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Navigating Biting: A Sensitive Approach to Understanding and Responding to Biting.

Child cuddling teddy

After studying Early Childhood at university, working as a Toddler Room Leader in a nursery and completing additional courses on biting, I can confidently say that biting is a normal occurrence, although not particularly pleasant.

Biting is a common behaviour exhibited by toddlers and young children, often leaving parents and caregivers perplexed and concerned. However, it's essential to recognise that biting is a normal part of a child's development, stemming from their early attempts at communication. In this blog, we'll explore why children bite, the developmental aspects behind it, and share sensitive strategies to respond both at home and in social settings.

Baby Smiling

Understanding why children bite:

1. Communication Struggles:

Biting often emerges when a child encounters difficulty expressing themselves verbally. As their vocabulary is limited, frustration can set in when they struggle to convey their emotions or needs.

2. Exploration and Sensory Experience:

For some children, biting is a way of exploring the world. It can be linked to sensory curiosity where they learn about textures and reactions using their mouths.

3. Emotional Expression:

Children may resort to biting when feeling overwhelmed by strong emotions like anger, frustration, or even excitement. Biting can become a way for them to express intense feelings that they cannot articulate verbally.

4. Attention-Seeking Behaviour:

Biting can be a means for a child to attract attention, even if it's negative. They may not have grasped the concept that there are better ways to seek interaction.

5. Teething Now, this one had me thinking, as a new mum, I thought about it with a new perspective. How often do we, as parents, offer our hands or fingers as free teething toys? Right from a very young age, we're putting our hands into their mouths without discouraging biting. Sometimes, we may unknowingly encourage it.

Top Tips for Responding Sensitively:

At Home:

1. Stay Calm:

Reacting with anger or frustration can escalate the situation. Stay calm, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that this is a phase in their development.


2. Teach Alternative Communication:

Encourage verbal expression and provide alternatives for them to communicate their needs. Introduce simple words or gestures they can use.


3. Establish Consistent Boundaries:

Set clear boundaries and consistently communicate the consequences of biting. This helps children understand the impact of their actions.


4. Offer Comfort and Reassurance:

If biting occurs in response to emotions, comfort your child and reassure them that it's okay to feel that way. Teach them healthier ways to manage their feelings.

Nursery teacher and children playing

In Social Settings:

1. Supervise Play:

When your child interacts with others, closely supervise their play to intervene promptly if biting occurs.


2. Teach Empathy:

Offer to help your child understand the impact of their actions on others. Encourage apologies and teach them to recognise the emotions in their playmates. This can be done through reading stories about empathy or talking about how we can make our friends feel better, for example, by hugging them or going to find their comforter.


3. Communicate with Caregivers:

If your child is attending nursery or spending time with other caregivers, communicate openly with them about the biting behaviour. Share insights into triggers and coping strategies.


4. Celebrate Positive Behaviour:

Reinforce positive behaviour by praising and celebrating instances where your child appropriately communicates or manages emotions without resorting to biting. This is a big one, and sometimes as parents, we forget how well children respond to positivity, so make a big deal when they are doing the right thing.

Toddler playing with mum

Remember, biting is a phase that most children outgrow with proper guidance and understanding. By responding with sensitivity and empathy, you can help your child navigate through this developmental stage while promoting healthy communication and emotional expression.

I hope this is helpful! Please feel free to share with other parents who may also be struggling with biting.

Nina x

Baby & Toddler Sleep Consultant

Founder of Sleepy Bambinos

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