You’re picking up your toddler from child care and you notice a purple bruise on her hand. You then discover a note is attached to your child’s daily sheet. The note is from your child’s teacher informing you that one of your child’s classmates bit her! One of the most troublesome behaviors at a child care center, from a parent’s perspective, is biting. This is true whether your child is the aggressor or the victim. However, what parents need to realize is that biting is a very common behavior from the time children start teething, through their toddler years.
Young children are easily overwhelmed with feelings of anger or frustration. Biting is a powerful way to release these strong feelings. Young children are impulsive and often do not stop to evaluate the consequences of their actions. When they are upset, they lash out. Additionally, young children have limited verbal skills. When they cannot use words to express themselves, they often resort to physical aggression. Young children may be teething. When their gums are inflamed, they may find that biting relieves some discomfort.
Ebenezer’s teachers recognize that biting is a normal behavior; therefore they are not overly punitive to the biter. They may separate the biter from the other child. Our teachers will ask the biter to participate in caring for the victim by bringing ice, or offering a hug. Our teachers will also try to prevent children from biting. They will provide many materials and activities for children to release pent-up emotions and frustration.
Finally, our teachers will also work to help young children to learn to verbally express themselves. They may tell the biter, “I see you are feeling very angry with Marcus, but we do not bite. Let’s use our words and tell Marcus that you are mad.” When children are teething, the teacher may have a cool teether available. They may tell the child, “Biting hurts people. If you need to bite, use your teething ring.”
Ebenezer’s teachers will inform the parents of both children about any biting incidents. Ebenezer has a policy that we will not disclose the name of the other child involved. If you have a concern about your toddler whether the biter or the victim, please speak with your child’s teacher or coordinator to help develop a plan to ensure safety for all concerned. Please remember this is just another phase in child development and it too shall pass.