Let’s sink our teeth into this topic (okay, that’s all the biting puns we’ll sneak in here), and talk about biting.
So, why do children bite?
There can be many reasons behind why young children bite. Let’s take a look at some of these causes here:
· Teething - biting to relieve sore and tender gums, a need for oral stimulation
· Changes in their environment - not unusual after the birth of a sibling
· Cause and effect - wanting a reaction from others
· Exploration of texture and taste - at the oral stage of their development
· Limited language skills - unable to verbally express their want or need
· Emotional response - feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, tired), this is the most common reason why children bite.
Infants (0-12 months) who are breastfeeding may bite you to let you know they are finished feeding or because they are exploring what their mouth can do. All infants go through different stages of oral development. They might mouth objects to explore them for pleasure or comfort, such as mouthing their favourite cuddly. This is completely normal for this age and stage of development.
The biting that causes concern usually arises from anger, frustration or stress. These types of bites will usually leave a mark or wound on the other child or person bitten.
Biting is a normal developmental stage for young children to go through and while there’s no set length of time it can last for, it will eventually stop. By trying to understand the underlying cause of the biting it will help you better support your child and begin to develop effective responses to their biting. It is important to remember you are not alone and your child isn’t the only one who has gone through this stage of development.
Okay, we now know why but what can you do to prevent biting?
When a situation with biting comes up it is completely understandable that you might feel a wide range of emotions: embarrassed, frustrated and worried among many others but it’s important to remember that this is totally normal, though keeping your feelings in check is crucial for you to calmly respond to your child. Remember you are not alone in this and it’s ok to ask for help or support!
If your child is biting out of frustration they may be upset about something that has just happened. If you feel that this is the reason your child is biting, understanding that they are not able to communicate what their feeling is an important first step. It’s important to explain that biting hurts. Let’s look at an example: saying “teeth are used for chewing our food, biting others hurts and makes them feel sad” is a great way to show that it is not an okay thing to do but done in a calm, supportive way. It is also important to equip children with words they can use instead of biting like “stop” as this meets their needs and gives them an opportunity to learn.
When it comes to biting due to teething, there will be signs such as your child dribbling a lot, red cheeks, noticing them mouthing and perhaps a getting a little upset. This is something every child has to go through but you can make it a little better for your child by offering them a cold teether toy to help soothe sore gums or apply teething ointment.Sometimes you can see the difference between biting out of frustration and biting due to teething. This is usually expressed in their body language.
Throughout everything we’ve talked about today, one overarching concept is super important when it comes to minimizing biting: consistency. Consistency makes it easier for the child to understand there are the consequences of their behaviour. Through all of this it’s equally important to remember this last part: You got this! I know it can be hard, frustrating, emotional, and so many other things, but when it comes to biting, just take a deep breath and remember what we’ve talked about here today.
Sources: S.K.I.P (Strategies for Kids / Information for Parents) https://whanau.skip.org.nz/behaviours/biting/
Zero to Three: Toddlers and biting – finding the right response.
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.