The following is the first of a two-part series which will be posted today with the second part to be posted next
week. It is adapted from an article first written by our owner and titled “Toddlers and Biting: What Can Be Done?”
Part 1: Why Young Children Bite.
(Photo source, The Biting Toddler)
It’s a familiar scenario: Young Johnny and Susie are playing and
having a wonderful time together until Johnny decides he wants
Susie’s toy. He, of course, tries to take it from her and without
hesitation she responds by biting him. Is this survival of the fittest?
Perhaps, but it is developmentally inappropriate behavior for all but
the youngest of infants. So, our questions arise. Why does biting
occur, particularly with toddlers? And, what can be done to keep it
from continuing? To understand, let’s begin by addressing the
question of why biting occurs among young children. We’ll start by
looking at what is developmentally appropriate behavior among
While we as people grow we develop more refined, and socially
acceptable ways of dealing with conflict. In adulthood, we find the
most successful and socially, well-adjusted people are those that have
a gift of getting what they want or need through words. This
is developmentally appropriate and socially acceptable for adults.
For infants, the first instincts are that of suckling. It is in this manner
that infants are able to have their most basic needs met. As they mature they explore their environment through the most developed
muscles in their young bodies — those that make up the mouth.
However, while biting is appropriate for infants who are teething and
exploring their environment with the one part of their bodies that they
have most physical control over, children who have begun walking are
at another stage of development. By this point children are developing
the gross motor skills necessary to interact on a different level.
This corresponds to the onset of verbal language, which is necessary to
engage other people on a social basis. For a toddler this can be a time
to state one’s independence with the familiar word, “No!” It can also
be a time of much frustration as a child’s greater needs for
socialization and exploration meet with the limited needs to verbally
express himself. This is where biting comes in to play. Biting, then, is
a primitive reaction to a more complex social situation.
Next week: How to Stop Biting!
The following is the second in a two-part series. The first part was posted last week. This is
adapted from an article first written by our owner and titled “Toddlers and Biting: What Can
Part 2: How to Stop Biting!
So how can we stop biting? Well, to answer this question let’s look at
how to handle when biting initially occurs. First, the biter should be
addressed, firmly but not harshly, with the words “No biting.” Then
the biter should be separated from the rest of the group. After this,
calmly and as a matter-of-fact address the needs of the bitten child.
The less fuss made over the bite the calmer the reaction will be, even
though the bitten area may still hurt. Finally, allow the biter to rejoin
the group when appropriate. You may also want to offer an object the
child can bite during the day, particularly at times when the child is
prone to get tired and frustrated.
Now that we know how to address biting after it occurs let’s look at
how to prevent it from happening again. The first recommendation is to always have interesting, developmentally appropriate activities for
children to do. This not only provides them with something on which
to focus their attention but also helps to develop their concentration
and lowers their frustration level. Second, when a child does bite
another child it is a clear signal to increase supervision and awareness
of the child’s social interactions. In other words, watch who he is
playing with and be prepared to jump in when necessary.
If a child is persistent in his biting habits a change of environment
may also be necessary. As with adults, children develop routines.
Biting other children in similar situations day-in and day-out can
become the expected and accepted behavior. By changing the
environment a child is put into a new or different situation where the
rules and routines can be more easily re-established.
Another recommendation is to provide the child with the words to
express himself. By doing so, we are providing him with the tools with
which he can state his desires or concerns. By enabling a child to
express himself he is then able to handle frustrating situations by
communicating what is wanted rather than by physically hurting
others to get his way. And, finally, remember that consistency is vital.
When a child knows what the limits and expectations are he is able to
spend less time exploring the boundaries and has more time to
concentrate on the activities that are available to him.