Toddlers lash out with biting for many reasons. For some, it is a way to express frustration in situations where they cannot yet find the words. For others, it is a way to release stress in situations where they feel overwhelmed or powerless. Some even bite out of over-excitement, and for some it simply feels good when those teething gums are feeling particularly tender.
Thankfully, most kids grow out of it or learn pretty quickly that it isn’t an acceptable thing to do. But in the meantime, what can you do if biting chomps its way into your world?
It is very upsetting to see your child come home from daycare with bite marks, so as a parent it’s natural to be angry. But try to remember that it is probably the result of a situation rather than the child or centre’s fault. If a child is bitten, the carer should immediately clean the wound, apply ice and provide comfort to soothe the child. Knowing there is a child in the room who might bite, the carer should then spend more time on the floor with the children, ready to look for trigger points, such as arguing over a toy or being tired, and diffuse a situation before it results in another biting.
Any incident should have an incident report, so ask the centre what happened and what they are doing to ensure that child doesn’t bite again. Sometimes certain children target others, so if your child has been bitten more than once you can ask for them to separate the children or shadow them when together until the child changes the behaviour.
Being the parent of a biter is also hard news to take, and you naturally worry about what this means behaviourally and socially for them. When it happens, the carers will focus on the biter only when the children are separated and the victim is soothed and calm. Then the carer will explain to the biter that biting is very painful and is not an acceptable thing to do. Once your child comes home, try not to punish them for the behaviour, as the incident has already dealt with at daycare. Instead, talk to the childcare centre to find out what the situation was when the biting happened. Was she Hungry? Frustrated? Struggling with something? And talk to your child to see if they can suggest different ways to deal with the frustration. Ask the centre to spend more one-on-one time with your child around those trigger points and change programs or environments if needs be.
Because many biting incidents stem from frustration. Encourage the use of appropriate words and help them to learn new words to express themselves, rather than lashing out with biting.