My child has started biting other children at child care. What can I do?
Whenever a child bites another person, it is upsetting for everyone. Biting is common among very young children, particularly in group settings such as child care. It is very important for adults to understand why children bite so that they can help children find more appropriate ways to express themselves. After gaining a better understanding of why children bite, talk with your child care providers about possible strategies for preventing child biting episodes.
Reasons Children Bite
- Children may be trying to express the independence and feel a sense of personal control.
- Babies' mouths are sore when teething; biting feels good.
- Children are trying to approach or initiate interaction with another child.
- Children are seeking attention.
- Children are angry or frustrated.
- Children are experimenting and want to know what will happen if they bite.
- Children feel threatened.
Strategies to Prevent Biting
- Give children opportunities to express their independence and self-control by providing them plenty of choices, such as what to wear that day; what game to play; what to eat for lunch.
- Provide babies with objects to mouth such as teething toys or frozen bagels.
- Make sure children have plenty of opportunities to interact with one another.
- Acknowledge children's positive interactions.
- Give children lots of attention during the day; cuddle with them, play with them, and read to them.
- Be aware of children's feelings; watch for signs of potential
conflict and increasing frustration.
Provide children with activities and toys that offer a variety of sensory-motor experiences, such as water play, playdough, and fingerpainting.
- Help children learn about cause and effect.
- Assure children that they are safe and that their possessions
Strategies for Responding to Biting
Sometimes prevention efforts do not stop children from biting. When a child bites another person, the adults in charge should consistently respond to each biting episode; specific strategies and ideas are listed below:
- State clearly that it is not okay to bite.
- Be sure that the child who is bitten is cared for. First, comfort the child, put on an ice pack to prevent bruising, and clean the wound if the skin is broken.
- If possible, have the child who bit help care for the child who was bitten.
- Look for patterns of biting. For instance, does the child bite near mealtime, when the environment gets too loud, or when the child is crowded by other children?
- Try to identify changes in the child's life that might trigger the biting, such as a recent parental divorce, birth of a new sibling, or move to a new home.
- If the biting does not stop or if it becomes more vicious, seek help from others, such as your pediatrician, the child care program director, or a parent educator.
Sara Gable, Ph.D., Human Development and Family Studies, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia
Last update: Tuesday, November 08, 2005