We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
Why preschoolers bite
It can be shocking to hear that your preschooler has bitten another child – or to feel his teeth sinking into you. But the behavior isn't at all unusual.
By the time children are in preschool, most have bitten someone at least once and have also been on the receiving end of an unfriendly chomp. Children bite less frequently as they get older and can talk about their feelings, but at this age biting is still common in situations where lots of children are together.
Kids may bite when they're overcome by fear, anger, or frustration, for instance. Or they may bite because someone bit them. Preschoolers often bite during a fight if they feel cornered or fear they're about to be hurt.
Coping with a major change, such as a new baby in the family or a new home, can also cause emotional upset that results in aggressive behavior. And sometimes children bite simply to gauge the effect it will have, because they're excited or overstimulated, or as a misplaced expression of love.
Still, knowing that biting is common doesn't make it any easier when your preschooler has bitten another child or has been bitten. You may not only be upset to find out that your child's been biting, but other parents may be up in arms over the incident as well. Your child may no longer be welcome at preschool or playgroup.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that children don't want to attack others. They'd much rather play, explore, and enjoy their friends. Understanding what's behind biting is the first step in getting your child to stop.
"Think about what's going on with your child," says Janis Keyser, a parenting educator and coauthor of Becoming the Parent You Want to Be. "Your purpose is not just to stop the behavior but to help your child grow."
Here's how to help on both counts:
What to do when your preschooler bites
Make sure both children are safe. First, separate the children and make sure they're out of biting distance of each other.
Stay calm, set boundaries, and don't blame or punish. In simple, direct language tell your child that biting hurts and she's not allowed to do it. Though you may be tempted to impress upon your child the seriousness of her actions, harsh punishment, like spanking or biting the child back, can actually make preschoolers more likely to strike out again. Experts suspect that such punishment causes anger and resentment that, over time, can lead a child to act out even more.
Help both children. Both the child who's been bitten and the aggressor need your help. First you'll need to check the damage and maybe provide some medical attention along with plenty of warmth and caring.
But don't neglect the child who did the biting. She may act as if she doesn't care, or like she's unaware of how much pain she inflicted – no one looks more impassive than a child who's just hurt someone. But chances are, she does know what she did.
Being warm and caring to her as well helps her feel comfortable enough to express her own emotions, both about the bite and about whatever was frustrating or overwhelming her in the first place.
Encourage your preschooler to come to you when she's upset. You may not be able to be with her when she's having her hardest times – say, at daycare or preschool– but she needs to learn that she can ask you or another adult for help.
Suggest that she come to you when she's having a hard time, and then give her your full attention when she does. Think of her closeness with you when you're together as a kind of insurance policy against acts of aggression when she's not.
Talk about what happened. Once you've both calmed down, pick a quiet moment to ask, "How can you let someone know you're angry without hurting him?" and "How can you ask an adult for help when you don't like how other kids are treating you?"
Do some simple role-playing to work through these situations. ("You be Sonya from preschool, and you take my bunny.") She may pick up some lines she can use later. ("No! I don't like that!") Many preschoolers bite once, get help handling it, and never do it again.
How to prevent biting
Think about when and why your child bites. Is it at playgroup when another child snatches something he wants to play with? When other children are crowding him? Does he try to bite you when you're nursing the new baby?
Your child's teacher may also have clues about what sets him off. After a while, you'll probably be able to predict when your child is likely to lash out and be ready to intervene.
Watch your child closely. Warning signs, such as crying, yelling, foot-stamping, and lunging, often precede biting. If he's been biting, watch your preschooler and step in before he does it again.
Redirect your child's attention. If your child's emotions are running high and you're worried that he's getting ready to take a nip at a friend, turn his attention toward a different activity, such as dancing, painting, or playing a game.
Stop him before he bites again. If it looks like your child is getting ready to bite again, get physically close to him and calmly prevent him from sinking his teeth into his target. You might say something like, "I can't let you hurt Ramona," or "Oh, I don't think I want those teeth any closer," while you gently but firmly hold his forehead a few inches from your shoulder or cup your hand gently over his mouth.
If he bites you anyway or continues to try to bite another child, it's probably a good idea to remove him from the situation, end the play session, or give him a time-out.
Stay warm and loving toward him. This may be hard when you're trying to prevent him from biting – you may be emotional yourself or feel enormous pressure to yell or stop him by force. But if you can remember how much you love him while you're restraining him, he may feel safe enough to show you how sad or mad he feels.
"It really helps to get yourself on your child's side," says Keyser, "and remember that he's doing the best he can at any given moment." He may be able to tell you about his feelings in words or he may not, but it doesn't really matter. You may have to intervene this way a number of times before he's able to stop himself from biting.
Use positive reinforcement. Most children this age are usually cooperative with other kids and increasingly interested in developing new friendships. Biting usually tapers off around age 3 when a child's language and social skills become more developed.
Children this age can express their feelings, share, and understand another child's point of view. Tap into your child's growing emotional intelligence by praising the kind of good behavior that will help him make – and keep – new friends.
Go with him on playdates. You may need to go along with your child on playdates until the biting problem resolves itself, or at least warn other parents ahead of time and give them a few tips on what works best with your child. If you think they won't be able to handle the situation in a calm and loving way, it's probably best to reschedule the playdate.
Never bite your child back. Some parents think this tactic drives home the point that biting is painful. But what it really does is show your child the wrong way to deal with aggression – that is, by becoming aggressive in return. Even "love bites" from parents can contribute to a child's biting, so never bite your child, even in fun.
Demystify biting. Talk about biting – but don't preach – or play a simple game. Ask your child to tell you some foods he likes to bite. Or name everyday objects (a cupcake, a table, a dog, a banana) and ask him whether they're okay to bite. You can get progressively sillier (a car, the vacuum cleaner, Daddy's shoes) and both of you can laugh about it.
Talk to your child's teacher. Try to find out more about your preschooler's class environment. Does the teacher make an effort to intervene in aggressive behavior, whether it's biting, punching, or constant teasing? You want to make sure you're not leaving your child in the middle of a free-for-all where children must fend for themselves.
If you're satisfied that the teacher has the situation under control, ask how she deals with biting. Veteran teachers often have some inventive methods for dealing with common behavior problems. This is also a chance to find out whether her responses to biting incidents are doing more harm than good.
Give him a biting substitute. Some preschools keep bowls of apples around and give an apple to a child who's biting. It's a good, satisfying alternative if he just has to sink his teeth into something!