Biting is something many children, parents and child care providers may encounter during the infant/ toddler years of life. Biting can be very frustrating for the parents and caregivers who are trying to stop the behavior from happening.

I have had frustrating experiences with biting myself. One memory that always comes to mind is when I was working in a toddler room we had a little boy who was going through a tough biting stage. On this particular day, he had bitten four or five times and I was at my whit’s end of what to do. My co-teacher came in and said to me, “Kristi, he bit me,” and she showed me the bite mark. At this point I was extremely frustrated as to what I could do to stop the behavior. The co-teacher was playing a prank on me! She had made the bite mark on her arm with lipstick. This created a laugh for all and broke the tension of the frustration of the behavior that we were dealing with.

Reasons Children May Bite

Children bite for many different reasons and the good news is that most of them aren’t intentional or meant to cause harm to others. Reasons children bite include:

  • Experimentation
  • Over-Stimulated
  • Teething
  • Lack of communication skills

Track Behavior

As you watch your children at play, you can begin to anticipate when a bite might occur. Documenting these things can help you figure out why the biting is happening. What you find out from your observation and documentation can help find a solution to stop the biting.

  • What happened right before the bite?
  • Who was the child playing with?
  • Who was bit? Is it always the same child or different children each time?
  • How many children are present?
  • Was the child tired? Hungry? Over- stimulated?
  • Who was caring for the child?
  • Have there been any changes in the child care program?
  • Have there been any changes at home?
  • If you can’t think of any big changes, think of small changes. Even the smallest things can trigger biting.

Strategies to Respond to Biting

  • Respond to the biter in a firm, calm voice. Address the child that bit in a short, simple and clear way. For example, “It hurts when you bite.”
  • Shift the attention to the child who as bitten and show concern and sympathy for the child.
  • Go back and talk with the child. If the child is verbal and able to talk, talk about the different strategies the child can use next time instead of biting.
  • Help the children move on. Ask, “Would you like to play now?” It might help to offer activities, like play-dough, drawing or sand water, that allow them to release energy in constructive ways and help them relax.

Strategies to help stop the biting

  • Teach the child a few signs to be able to communicate.
  • Provide the child with things they can bite such has a cool teething ring or a washcloth.
  • Promote children’s language skills - teach the biter to say “stop,” “mine”.
  • Help children verbalize their feelings by saying “You look angry, Peter. Tell Amy to stop pulling, you don’t like that.”
  • Give the child enough of your time throughout the day so they don’t bite just to get attention.
  • Give the child age-appropriate choices.

Don’t Give Up!

  • Document! Document! Document! Finding the reason for the biting will help in finding a solution.
  • Try the suggestions more than once.
  • Be persistent and consistent with your approach to stop the biting. Parents and child care providers need open communication to work together consistently.
  • Ask for help! Contact your local Area Education Agency or Child Care Resource & Referral for more help and resources.

Biting can be a very frustrating phase to go through as a parent and a child care provider. Remember it is a normal stage of development for infants and toddlers. It helps to talk with other child care professionals and parents, who have experienced their own children biting, to reassure you this is just a phase and it doesn’t last forever! J

References:

Dealing with Biting Behaviors in Young Children- Ron Banks and Sojin Yi: http://ecap.crc.illinois.edu/poptopics/biting.html

Zero to Three: Why do Toddlers Bite? Finding the right Response: http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/challenging-behavior/chew-on-this-resources-on-biting.html

 

Tags: biting , infants , toddlers , strategies

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