As a parent/carer with a child in Nursery, you may begin to experience or may already be experiencing your child biting others or being bitten by another child. This is more commonly experienced with children in Junior Nursery.
What is it?
Biting is a behaviour that can result from feelings of frustration, overstimulation, hunger and pain related to teething. Often children bite as a way to meet their needs, they do not yet have more appropriate methods of communicating what they want and biting gets a strong response from others. Whatever the reason for biting, this behaviour evokes strong emotions from all those involved, including the child who bites, the bitten child, the parents of both children and the child’s teacher and assistants within the Nursery.
Biting is common between the age of 14 months and 36 months.
A Plan of Action
Biting is a difficult and uncomfortable situation / issue for all parents to deal with. If your child has been bitten, you may feel angry, upset and outraged. If your child is the biter you may feel embarrassed and frustrated. Most toddlers who bite do so usually only for a short while.
·Observe to find out when biting is likely to happen: If we watch the instances in which a child is likely to bite, we can gain understanding about the causes of biting and the situations to watch for in the future. For example, if the child bites at certain times of the day or in a certain place or area. It is helpful for parents to liaise with the teacher as to when biting is happening outside of the Nursery as well.
·Provide close supervision and prevent biting whenever possible: If we know that a child might bite in certain situations, it is important to stay close enough to that child to prevent whatever bites you can.
·Support your child's Nursery: If your child is biting at Nursery you will need to work with the child care staff on coming up with strategies. If the child is biting regularly, it may be necessary to designate a member of staff to "shadow" the child, staying close enough to keep all the children safe. Parents may be able to support the programme by volunteering to help in the nursery for a period of time to allow a member of staff to offer special attention to the biting situation. Parents and teachers working together for a solution can provide the extra resources needed to get through this difficult, though normal, developmental behaviour.
·Explain to the child: Children do not automatically know that biting hurts. Telling them that biting hurts and allowing them to observe the bite mark and the crying friend will help them learn, over time, that biting is hurtful to others.
·Provide redirection and alternatives: When we are aware of a child’s behaviour and see that a situation may lead to somebody being bitten, the child can be redirected to another activity or given something else as an alternative to distract them away from what is happening.
·Avoid shaming: Often in our frustration we could find ourselves shaming or blaming children who are biting. This is not helpful to the child in overcoming their behaviour. Explaining to the child that biting is not acceptable and encouraging them to help the other child feel better will, in time, be effective to help them understand that biting is wrong and hurts.
·Offer children a chance to help: If we encourage the child who is biting to help the bitten child, this will teach them that when you make mistakes, you can also help to rectify them. Although it is helpful for children to say they are sorry, a more effective response is to ask children if they could do something to help the other child feel better. Children can bring ice, a cold cloth, a special blanket or cuddle the bitten child, if this child is receptive.
·Stay calm, firm and clear: Biting is a frustrating situation for any adult caring for the children. It is important that when a child is biting the adult remains calm and does not cause a “scene” by shouting, yelling and “hopping” around. The child who is biting will pick up on these reactions and possibly continue because of the attention their behaviour has caused. The adult should immediately comfort the child who has been bitten and provide any necessary first aid (as mentioned in the last point, the child who has bitten could become involved here). It is important to explain to the child who has bitten why it is wrong.
·Give it time and get help if necessary: Despite our best efforts, biting does not always disappear immediately. Some children bite one or two times and never try it again. Others may bite on and off for a few months. If you feel like your child's biting is not just developmental in nature, but is connected to some other emotional issue they are dealing with, it might be useful to get some professional help such as speaking to a speech and language therapist or educational psychologists.
Your child’s class teacher will work alongside you to try and help prevent this behaviour from happening further and discuss helpful strategies that can be applied at home and within the Nursery as it is important to remain consistent with these approaches.