Why Do Some Children Bite?

As the Director of a private preschool there is nothing that pulls at my heart-strings more, than when a child gets hurt, and biting is one of the worst. However, what I have to tell myself, having been the parent of a child who repeatedly got bitten as well as the parent of a child who was a biter, is that biting is common among children.

There are a number of reasons that children bite, and not a single one will make the parent of the child that got bitten feel any better. Nor will those reasons make the parent of the bitter feel better, because believe me it feels just as bad to know that your child is hanging out at school trying to taste his friends. I make light, but because I don’t see it as a problem, but because I want everyone to know that staying calm in these events is one of the best ways to help those bitters to correct their behavior.

Why Children Bite:

At a young age many children bite simply because they are exploring the world around them. Children go through a very “oral” stage when everything around them goes directly into their mouths, including their friends.

As they start to teeth biting can also be used as a way to sooth those aching gums, and ease the pain that their feeling.

It is also common for children to start biting before they have developed the communication skills to negotiate with others. They may resort to biting as a means of expressing themselves or getting their way.

As children get older, if biting continues or occurs for the first time, it is often out of aggression or anger. This is when a child who can clearly and effectively communicate what he or she wants doesn’t get his/her way, and makes the decision to punish the person he/she sees as being responsible.

What We Do to Prevent Biting:

Although we can’t catch every bit before it happens, we do try very hard to catch the majority of them. By doing the following things we hope that the children throughout our center will learn that “Teeth Are Not for Biting” our friends!

* We model kindness and gentle behavior

* We supervise the children well they are playing and we try to notice when tension builds and we try to redirect the children’s interest.

* We talk about feelings even with our littlest students. We help to build their language skills through sign-language.

* We try to balance each student’s day with stress-relieving activities such as art, outside play, story time, and even music and dancing.

Some important steps to remember when dealing with a bitter are:

1) Stay Calm – Young children especially infants and toddlers don’t understand what all the fuss is about after they have bitten a friend. Thus the child is often bound to try it again to see if he or she receives the same reaction.

2) Teach the child Self-Control – After biting another child, the bitter should not be placed in timeout as a punishment, but in quiet time to help settle his nervous and to take a break.

3) Set Boundaries – It may seem obvious to console and cuddle the child who was bitten, but the child who bite may also need comforting because he/she has often startled him/herself in the act of biting, not understanding what set off his own aggressive behavior.

4) Help the Healing Process – In order for the children to move on from the incident it is important to get both children in a safe, non aggressive situation where they can have fun together. This will help to erase the hurt feelings, and hopefully allow the child that was bitten not to associate the “biter” with pain or fear.

2 thoughts on “Why Do Some Children Bite?

  1. Nina – just found this as I was reading through some of your posts (found you on Rocket City Bloggers group page). I am getting ready to start a new column – probably going to run on Sundays – and I’m calling it Parenting 911. The plan is for each article to be about a particular issue that a parent wrote in about or just common problems like this one.

    My thought was that I’d ask other parents how they solved similar problems/situations. This would fit so perfectly in that. Would you consider letting me reprint this on RocketCityMom?


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