When children bite, it tends to shock adults more than any other negative behaviour, however biting is common among young children and understanding the reason for your child’s biting is the first step in being able to help to change their behaviour.
|Reasons for biting||What to do|
Teething generally starts between around 4 months and continues to around 2.5 years when the final molars come in. This process can be very painful and biting can often be a child’s way of relieving the pain.
|· Offer the child a teething ring, ice cube or icy pole to chew on
· Wet a face washer, roll it up and place it in the freezer. Encourage child to chew and suck on it when in pain.
· Freeze pieces of fruit. Chewing on anything frozen can help to numb the gums and relieve pain.
· Apply Bonjella or if the child is displaying signs of pain and irritability, administer paracetamol.
It’s very hard for children to be able to regulate their emotions at a young age so sometimes a way of communicating this frustration is to bite.
|· Help the child to understand their emotions and talk about what triggered their frustration and explain what they can do instead.
(If the child is age appropriate, you can encourage them to use their words to explain how they are feeling and practise deep breathing or if they are younger you can tell them that if they are angry that they can stamp their foot and grunt or another form of showing frustration that you find appropriate.
|Unable to communicate
When children haven’t developed the appropriate language skills, biting can often become their way of communicating when they are angry or if someone is trying to take their toy or hurt them etc.
|If a child bites because they are unable to communicate their needs, give them strategies by encouraging them to hold their hand out and say “stop” and if they are unable to do this, encourage them to make a particular noise that you know that they can make so that you can help them in situations where they need your help.|
Sometimes children get over stimulated and overwhelmed by colours, noises, people etc.
|When a child bites because they are overstimulated, try to remove them from the situation that has overstimulated them. Eg: if you are at a party, try and find a quiet space or room to take your child so that they can re gather their thoughts and calm down. Once they are calm, you can talk to them about their actions and give them strategies on what to do if they feel like things are getting too much for them.|
|Needing sensory input
Sometimes children crave extra sensory input and biting is a way of fulfilling this need.
|Offer the child a teething ring, chewy toys, chewing jewellery, crunchy biscuits or rolls, an apple, chewy lollies or chewing gum.
Chewing is a great way to fulfil the need for sensory input.
Babies and toddlers learn through their senses so putting objects in their mouths is a big way of learning. Sometimes children do not know the difference between gnawing on a toy and biting a person.
|Even though being bitten can be really painful, try not to react. Remove the biter from your space and firmly say, “biting is not ok.” Offer them something to bite on that’s appropriate and then continue doing what you were doing before hand without giving them any attention.|
|Cause and effect
Around the age of 12 months, children start to become interested in what happens when they do things. This could include, dropping their spoon at mealtimes so that someone picks it up, hiding under material to play peek a boo and biting people to hear someone scream.
|Respond the same way that you would with an exploration bite.|
Sometimes when children are not receiving enough positive attention, they will display behaviours that will get immediate attention even if it is negative. Biting is often a quick way to get the attention that they are craving.
|Respond as you would to an exploration bite and then make an effort to give the child attention for positive behaviour.|
If your child bites on a regular basis, it’s important to find out the reason why they are biting and then try and prevent this behaviour.
Most children only bite once or for a short period of time. If this becomes an ongoing behaviour and is unable to be resolved then please seek help from your maternal child health nurse or paediatrician.
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