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Last weekend, Elizabeth had a sleepover at her cousin’s house. She seemed to really enjoy it. But after her first day at nursery this week staff had said that she was much less willing to share than before. And even worse, she had bitten another child! I was horrified. What should I do when my child bites?
What Should I Do When My Child Bites?
Biting is common, and you aren’t alone if your toddler or small child does this. In fact, it is quite often seen in small children and toddlers, because they cannot express themselves well. However, if you have an older child, this article is not for you. It may be that you have to talk to your child over why they have bitten another and seek further advice.
Why do toddlers and small children bite?
There are a lot of reasons, including
- A little one doesn’t have the ability to vocalise or rationalise their feelings, so they lash out by hitting or biting. We had already seen this when Elizabeth was hitting herself. Children can also be easily overwhelmed and feel crowded. They cannot put into words their feelings of anger or frustration, so they bite.
- Children aren’t old enough to have developed self control.
- Imitation of other children’s behaviour.
- A child is defending themselves.
- To get attention.
- Because they are overtired or overwhelmed.
- A child is experimenting in how far they can go behaviourally. This is know as testing boundaries.One thing that I do know about my little girl is whilst she is only 3 she does love to test boundaries. She loves to see what she can get away with. Usually yelling all the way.
Is it preventable?
We do try to keep with routines and set mealtimes/bedtimes with E. That way she hopefully never lets overtired and hungry, which helps her behaviour. It is certainly worth looking at the situation where the biting took place. What happened? And if it recurs, is it the same situation? Or the same child?
The incident at nursery took place because E didn’t want to share space under a table with another child, and so I imagine she was a bit cranky and felt a bit overwhelmed. She couldn’t express these emotions and so she bit instead.
Learning how to share is a huge part of growing up. Being an only child, E isn’t going to need to share much at home. Except with her cousin, so I can feel more sleepovers happening!
Our parenting at home will always focus on us letting E know what behaviour we do expect. If we focus on good behaviour and praise her kindness hopefully we will see much more of that!
Interestingly there are also some books that teach about not biting.
So, What Should I Do When My Child Bites?
Always step in if you think a bite is about to happen. But what do you do if a child does bite?
- Say a firm “No” or “Biting Hurts” to the child doing the biting. Let them know that biting is an unacceptable behaviour and that you expect kind behaviour.
- Give the bitten child some attention, as this shows the child doing the biting that he/she won’t be rewarded with more attention from their behaviour.
- Then sit and make eye contact with the child doing the biting. If you can, establish why the bite happened. Was it about sharing? Help the child express their feelings with more acceptable words and actions. In E’s case, she should have told the other child not to come into her space as she was uncomfortable with that. Biting is not an acceptable response though.
- Do not shame or over punish a child for biting. Sometimes this leads to more recurrences.
- And never bite back – this just gives out the message that biting is acceptable!
Sometimes we push our own children’s boundaries so do acknowledge when your child asks you to stop. It is only respectful, and it shows teaching by example. Teaching our children to tell others respectfully when their boundaries have been reached should hopefully stand them in good stead for the future.
So hopefully I’ve helped if you are asking yourself “What Should I Do When My Child Bites?”. Have I missed anything? I’d love to hear your comments. Do let me know, or find me on social media.
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Enjoyed this? Why not read about Getting a Toddler to Take Medicine?