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Facts for All Ages

Ouch! Biting!

Posted by Cara Allen - Parenting

For most children, biting is usually short-lived and does not become a habit. Nevertheless, it is usually a big deal for everyone - the child bitten, the adults present, and the parents. (If you have ever been bitten, you know that it HURTS!)  Continued biting is one of the reasons that children get asked to leave day care.  (That was a nice way of saying they got kicked out!)

Children bite for different reasons at different ages:
Infants and young toddlers may bite to relieve aching gums when teething, to learn about objects by "mouthing" or chewing them, or to find out what happens when they bite, (It usually draws a lot of attention. Cool!)
Older toddlers may bite when getting little positive attention, to get someone to move or to get something they want, to imitate another, or relieve stress or frustration. Toddlers communicate alot with their bodies (they don't have a lot of speech), can become easily frustrated, and are often not able to distinguish between what is loving and what hurts.
Preschoolers may bite as a last resort or because something disturbing is going on. By this age, because they have the words to communicate, biting is often a way to ask for help.

What should adults do?
Don't act with extreme alarm, but show with your face and voice that biting is unacceptable.
Give comfort to the child who was bitten.
Separate a biter who is out of control until she calms down.
Say "Biting hurts--you can bite food, not people."
Point out the consequences of the biting: "Look, he's crying. He is sad and is hurt."
Help the biter think of ways to express sorrow or provide comfort (Let's get ice.") to help develop empathy.

To prevent bites:
Don't expect young children to play unsupervised. They are more likely to bite out of frustration and in groups. They may not be ready to share or play with several children at once.
Provide a cloth or teething ring for infants.
Have duplicate toys for toddlers.
Have predictable routines and clear limits for behavior.

By doing all of these things, you are helping a child learn skills for handling emotions and getting along with others.

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