When your preschooler is bitten by another child, or bites another child, it can be upsetting for you as the parent or guardian. But if such an incident occurs, the first thing to remember is that biting is a common behavior among preschool children. It mostly occurs in children who are yet to develop the language skills they need to communicate their feelings, and it tends to stop as language proficiency develops.
That said, when biting behavior occurs, immediate action is necessary to correct the problem and prevent anyone from sustaining a serious injury.
Why Children Bite
The first step towards stopping your child biting is understanding the reasons why your child might bite. Below are some common reasons for biting.
- Frustration: Your child may bite because he’s unable to communicate his frustration through words.
- Imitation: If your child sees another child biting, he might well do the same.
- Stress: A stressful life event or a change in your child’s daily routine may cause your child to bite to express her feelings and relieve tension.
- Reaction: Your child may experiment to see what kind of reaction biting provokes.
- Attention: If your child feels ignored, she may bite to get attention.
How to Stop Biting
Below are some strategies you can use to help your child stop biting.
- Observe your child to identify the situations and circumstances that trigger biting behavior. This will help you to predict when your child is likely to bite, and be ready to intervene.
- Look out for warning signs, such as shouting, crying, foot stamping and teeth clenching. These signs often precede biting.
- If your child seems ready to bite, remove him from the situation and remind him that biting isn’t allowed. Keep your reaction neutral to avoid giving your child too much attention.
- Teach your child appropriate words and actions for expressing emotions and setting limits. If your child bites out of defense, encourage her to use words such as “no” or “stop” or show him how to use the “stop” sign (a hand held up).
- Regularly remind your child of good behavior practices. Praise your child for using appropriate words and actions to express her emotions.
- If your child bites another, don’t bite him back to teach him how it feels to be bitten. Biting back only teaches your child that biting is an acceptable behavior.
- Talk to your child’s teacher about strategies you can use to help your child overcome biting. If the problem persists, your child’s teacher may recommend you see a therapist.
Preventing biting behavior, a common part of early childhood, can be accomplished fairly quickly if you take some simple but important steps and seek any help that’s appropriate. Don’t feel like you have to go through it alone!