When children bite other children, everyone from parents and teachers to the other kids involved can be negatively affected.
Although biting for preschoolers is not as common as it is for toddlers and infants, preschoolers may still resort to biting if they are upset, seeking attention, or acting in self defense. Children typically learn how to better manage their emotions as they get older. When bad behaviors like biting carry over to the preschool age, it can put a great deal of strain on the child’s parents as well as their classmates and early childhood educators. To stop this behavior, you need to look closely at why the biting is happening. This will help you better understand how to stop a child from biting.
Why a Child Might Bite
Toddlers will bite if they lack the ability to express how they are feeling. They might not yet have the language skills necessary to communicate strong emotions like anger and excitement. Biting can serve as a substitute for what they cannot put into words. Some children are more emotional than others and may rely more on physical actions to show how they feel.
Biting for preschoolers is often related to something at home or in the classroom that is making them confused, afraid, or frustrated. Communicate with parents to determine if the child is experiencing unusual stress. Assess your classroom to identify triggers for biting episodes. Watch to see what happens before a child bites to identify the problem and make changes to prevent future biting. Preschoolers may also bite to get adult attention. Check your responses to see if you are giving more attention to biting and other disruptive behavior than to good behavior. It’s important to remember that biting is rarely done for the purpose of hurting another child. Children who bite usually do so without any thought of the consequences. They need to be taught biting for preschoolers is wrong and how to better express themselves.
Responding to a Bite
You should never ignore biting. The first thing that you can do is to separate the biter from the child they have bitten. It can be easy to get caught up with the child who did the biting, but giving them all the attention can send them the wrong message — especially if they bite to get attention in the first place. Consoling the bitten child can serve to comfort them as well as reinforce that they did not do anything wrong.
While harsh punishments might seem like a quick fix, they can actually do more harm than good by causing shame and embarrassment that escalates the biting child’s emotional state. A better tactic is to firmly, but calmly, tell the child not to bite and that it hurts. Show them how it affects the child they bit to help the message get through.
Putting the biting child in a quiet place where they can calm down can be effective in changing their behavior. Giving the child a minor task to do, and then telling them they did a good job can help them to re-enter the classroom setting with positive reinforcement.
How to Stop a Child From Biting
An important practice is to help the biter understand the emotions that caused them to bite and what they should do instead next time. Avoid making the child feel ashamed or embarrassed. It will further escalate the situation. Talk to the child about the bite and offer different ways they could handle the situation:
• Reinforce that they can always come to you for help if they need it.
• Encourage them to share their feelings in a healthy, positive way.
• Reward them when they use words to communicate how they are feeling instead of biting.
• Practice a calm down routine with them they can use next time they are feeling upset or frustrated.
It may take some time for the lessons to sink in, but it will help prevent situations where they could resort to biting. You should remain consistent with your rules and avoid negotiation. Children who know what the rules are can more easily make the right choices. As an early childhood educator, you can stay ahead of simply reacting to incidents like biting by paying attention to the situations when the biting happens.
If you want to learn more about how to stop a child from biting, contact Naptime Academy at 844-435-7682. Naptime Academy offers courses for groups as well as for individuals that provide instruction on how to stop preschoolers from biting and many other early childhood behavior topics.