A child biting can be a very upsetting event. Parents and caregivers often want to know why the child is biting and what they can do to stop it. Many times the initial thought is that the child is intentionally trying to hurt someone. In actuality, children under three rarely understand that a bite causes pain. They are more often biting because their mouth hurts from teething, they are over stimulated or they are angry or frustrated.
Adults can help a child who is biting in several ways.
• Shadowing or staying close to the child without being intrusive will allow an adult to see which events trigger the biting and allow timely intervention.
• Scripting words for an idea the child wants to express will help alleviate frustration. (i.e. “That hurts. Please stop.” “No thank you.” “May I have that back please?”)
• Reinforcing the request of the child will help him feel empowered when using his words. (If the child asks for a toy back, make sure the child who took it gives it back.)
• Praising the child when he is able to problem solve without biting will show him that positive attention is much more pleasant than negative attention.
• If a bite does occur take care of the child who was bitten first, but talk with the child who bit in a timely manner. If too much time passes the child will not connect what is being said with the action of biting.
Biting is an upsetting but very normal occurrence in childhood. Helping children learn skills and options, even at a young age, can help them curb that urge to bite. For more information visit Ecels Fact Sheets and PSU Better Kid Care.
Enjoy this article? Receive e-mail alerts when new articles are available. Just click on the “Subscribe” button above.