Biting is a common occurence in Early Childhood. What can we do?
No family wants to be informed of their child being hurt or hurting others. Biting is very common in Early Childhood, and for children under the age of three it is more prominent in their behaviour and development.
I often get calls or emails from concerned parents in regards to biting and what they can do or what are we doing to prevent it from happening while at the centre.
This article will aim to alleviate concerns for families with young children who have begun to display signs of biting. And assist in understanding why this is occurring.
We try not to label the children as biters, as this can lead to more issues and low self-confidence.
We need to see it for what it is, a normal behaviour for young children. This does not mean however that we do not put strategies and techniques in place to eliminate this behaviour.
Toddlers have a limited understanding of the effects their behaviour has on others. They are still learning to understand, emphasise and read others feelings.
Another challenge is helping them to understand which behaviours are acceptable and which are not. At this age, children being to develop self-control and can be impulsive at times when they are unable to regulate their emotions.
So, what causes Bitting to Occur?
- Some children bite in order to communicate a need for personal space, or just out of frustration.
- They may be teething, exploring a new object and sometimes it can be for a reaction. For example they would like to play with a certain toy and don’t have the social skills to ask for it. So they will use physical actions such as biting or hitting.
- It may be their lack of communication skills. Not being able to express themselves especially strong emotions such as anger and frustration. Some children will even bite if they are feeling joy.
- They may be overwhelmed by the sounds, light or activity level.
- Sometimes they may just be experimenting to see what will happen.
What are our strategies?
Here at Kids Club we use many different techniques and strategies to prevent biting from occurring. Every child is different though and will respond differently. As educators we observe their behaviour’s and look for triggers. Triggers could be present in the environment such as noise or a change in the routine, transitioning from one activity to the next. It could be a behaviour trigger when they want something and can’t get the words out to tell you. Biting for toddlers is a good way to get attention and that is why it is important to put strategies in place to help the child learn more positive ways to express themselves.
We use distraction – using a different activity, book or toy. It could be as simple as looking out the window or taking a walk. It is about reducing the tension and allowing them to calm. Even though they are young, they are still able to understand words. By sharing words with a child, we are able to express what they are feeling. It validates their feelings and helps them deal with their emotions in a more positive way.
Educators are always calm but firm with the children who are biting. They keep the words simple and clear. Educators always comfort the victim, this not only helps the child that has been bitten but also display to the child that bit that you do not reward negative behaviour. We inform both parents once a child has been bitten. This allows us to work with the family on working out why the biting is occurring and how we can help them move on from biting as a way to communicate. Communication amongst Kids Club and the home environment is crucial to ensure the child is not receiving mixed messaged.
By Shelli Hanson – Centre Director of Kids Club Clarence Street
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