THE issue of biting is fairly common in young children, and for parents it can feel very stressful to try to manage.
There are several causes of why a child may bite others. As infants, children explore the world through their mouths and biting is another way of exploring.
For younger children, simply telling them “no, biting hurts” each time should help them learn not to bite in certain situations.
Providing things that they are allowed to bite on when teething will also support this.
For older children, biting may occur from frustration, stress, or feeling powerless in a certain situation. As children develop they are learning how to cope with their emotions – sometimes if they are faced with an emotion they cannot handle, biting may become their response in order to cope. Here are some ways to help your child.
A few positively phrased rules before attending a play session will act as reminders for your child. Things like, “we share our toys with others” and “we take turns” are useful. You may also want to remind your child what to do if they start feeling frustrated – not all children will be at the stage to manage this themselves so this is where you need to step in and support them.
If your child has started biting, make sure you closely supervise and intervene as soon as possible. Children need support to understand how to manage their emotions and may not be capable of knowing what to do in a situation. This may involve engaging them with a different activity if they are becoming frustrated, or if they are becoming too stressed, give them time to calm down away from the activity.
Biting can give children a lot of attention. Typically the other child will cry, causing attention from other children and parents. They can also then get a lot of attention from you as their parent and this may encourage your child to use it again. Remember to give them lots of positive praise when they are playing well – this gives them your attention for the right reasons. It is also helpful to give lots of comfort and attention to the child who has been bitten, removing all of the focus from the child who has bitten.
If your child has bitten another child, remove them from the situation straight away. Calmly tell them “we don’t bite others, it’s time to calm down” and walk them away from the situation. Give your child time to calm down on the edge of the activity. If this happens each time they bite, your child will start to develop this themselves as a way of managing their emotions instead of biting. Most importantly, do not bite your child back as this is very frightening for them. You will also be teaching them the very thing you do not want them to learn.
For more info: Community Family Care, based at Staunton, helps families, children and young people in need of additional support. It seeks to improve parents’ confidence, help with routines to get children to school, or more complex support dealing with challenging behaviour at home. The work its staff carry out includes peer mentoring and life coaches for young people, and family support programmes.
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