The B Word!


Every parent has at one stage experienced the B word … Biting!

Whether it is your child biting other children or your child getting bitten either at school or on the playground. As a first time mom when I get the call to say that Daniel had been bitten by a child during school, it was nothing major, just a small bite on the arm I was concerned and I was assured that everything was being handled by the teachers. Then about 2 weeks later I got another call explaining that Daniel had been bitten by the same child, just this time in the face! Oh man, did this red head hit the roof!

I was horrified at the prospect that my poor little thing was being subjected to scarring bullying (at the ripe age of 2, no less) and in all honesty I raged to my poor hubby for a good 20 minutes when I decided that I needed to see if I was over reacting and called my superstar neighbor whose youngest is the same age as Daniel and she was just as appalled as I was.

Biting was an act of expression that is not tolerated in our house. Daniel had bitten me once at around the age of 18 months and was punished for it and did not try bite me again so I was rather upset that he was being subjected to this at school. It led me to consider if biting was an outlet or a form of communication for toddlers? And as a parent if you know your child is biting other children, what do you do about it? Or as a teacher how do you deal with telling the parents of one of your students that there is actually an issue that their child is causing?

I have been told that when your child bites, it’s worse than throwing tantrum in a supermarket. Other parents are appalled; the victim has a throbbing red mark and you wish you could just sink into the ground. It’s about the most antisocial, public thing your child can do.

Figuring out why toddlers bite is important to making sure that your toddler doesn’t feel the need to bite again.

  • Expressing emotion: “Biting can be a way of expressing their feelings.
  • Experimenting: Toddlers are learning how their body works – they put things in their mouths, and sometimes nip. It’s impulsive and they don’t mean to hurt.
  • Defending: Young children learn to bite as a defense, especially if they can’t talk. “When you bite, your victim moves away – it’s a great defense.
  • Controlling: Some children know biting is a way of getting other children – or their parents – to do what they want. They don’t always do this consciously. It may happen when a group of children are jostling to be leader. Sometimes the youngest child in the family bites to gain power. And as any child who’s ever tried it has learnt, biting is a great way of getting attention – and so what if it’s negative?
  • Frustrated or irritated: Your child wants a toy back. Or they want a biscuit or adult attention, or can’t cope with a situation. They may not understand turn-taking and sharing. Your child doesn’t necessarily mean to cause harm, but just can’t find the words to express themselves.

While biting is very common behavior, it usually stops by age 3 to 3 1/2.  If your toddler continues to bite, or the number of bites increases instead of decreases over time, it is probably a good idea to request an assessment from a child development specialist.  This professional can help you identify the reason for the biting and develop a strategy for addressing the behavior.  Remember, there is no quick fix.  Over time, your child will stop biting and use more appropriate ways to express their feelings.

Last night when I got home, just as I thought I was getting the hang of this whole parenting thing, I put Daniel into the bath and he seriously didn’t feel like bathing last night and as I turned to get his shampoo the little blighter went in for the kill and chomped down on my left forearm, I was horrified that he had turned to such a violent manner to express to me that he didn’t want to be in the bath or maybe I wasn’t listening hard enough? Was I steamrolling my toddler and causing him to lash out at me? And it got me thinking that not all problems can he solved by the age old “spare the rod, spoil the child” attitude but parents have to stop, think, listen and comprehend that our children have feelings and just cant express them correctly.

But I honestly think that Daniel was even more shocked than I was at what he had just done and he immediately tried to say sorry and came to kiss my “ouchie” better but the incident has made me think that children are often provoked into biting and we as parents need to consider this next time you want to bang down the door of the headmistress to demand a trial by combat to access the fate to the guilty child!



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