FIRSTLY, PLEASE BE ASSURED THAT BITING IS A TYPICAL STAGE OF CHILD DEVELOPMENT!
There is no instant cure and it may take time and patience from all parties before a child understands the impact.
Remember, biting is not anyone’s fault. It is a phase of development some children go through, and everyone needs to be realistic about the expectations of the child.
My child has been bitten
Please do not worry for your child’s safety or think your child has been personally attacked - it is extremely unlikely your child would have been specifically selected for biting, and far more likely it was the result of a random act (common for children going through this stage of development), in anger or frustration during play (e.g. lack of language skills, feeling threatened or to feel a sense of power) or even to try and ease pain if the child was teething. Please see the bottom of this page for further examples. After being bitten, staff instantly comforted your child. We will have treated any injury with a cold compress, and asked you to complete the Accident Record. We may have already telephoned you to inform you. If your child’s skin is severely broken, we may have advised you to seek further medical attention. We would never disclose information about the biter to you, so please do not ask. Obviously, if this ever became a pattern then we would look into any triggers or underlying cause immediately.
My child has bitten someone else
Please do not feel guilty or embarrassed – this may have been a random, one-off act, or one of many regular acts – either way, it will not last forever! And we are here to support you through this tricky stage if you need us. Please refrain from discussing it again at home, as we have dealt with it at the time, and it’s best not to give more attention to unwanted behaviour. It’s important to remember biting is one of the most common behaviours in young children, and it can occur for many reasons (see below) but in the main it is just a strong emotional response that your child just hasn’t mastered managing yet, but they will eventually. After the incident, we will have explained and/or role modelled to your child that they have hurt another child. We do not force children to apologise as this may become a precedent to automatically ‘saying sorry’ with no understanding or meaning as to why. We never ‘tell off’ or isolate children due to behaviour. Please refer to our Managing Behaviour policy for more details. We recommend that parents do not bite their child back as we would obviously not continue this method of discipline whilst they are in our care. We would never disclose your child’s information to the other family for confidentiality purposes, but obviously be prepared that children may disclose such information themselves. If this ever became a pattern then we would look into any triggers or underlying cause immediately and work closely with you.
Recording the incident
All biting incidents will be logged on an Incident Form. Any injured child’s parent would be telephoned in line with our Policy, and they will be asked to sign the form when they return to collect him/her. We monitor our Incident records, to help identify any recurring patterns.
Why do children bite?
EXPLORATION – some children bite as a tool for learning, to understand the taste or texture of different things.
TEETHING – some children chew or mouth to gain relief from teething pain. Most children truly do not understand the difference between an object and a human.
CAUSE AND EFFECT – some children will bite to discover what happens when they do.
ATTENTION – some children bite for attention, even negative attention is better than no attention.
IMITATION – children of pre-school age love to copy others and find this is also a great way to learn. They may see a sibling, peer or older child bite and copy them. Please bear in mind that if an adult bites the child back, this is sending the signal that it is OK to bite.
INDEPENDENCE – biting is a powerful way to control others i.e. ‘it’s mine and if I bite you, you’ll leave it alone’. It can be a quick way for them to get what they want.
FRUSTRATION – not having the right words to convey a message can be very frustrating & biting can be a way of venting this anger.
STRESS – sudden changes in routine or stressful events in their lives can cause them to bite in an attempt to express their feelings.
What can I do as a parent to help?
Try to pinpoint – what, when, who, where? to identify any common triggers or underlying pattern. For example:
- If a child only bites at a particular time of day, is he/she hungry?
- If it is always when the adult is with another child, does he/she feel they are not receiving enough attention?
- Is their home life unsettled i.e. a move, a new sibling? Try to make it as ‘normal’ as possible for them and keep to a familiar routine.
- If they bite whilst fighting over a toy, is there another one similar? Toddlers do not understand how to share.
- Gently remind the child it is not OK to bite – it hurts and makes people sad. This can be ‘role modelled’ e.g. use body language and facial expressions to demonstrate pain and sadness.
- If they are angry and frustrated, allow them to calm down before talking to them. They will not listen if they’re upset.
- Be firm but try to refrain from shouting.
- Try to encourage all adults/carers around them to use the same approaches so it is consistent.