Biting is a frustrating problem, both for parents and child care providers. As a parent, it is not easy to see your child come home with bite marks. Unfortunately, biting is not uncommon in groups of toddlers. Children bite for many different reasons, including frustration, teething and exploration. Many toddlers have trouble communicating their needs with words. When they experience this trouble communicating, they may turn to biting to make their point.
What should your child care provider do about biting? Alert child care providers in toddler groups to the possibility that biting may occur and instruct them to spend time on the floor with the children so they can stop biting before it happens. When children appear to be ready to bite, the child care provider needs to stop the behavior immediately and provide an alternative to biting.
When biting actually happens, the child care provider needs to separate the children immediately, and then the child care provider should first comfort and care for the child who was bitten. Clean the wound and place ice or a cold cloth on it. Console and soothe the child who was bitten. Once the victim is calm, deal with the biter. Explain in simple language that biting hurts and is not okay. Separate the biter from the other children. Give her other ways to handle frustration. The adult should say something like "No biting! Biting hurts! Tell him to give you back your toy." If your child is bitten, your child care provider should tell you about what happened and how the biting was handled and should provide you with a copy of the written incident report.
If your child is in a toddler group, talk with your child care provider about biting and ask the provider how he or she handles biting. If the child care provider is not doing enough to prevent biting or if the biting continues, help the provider come up with strategies to prevent biting. (See Tips for Preventing Biting in Child Care Programs for ideas.) Check in with the child care provider each day to find out whether any biting has happened. Remember that it may take a week for the biting behavior to stop once changes have been made in the program.
If the biting behavior does not stop, talk with the program director about the issue. Work together to find ways to prevent the biting from happening, such as moving the victim to a separate group or assigning a staff member to shadow the biter closely until the biting stops. Remember that biting is a temporary phase. With patience and persistence, even the most determined biter will learn better ways to handle frustrations.
To learn more about how child care providers handle biting and other behavior challenges, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles: