If your child is in child care, eventually one toddler is going to bite another toddler. And if it’s your child that is being bit, you are going to get upset. Even if your child is the biter, you are also going to be distressed. You can work with your child care provider to help keep biting to a minimum. You can also make sure procedures are in place to handle biting once it occurs.
PREDICTING & UNDERSTANDING SOME OF THE BEHAVIOR Biting will happen – it is a stage that many toddlers go through. It is helpful to know that biting is not a predictor of later aggressive behavior, and it should not be grounds for expulsion from a child care program. According to NACCRRAware: The occurrence of biting in child care is highest in September, lowest in the summer and usually peaks around 10:00 a.m.
Biting is most common when toddlers are under stress or going through a developmental change. Once your child can use words and has a little more control over his or her behavior, biting will be less of an issue.
It helps to understand why toddlers bite. • Their back teeth are coming in. • Their gums hurt. • They still use their mouth to explore the world. • They don’t have the words to tell you what they want. • They don’t understand having to wait for something. • They do understand there are things they want to do, but are unable or not allowed to do. • They may not be getting enough oral stimulation in their diet. The setting may be overwhelming.
PREVENT OR MINIMIZE BITING Biting is less common in a calm environment. Your child care provider should be doing as much as possible to avoid unnecessary commotion and competition for toys and adult attention. You should expect to see the following: • Watchful adult supervision • Teething toys (that are sanitized frequently) • Children being taught to share, wait and use their words • Daily activities that engage toddlers in sensory activities such as using straws, crunching on ice or blowing on a whistle • Foods that have a variety of tastes, temperatures and textures that require sucking, gumming, munching, crunching and chewing • Supervised use of toothbrushes and oral stimulation brushes that allow children to massage their gums • Planning for individual children’s needs, interests and developmental levels • Information for parents about how to prevent and respond to biting
PROBLEM SOLVE You and your child care provider should spend time watching and understanding your toddler. Share positive techniques you have used at home to reduce the incidents of biting, hitting or other specific aggressive behaviors. Help your child care provider look for patterns in the biter's environment and emotional state during each biting episode. • Does the time of day make a difference? • Was the child uncomfortable, sick, hungry, sleepy, bored or excited? • How long has it been since the child last ate? • Does the child feel crowded? • Is the child over stimulated or under stimulated? • Does the child always bite the same individual? • Has there been a change at home or at the child care program that affects the child’s stress level?
Consider which of the prevention strategies will be most successful in reducing your toddler’s urge to bite in the future. Make a plan to support the biter’s needs and help the child be successful.
You and your provider can guide your child toward self-control and away from biting. The key is understanding - for adults and children alike.
Heidi Woodard is a resident of Jamestown, NY. She graduated from Jamestown Community College with honors, and earned an Associates degree in Social Sciences. She also graduated from SUNY Fredonia with highest honors earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She is currently employed with the Chautauqua Child Care Council a service of Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc.