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.
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 toddlers…and adults.
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!