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Biters: Why They Do It and What To Do About It
Although biting isn't "abnormal" in the sense that one out of ten toddlers and two-year-olds does it, it is a disturbing and potentially harmful behavior that parents and educators must discourage from the very first episode. If a child bites, remain calm and think about what the child experienced just before the incident. Understanding why young children bite can help you deter this aggressive behavior and teach them positive ways to handle their feelings.
Young children may bite for different reasons, and not all will respond to the same types of intervention. Identifying the kind of biter you're dealing with will help you develop an appropriate discipline technique.
Never hit or "bite back" a child for biting. This communicates that violence is an appropriate way to handle emotion. The approach should be calm and educational. A child should not experience any reward for biting -- not even the "reward" of negative attention.
Parents and caregivers must cooperate to prevent children from biting. If children are permitted to demonstrate such behavior at home, there will be no chance of eliminating it in the center, program, or family child care home. Working as a team, educators and parents may identify possible reasons for a child's biting and respond accordingly. While early childhood professionals may be more familiar with positive discipline techniques, parents are experts on their own children's behavior.
Take the time to look for patterns in the biter's environment and emotional state at each episode. Does the child always bite the same individual? Is the biter simply exhausted, or hungry? Be ready to intervene immediately, but carefully. Teaching children age-appropriate ways to control themselves encourages the development of confidence and self-esteem. We can guide children towards self-control and away from biting. The key is understanding -- for adults and children alike.
Galambos Stone, J. 1969. A Guide to Discipline. Washington, DC: NAEYC #302/ $2.
Greenberg, P. 1991. Character Development: Encouraging Self-Esteem and Self-Discipline in Infants, Toddlers, & Two-Year-Olds. Washington, DC: NAEYC #175/ $8.
Honig, A.S. 1989. Love & Learn: Discipline for Young Children. Washington, DC: NAEYC #528/ 50¢
NAEYC. 1988. Discipline: Appropriate Guidance of Young Children (video tape). Washington, DC: NAEYC #855/ $39.
For more information, contact:
National Association for the Education of Young Children
From the National Association for the Education of Young Children
Copyright © 1997 by National Association for the Education of Young Children. Reproduction of this material is freely granted, provided credit is given to the National Association for the Education of Young Children.