Understanding Biting in Child Care

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You have just picked up your toddler from child care and you notice a purple bruise on her hand. You then discover a note in your daughter's backpack. The note is from your child's provider informing you that one of your daughter's classmates bit her!

One of the most troublesome behaviors, from a parent’s perspective, is biting. This is true whether your child is the aggressor or the victim. However, biting in child care is a very common behavior from the time children start teething, through their toddler years.

Why children bite

Young children are easily overwhelmed with feelings of anger or frustration. Biting is a powerful way to release strong feelings.

Young children are impulsive. The often do not stop to evaluate the consequences of their actions. When they are upset, they lash out.

Young children have limited verbal skills. When they can not use words to express themselves, the often resort to physical aggression.

Infants may be teething. When their gums are inflamed, they may find that biting relieves some discomfort.

Handling Biting

How child care programs often handle biting -- Tips they you can use at home too

Child care professionals recognize that biting is a normal behavior, therefore they are not overly punitive to the biter. They may separate the bite or from the other child. Some providers will ask the biter to participate in caring for the victim by bringing ice, or offering a hugcowhide.

Caregivers often try to prevent children from biting. They provide many materials and activities for children to release pent-up emotions and frustration.

Caregivers help young children to learn to verbally express themselves. They may tell the biter, "I see you are feeling very angry with Marcus, but I will not allow you to bite him. Let's use our words and tell Marcus that you are mad!"

When children are teething, the provider may have a cool teether or rubber ring available. They may tell the child, "Biting hurts people. If you need to bite, use your teething ring."

Caregivers will usually have a policy informing the parents of both children about biting incident. Many programs have a policy that they will not disclose the name of the other child involved.