WHEN CHILDREN BITE
National Network for Child Care's Connections
Christine M. Todd, Ph.D.
Child Development Specialist
Human Development and Family Studies
University of Illinois Cooperative Extension
You turn around to pick up a few stray toys - and it happens.
Erin lets out a piercing scream. You rush over and there's the
tell-tale sign - red teeth marks on Erin's arm. Biting is one
of the most difficult behaviors to deal with in young children.
Biting is very similar to hitting, but it is much more dangerous.
Young children have more power in their jaw muscles than in their
arms, so the damage is more severe. And it can happen in an instant,
even when you are standing right there!
Biting is quite common among toddlers and is a very normal reaction
for this age group. Children bite for many reasons. Sometimes
they are teething and the biting feels good. Others seem to enjoy
the strong reaction they get. Sometimes it starts out as a kiss
and just goes too far. Most of the time, though, biting occurs
because a child is frustrated and does not know what else to do.
For example, the activity may be too difficult for the child.
Or there may be too many children for the child to deal with.
Or the child may be angry because someone tried to take a toy
away. Because the child has not yet learned appropriate words
or actions to express his frustration, he resorts to biting.
There are many things you can do to eliminate the biting.
CHANGE THE SITUATION.
- Provide easier toys and activities for the child.
- Provide more toys so there is less fighting over the toys.
Buy more than one of popular toys so very young children will
not have to wait long to play with them.
- Decrease the number of children the child plays near.
- Shorten the playtime, or watch more carefully to see when
the child starts to "lose it."
TEACH ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATIVES TO BITING.
- Teach the child to say "no" if another child is
doing something he doesn't like.
- Substitute a teething ring if the child looks like she is
about to bite another child.
PROVIDE CLOSE SUPERVISION.
- Stay very close to the child to monitor things, especially
in situations where you think biting is likely to occur.
- If the child does bite, immediately remove the child from
the others. (Do this after you have checked to see that the child
who was bitten is okay!) Briefly explain that biting hurts others
and will not be allowed. If you consistently remove the child
when he bites, he will learn that he must stop biting if he wants
to play with others.
PRAISE CHILDREN FOR APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR.
- Compliment the child when he is playing well with others.
This will help the child realize that you value this kind of
behavior. It will also help build the child's self-esteem.
It is also important to talk with parents. Talk to the parents
of the child who is biting and the parents of the other children
in your care. Assure the parents that biting, although it is serious
and not to be tolerated, is quite normal in very young children.
Explain why biting occurs and the techniques you are using to
help the child overcome the problem. This shows the parents that
you are knowledgeable about children and on top of the situation.
Dealing with a child who bites can be challenging, but your efforts
will help the child take one more step toward independence and
National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Part of CYFERNET, the
National Extension Service
Children Youth and Family Educational Research Network. Permission
is granted to reproduce
these materials in whole or in part for educational purposes only
(not for profit beyond the cost of
reproduction) provided that the author and Network receive acknowledgment
and this notice is
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child
Care - NNCC. Todd, C.M. (1992). When children bite. In Todd, C.M.
(Ed.), *Day care center connections*, 1(6), pp. 3-4 Urbana-Champaign,
IL: University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.
FORMAT AVAILABLE:: Internet
Level 3 - National Peer Review
DOCUMENT SIZE:: 16 K or 3 pages
ENTRY DATE:: February 1996
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