After a long and exhausting day at work with your demanding boss and relentless traffic you arrive at your daycare to pick up your very lively 15 month old son only to find out that he bit another child today, AGAIN!!! This is his fourth time biting in one month and the daycare advises you that if he continues to bite he will have to find another daycare. You immediately feel overwhelmed, mad and the feeling of you being a bad mom seeps in. Is this your fault? How can you make it stop? Why does he have to bite other children? Crazy as it may sound, biting is pervasive, but perfectly normal among small children.
WHY DO THEY BITE?
- Children lack language skills necessary for expressing important needs or strong feelings like anger, frustration, joy, etc. Biting is a substitute for the messages he can’t yet express in words like:
- I am so mad at you
- You are standing too close to me
- I am really excited
- I want to play with you
- Are overwhelmed by the sounds, light or activity level in this setting
- Are experimenting to see what will happen
- Need more active playtime
- Are over-tired
- Are teething
- Desire oral stimulation
WHAT CAN I DO IF MY CHILD BITES
- First thing is to get your emotions in check. When a toddler bites, you might feel frustrated, infuriated, annoyed, embarrassed, and/or worried. Make sure you’re calm before you respond.
- Keep it short, simple and clear, explain to them that what they just did hurt the other child. In a firm voice, tell them “No biting, biting hurts.” Next, shift your attention to the child who was bitten. Often when a child bites, adults pay too much attention to him or her. It is usually negative attention, but it is still very reinforcing and can actually cause the biting behavior to continue, rather than stop. Negative attention is better no attention.
- Help both of the children to move on. However, the toddler who bit and the child who was hurt should not be made to play with one another, unless they want to.