Common Reasons Why Children Bite
Communication- Children (especially under 3 years old) do not have the language necessary to control a situation or their attempts to communicate are not understood. Biting becomes a powerful way to control the situation and the environment. It is a quick way to get something they want like a toy.
Excitement and over-stimulation- When young children get excited, they can get and feel out of control. Biting is an impulsive way that they let those around them know they are excited.
Frustration- Too many challenges, too many demands, too little space, too many transitions and too many obstacles can lead to a child biting, especially when they can’t express this frustration using language.
Stress- Children can bite when they are in a stressful situation; their routine has changed or feels like they want more adult interaction.
Tips to Minimize Kids Biting
- Let the child know in words and manners that biting is unacceptable.
- Remove the biting child from the situation and focus caring attention on the victim. Around age 3, include the biter in the care of the victim- help hold the ice on the bite, get them a band-aid, etc.
- Change the environment, routines or activities if necessary.
- Work with the biting child on his frustrations and teach him short phrases to say when he is getting frustrated. (“No thank you! or Stop please!”)
- Observe and closely shadow the biting child. See what seems to be triggering the action and help label emotions when you see it coming.
- Separate/redirect the biting child from kids that seem to be getting bit consistently.
- Read books to the whole group on biting and communicate that it hurts when you bite. Use positive language like gently touching and using words to express their emotions.
What can a parent do if their child begins to bite?
- Remove significant stresses from the child at home and keep a consistent, easy schedule.
- Read books on biting and emotions.
- Help children start to understand what each emotion feels like and how to have positive reactions to those emotions.
What to do if your child is bitten?
- Stay calm. Biting is very common and most likely the biter will grow out of it.
- Talk with your child about empathy and understanding. Help them know that the biter is not a mean child but trying to communicate with them.
- Give them words to use when they feel nervous or unsure of how to respond. Encourage them to get help from their teachers if they need it.
The good news is that all biting children grow out of it! Some children may need help and support from professionals and school staff but most kids will grow out of the phase as they learn how to express their feelings in a positive manner.