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Published by: Pamm on Mar 20, 2009
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You’ve just discovered thatyou have a pint-sized biter onyour hands.Isn’t it amazing how those tinyteeth that once caused so muchexcitement and celebration cannow cause so much fear andfrustration?Biting, however, is quitecommon among young children.It happens for different reasonswith different children andunder different circumstances.Understanding the reason foryour child’s biting is the firststep to changing his or her behavior.
Why children bite
Infants and toddlers learn bytouching, smelling, hearing, andtasting. If an infant is given a toy,one of the first places the infantputs it is in the mouth. Tasting or“mouthing” things is somethingthat all children do. Children this
Cause and effect
About age 12 months infants become interested in finding outwhat happens when they dosomething. When they bang aspoon on the table, they dis-cover that it makes a loudsound. When they drop a toyfrom their crib, they discover
PM 1529a Reprinted October 1996
age do not always understandthe difference between gnawingon a toy and biting someone.
Children generally beginteething about age 4 to 7months. Swelling gums can betender and can cause a greatdeal of discomfort. Infantssometimes find relief from thisdiscomfort by chewing onsomething. Sometimes theobject they chomp on is a realperson! Children this age maynot understand the difference between chewing on a person ora toy.
is a quick way to become thecenter of attention, even if it isnegative attention.
Older toddlers love to imitateothers and find it a great way tolearn new things. Sometimeschildren see others bite anddecide to try it themselves.When an adult bites a child backin punishment, it generally doesnot stop the biting, but ratherteaches the child that biting is OK.that it falls. They also maydiscover that when they bitesomeone, they get a loudscream of protest!
Older toddlers may bite toget attention. When childrenare in situations in which theydo not receive enough positiveattention and daily interaction,they often find a way to makeothers sit up and take notice.Being ignored is not fun. Biting
Biting—What’s really happening?
Toddlers are trying hard to beindependent. “Mine” and “Medo it” are favorite words. Learn-ing to do things without help,making choices, and needingcontrol over a situation are partof growing up. Biting is a power-ful way to control others. If youwant a toy or want a playmateto leave you alone or move outof your way, biting helps youget what you want.
1st Incident2nd Incident3rd Incident
Where did the biting incident happen?Who was involved?When did the biting happen?What happened before the bitingincident?What happened after? How was thesituation handled?Why do you think the biting might behappening? (You may want to reviewideas in this publication.)What will be your plan of action?Prevention ideas:_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Teaching new behavior:______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Try your action plan for at least a few weeks. Good luck!
What parents can do
What is really happening?
Use the who, what, when,where, and how method to dis-cover what is really happening.When does the biting occur? Whois involved? Where does it hap-pen? What happens before orafterward? How was the situationhandled?
Try prevention
If you determine that the bitingoccurs as the result of explorationor teething, you may want toprovide the child with a cloth orteething ring to gnaw on. If yourchild seems to bite when tired orhungry, you may want to look atyour daily routine to be sure thathe or she is getting enough sleepand nourishment.If biting happens when twochildren fight over a toy tele-phone, you may want to purchasean extra toy telephone.Trying to makevery youngchildren sharesimply doesnot work.
Young children often experi-ence frustration. Growing up isa real struggle. Drinking from acup is great, yet nursing orsucking from a bottle is alsowonderful. Sometimes it would be nice to remain a baby. Tod-dlers don’t have good controlover their bodies yet. A lovingpat sometimes turns into a pushor a whack. Toddlers also don’ttalk well yet. They have troubleasking for things or requestinghelp. They haven’t learned howto play with others. When youdon’t have words to expressyour feelings, sometimes youshow others by hitting, pushing,or biting.
A child’s world can be stressfulat times. A lack of daily routine,interesting things to do, or adultinteraction are stressful situationsfor children. Events like death,divorce, or a move to a new homealso cause stress for children.Biting is one way to expressfeelings and relieve tension.Toddlers don’t have the skills orunderstanding to negotiate orunderstand another child’spoint of view.If attention seems to be themain cause for biting, try tospend time with your childwhen he or she is doing morepositive things. Snuggle up andread a book together or roll a ball back and forth. This is muchmore fun than giving or receiv-ing a scolding.If the child is experiencing astressful situation, make life assupportive and normal aspossible. Predictable meals and bedtimes, and extra time with aloving adult can help. Someactivities can actually relievetension. Examples are rolling,squishing, and pounding play

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