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May 10, 2004
You turn around to pick up a few stray toys - and it happens. Erin lets out a piercing scream. You rush over and there's the tell-tale sign - red teeth marks on Erin's arm. Biting is one of the most difficult behaviors to deal with in young children. Biting is very similar to hitting, but it is much more dangerous. Young children have more power in their jaw muscles than in their arms, so the damage is more severe. And it can happen in an instant, even when you are standing right there!
Biting is quite common among toddlers and is a very normal reaction for this age group. Children bite for many reasons. Sometimes they are teething and the biting feels good. Others seem to enjoy the strong reaction they get. Sometimes it starts out as a kiss and just goes too far. Most of the time, though, biting occurs because a child is frustrated and does not know what else to do. For example, the activity may be too difficult for the child. Or there may be too many children for the child to deal with. Or the child may be angry because someone tried to take a toy away. Because the child has not yet learned appropriate words or actions to express his frustration, he resorts to biting.
There are many things you can do to eliminate the biting.
It is also important to talk with parents. Talk to the parents of the child who is biting and the parents of the other children in your care. Assure the parents that biting, although it is serious and not to be tolerated is quite normal in very young children. Explain why biting occurs and the techniques you are using to help the child overcome the problem. This shows the parents that you are knowledgeable about children and on top of the situation. Dealing with a child who bites can be challenging, but your efforts will help the child take one more step toward independence and self-control.
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care (NNCC). Todd, C.M. (1992). When children bite. In Todd, C.M. (Ed.), *Day care center connections*, 1(6), pp. 3-4 Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.