help your son by showing ways in which he can communicate that he is frustrated as well as watching out for those rising signs of frustration. It is more beneficial to respond calmly, although disapprovingly, and there should be no signs of compensation which can be interpreted as reward.
- Bites to be in control of the situation, and to get attention. Ones reaction can reinforce the behavior, so be careful to not be attentive and the desire to bite will pass.
- Bites are a means of self-defense or to regain control of an environment which they find threatening.
When your son’s cousin visits, it would be helpful to be less absorbed in whatever else you might be doing and more attentive (even it is from afar) to observe how they play together. Look for the pattern, and every time it looks as if your son is about to bite, be calm, but disapproving so that they can learn that biting another per
son is not an acceptable behavior. But remember, be calm. If your son bites you, you can show (with some exaggeration) how much it hurts so that they can learn about the effect of biting. Otherwise, with toddlers, distraction is the best policy by attracting their attention to you, something that they like (not a reward or bribe), or to another activity. This other activity can involve his cousin, so that they can learn how to play together, and how to share with your help and guidance.
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