Hi! I'm Coach Franny, and I empower families with challenging children to come together as problem solving teams through a Mindful-Ish® approach to parenting.
Biting is a common behavior in toddlers and preschoolers, but it’s often an unpleasant surprise for adults. If your child bites, it’s normal to feel frustrated. However, a toddler biting in preschool doesn’t typically mean that they’re aggressive. Preschoolers bite for a variety of reasons, such as overstimulation or fear. Figuring out the root cause of your child’s behavior can help prevent biting incidents in the future.
At Mindful-Ish® Parenting, we’re here to help you develop better communication skills and effectively tackle life’s challenges. Let’s Make Shift Happen™ – Read this article for practical strategies on how to prevent biting in preschool.
Toddlers and preschoolers bite for a variety of reasons, and aggression is rarely one of them. Young children don’t have the social and emotional tools to always respond to life situations in an appropriate way. Their impulse control is underdeveloped, and their limited verbal skills can turn biting into an easier way to communicate.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children explains that biting in early childhood can be attributed to:
For example, maybe your toddler bit another child who had knocked over their toy. While this is an upsetting reaction, it doesn’t mean that you have an aggressive toddler. Your child was simply trying to communicate their frustration and need for space in the only way they knew how.
It’s essential to understand why your child bites before jumping to conclusions — or, even worse, punishment.
Even though biting in preschool is typically not aggressive, it’s still a behavior problem that needs to be corrected.
Dealing with biting in preschool can be frustrating, but taking a Mindful-Ish® approach can help you avoid becoming either the parenting monster or the parenting doormat. Use the strategies below to effectively address biting behavior in preschoolers.
Biting is upsetting for everyone involved. The child or adult who was bitten is hurt, your child may be frightened by the reaction that their biting caused, and the childcare staff or educator is probably feeling tense and frustrated.
Don’t make the situation worse by having an emotional response. Stay calm and respectful and don’t default to punishment. Your attitude shouldn’t enable biting, but it’s important to remember that there are steps you can take to prevent incidents in the future.
Your toddler may not understand why biting is wrong or see it as a negative behavior at all. They may see it as a fun experiment or an easy way to communicate. This is why it’s important to use direct statements that are simple for your child to make sense of.
For example, telling your child that they have to “be nice to their friend” can confuse them. Your child may not understand that biting = not being nice, so it’s much better to clearly explain that biting hurts and biting other people is off-limits.
Biting is rarely malicious. Understanding why your child is biting is the first step to correcting this behavior, so pay attention to the context in which the biting incident occurred. Did your child feel crowded or threatened? Were they imitating something they saw on TV? Were they overstimulated or trying to communicate a need?
If the incident took place in your daycare or preschool, gather as many details as possible from the educator who was caring for your child and work together to find a solution. Maybe your child needs more play space or to adjust their schedule.
Some toddlers and preschoolers can bite to communicate emotions that they can’t verbalize yet. For example, your child may be feeling angry that someone took their toy or bumped into them. If this is the case with your child, it can be helpful to role-play the situation and teach them a more appropriate response.
It can go like this:
“Let’s pretend we’re in school. I’ll knock your tower over the way Liz did the other day. But instead of biting me, you’ll say – This is my toy. I feel angry when you knock it over. Please stop doing this.”
Playing pretend can teach your child an effective alternative to biting and relieve some of the pressure from an unpleasant situation.
though biting incidents are upsetting, it’s important to remember that it’s normal behavior for young children that’s not going to be an issue in the long term. Your child can have a successful future even if they had a couple of biting incidents in preschool.
Remember that figuring out how to handle biting in preschool is a process. It may not happen overnight, but it’s something that can be successfully addressed in a Mindful-Ish® way with communication and consistency.
As a parent, you can be hard on yourself when biting incidents happen and feel alone or isolated. It’s important to remember that biting behaviors are usually a normal part of healthy development. It’s possible to learn how to effectively deal with your child’s biting.
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