How to Stop Children from Biting
06 September, 2021
Is your child a biter? Read on to understand why your child bites, how to handle the behaviour and prevent it in the future from experts at Edge Early Learning.
How to stop children from biting
If you’re dealing with a child who excessively bites, it can be easy to feel like you’re all alone – but you’re not! Studies show that up to 25 percent of all children will, at some stage, bite others. So while you may feel embarrassed if your child bites in public, know that there is probably (at least) one person nearby who has been through the same thing.
Of course, that isn’t to say that biting should be ignored. Parents of biters will probably tell you they’d rather have their child throw a full-blown temper tantrum in public, and they would do anything to resolve the issue.
So how do you stop children from biting? First, it’s imperative that you know why kids bite – then, what to do when kids bite.
Why children bite
Unfortunately, stopping your child from biting isn’t always black and white. There are a number of reasons they could be biting, from trying to get attention to teething, to releasing their frustration. It can even be experimental, or a display of affection! And for each cause, there is a different solution.
Why do some kids bite? Here are just a few of the most common reasons:
- Expressing emotion: Whether it’s anger, frustration, excitement or love, did you know that some children will bite to express their emotions?
- Exploring: This is particularly common among toddlers who are experimenting with how their bodies work. Just as they will put something in their mouth, biting can be an impulse.
- Teething: For some children, biting can relieve pain caused by teething – a simple solution here is to buy them a teething toy that they can use (instead of using your fingers!).
- Defence: Some children will bite as a means of defence, and you can’t really blame them – who wouldn’t pull away from someone who has just bitten them?
- Control: It’s not always done consciously, but some children can bite other children or adults as a way of getting them to do what they want. Whether it’s the youngest child biting the oldest to gain power or one child biting to become the leader of their group, it’s all about getting attention (good or bad).
How to stop kids from biting?
Like any parent of a biter, you’re probably wondering how to stop your child from biting. The solution isn’t straightforward, but with patience and persistence, it can be effective.
The two most important things to keep in mind are prevention and creating a bite-free environment. Prevention methods could include distraction (offering your child other stimuli if you see they may be on the verge of biting), discussion about alternative strategies (encouraging them to use their words or giving them teething toys or snacks) and reading books about biting (and discussing their messages in depth).
When it comes to creating a bite-free environment, keep an eye out for any patterns that arise around biting incidents – this could be certain children, actions or locations – and work out how you can navigate these. Perhaps your child should take a short break from a certain friend if they are persistently biting them, or you should keep an item your child feels territorial about out of certain situations. If a struggle to communicate is the reason for your child’s biting, give them alternative methods to express themselves (sign language is great for this). On the other hand, if your child bites to get your attention, ensure you are giving them plenty of love throughout the day.
What to do if your child bites?
While prevention is key, it’s also important to know what to do in the unlucky event that your child does bite. Here are a few ways you can react:
- Attend to the victim: Experts suggest directing your attention to the person who has been bitten, especially if it’s another child. Clean any injury with soap and water and seek medical care if the bite is deep or bleeding.
- Being calm and firm, say “no biting”: Ensure your child understands that what they’ve done is not okay – there’s no need to overcomplicate it. Stay as calm as possible in order to effectively resolve the situation.
- Comfort your child: If your child becomes upset over the incident, it’s okay to comfort them; knowing that biting can be a display of frustration or anguish, it doesn’t make sense to create more of those feelings.
- Offer alternatives: This could look like distracting them, providing alternative methods for communication or using positive reinforcement when they do something good to show them how to make better choices.
- Redirect and distract the children: After tensions have diffused, it’s important to redirect the attention into a positive activity like dancing, colouring, or playing a game.
Frequent and Excessive Biting
Biting in toddlers and young children can be seen as more understandable – when a child is old enough to express themselves in more positive ways (and is capable of doing so) it is natural for parents to feel concerned about persistent biting. If your child is older than four and is still biting, or the biting is becoming aggressive despite your intervention, there may be a more complicated reason for their behaviour. Triggers like bullying, relentless sibling arguments, moving, parental fighting, death or illness in the family or financial hardships can drive some children to bite. With older children, the ability to communicate is typically on your side – use it to determine the reason your child is biting so that you can move forward with a solution.