Biting in daycare is a common occurrence and a concern among daycare providers and parents. It can be frustrating for the child care provider and frightening for the child. We interviewed Dr. Norman E. Hoffman, author of Bad Children Can Happen to Good Parents and licensed mental health counselor and marriage and family therapist, to get some help. Dr. Hoffman explains why children bite and how biting can be controlled in the daycare setting.
OwnADaycare: Why do young children bite?
Dr. Hoffman: Biting is another form of oral behavior which usually persists normally into the second year. It usually occurs in response to frustration or disapproval. The child may displace his/her biting to peers or to inanimate objects. Normally, biting subsides after the second year. Once a child turns 3 years old, however, biting may indicate other behavioral problems, especially if the biting incidents are frequent.
OwnADaycare: What are some ways that child care providers or preschool teachers prevent biting? How should child care providers or preschool teachers react to biting?
Dr. Hoffman: There is no reliable research that provides us with sound clinical strategies to prevent biting. However, it is agreed that the technique of “biting back” should not be utilized. The “biter” is probably learning to bite from the caregivers and should not be punished in the usual sense. Instead, “treat the victim” and have the biter aid in this process. It should be noted however, the biter should still be firmly but gently instructed that biting “hurts” and it should not continue. You should then protect the “victim” from future aggressive acts by the biter. Also, the biter may have to be separated from all of the children until he recognizes the harmful nature of biting.
OwnADaycare: What is the best way for a child care provider to inform the biter’s parents? What is the best way for a child care provider to inform the victim’s parents? Is there a point when a pediatrician or health care provider should get involved?
Dr. Hoffman: The biter’s parents need to be informed of the seriousness of their child’s behavior. Perhaps they may be aware of situations that may need to be terminated at home to discourage biting or other aggressive behaviors. They may need to seriously evaluate their behavior at home, and change more aggressive behaviors to more gentle caring ones. In more severe cases, the biter may have to be referred to a child development expert and additionally be removed from school.
OwnADaycare: Do you have any additional tips or comments?
Dr. Hoffman: A quick and consistent response from parents and daycare personnel can help children who bite learn to express their feelings in words so that they can become better able to control their behavior
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