One of the questions I often get from parents is what to do when your child is biting others. Unfortunately, biting is a part of normal child development. It can be frustrating when your child is bitten, but often harder when your child is doing the biting.
Biting can occur for many different reasons. It can happen more when kids are teething (usually in the younger kids). Sometimes, children will bite to get attention or to see a reaction. Often, the biting occurs when kids are frustrated or stressed.
If your child attends daycare, teachers should be able to work with you to come up with a plan for addressing the biting and provided helpful resources. A typical behavior plan involves paying attention to the bitten child first and physically separating the two children. There should also be closer supervision in situations where biting may occur. Charting the times and situations for biting may be helpful to clarify when more close supervision is needed (i.e. before naptime, at line time, during free play). It is never appropriate to expel a child for biting, bite a child back, or using foul-tasting substances to discourage biting.
Using words can be hard for young children. Biting gets a much quicker reaction, so the child will often go for this instead. It can be hard to get kids to stop because they are not always the most rational little creatures. Having a consistent, firm response to the biting is helpful. At home, it is also very helpful to work on giving children words to use when they are frustrated or want something. If you notice your child getting frustrated or angry, give them words to say like “Space, please” or “Help, please”.
Teachers can be helpful in teaching the other kids to back away when they hear this or to come get a teacher to help. It is also helpful to provide positive reinforcement for good behavior to encourage him to do these things more.
Biting can be a very frustrating experience for parents, but please know that you are not alone! Always feel free to contact your child’s physician if you continue to have concerns.
Kathryn Cahill, MD
Meriter West Washington