Biting is a very common behavior in toddlers, but with the proper direction, you should be able to help them find a more constructive way to express themselves.
Dealing with biting for toddlers in a child care center requires that specific steps be taken to stop the behavior. With proper training, you can solve this problem by following a few simple steps.
Remember That Biting Is Natural
Toddlers will bite for a variety of reasons. It is a natural instinct for small children to bite, but they have to learn that it is not always appropriate behavior. A toddler in your child care center may bite objects to relieve pain or just to see what it feels like in their mouth.
The problem with biting is when toddlers bite teachers, parents, or other children. They may be biting to get attention, to deal with stress, to feel in control, or to express their feelings. Keep in mind that toddlers do not bite because they know it is wrong, they bite because they don’t know how to communicate properly.
Biting is often used by toddlers as a way to communicate something or express emotion. They may be angry, scared, frustrated, confused, or acting out in self-defense. No matter the reason, it is your job as their teacher to give biting toddlers a better way to communicate.
When You See Toddlers Biting
When you know that a toddler has a biting problem, watch the child to learn more about why they are biting other people. Understanding why the child is biting will help you to control the behavior in an effective and nurturing way. Ask yourself:
- Is the child biting for attention?
If so, then they need to learn a new way to get your attention. Also, be sure to give lots of positive attention throughout the day when the child is behaving well so they don’t have to resort to biting to get it.
- Is the child biting out of anger?
If this is the case, then they need to learn a more constructive way to express strong emotions. Teach them appropriate feeling words so they can esxpress themselves: “I’m mad.” “I want the doll.”
- Is the biting a new behavior?
If biting is a new behavior for a particular child, it could indicate changes or stresses at home that are causing the child to act out. Give comfort and spend time with the child so they feel valued and important. Make them feel safe and secure. Be sure to talk to their parents as well to help you understand the behavior.
Responding to a Biting Incident
When a toddler bites someone, you need to respond immediately. Stay calm, do not yell, and do not overreact. For a child who is seeking attention, a negative reaction is as good as a positive reaction. Follow these steps to deal with biting for toddlers:
- Get down on the toddler’s level and say in a firm tone: “No biting. Biting hurts. You hurt Mary. We care for our friends. No more biting.”
- Give comfort to the child who was bitten and encourage her to tell the biter: “You hurt me.”
- Encourage the biter to care for the child who was bitten by helping with an icepack or bandage.
- Ask for an explanation and respond with words the child can use: “I know you were angry that Mary took your book. You cannot bite people. Next time, ask me to help you.”
When Toddlers Keep Biting
If the biting behavior does not stop after a few weeks, develop a plan for that toddler. Speak with the parents and agree on a plan that can also be used at home. Keep a close eye on the biting toddler to prevent biting. Respond consistently each time. If you notice a child is about to bite, offer alternatives:
- Encourage toddlers to use words such as “no,” “stop,” or “that’s mine.”
- Give positive attention when the child uses words instead of biting.
- Remove the child from the area and redirect to another interesting activity.
- Monitor for overstimulation and move the child to an area with fewer children or reduced noise level.
To take a training course on biting for toddlers, check out Naptime Academy’s course library, or call 844-435-7682. You can also subscribe annually for access to all of our courses to help earn your state-required clock hours!