Biting is instinctive – not learned
If you do not already know it, you will quickly learn that almost all toddlers bite at one time or another. For them biting is simply a form of communication. Children do not “learn” this behavior from others. Rather it is instinctual. For those of you who nursed, you may know what I mean.
Biting is a behavior that is very disturbing to all concerned. It frightens the child who is bitten and alarms his parents. It also worries the parents of the child who bites and often scares the biter as well.
Children Bite for different reasons
Children bite for different reasons. Sometimes they feel frustrated or threatened; in other cases, they get a sense of power over others. We try to help children recognize their feelings and learn words to express them.
Biting is not o.k.
We must clearly label biting as unacceptable and explain the reason in words that the child who was bitten, we say something like this: “Biting hurts. You may not bite anyone.” Or “Biting is not o.k.” Or “Please use your words. We do not bite.”
If biting happens again, we may remove the child from the other children. We will explain that she can play with the others only if she does not bite. In some cases we will require the child to be picked up from the school.
We make it a major priority to prevent further biting, both to avoid damage to potential “bitees” and because the shrieks and tears of another child are often rewarding to the biter increasing the chances of still more biting.
To nip biting in the bud, we stick close to the child who has bitten, ready to jump in and prevent a bite. (However, despite our greatest efforts we cannot prevent all biting.)
At Halsey Schools we work together with our families to prevent and stop biting.
Of course, we also talk with the child’s parents to ensure that we’re all responding consistently at home and at school. In addition, we want to see what parents notice about the biting, such as cues that the child is about to bite or observations about situations in which biting seems to happen. (Parents should never “play bite” with children or bite back to show how it feels.)
We want all parents to know that we take prompt determined action to teach the children that biting is unacceptable. We do our best to eliminate biting in our classroom. In the past, our methods have worked. Biting has been brought to a quick stop. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen again.