Q. Sometimes when I pick-up my two-and-half-year-old from the day care center, he has black-and-blue teeth marks on him. It’s obvious he’s been bitten by another child. I’ve complained about this to the teacher, but she insist that biting is normal for children this age. Is she correct?
Your complaint is understandable. Most parents are not happy to see bite marks on their child, and they are even more horrified if they learn their child has been biting others.
Biting is, however, normal behavior. Children bite for several reason—to explore, to gain control, to express anger or frustration, even to “kiss” with their teeth. Most children go through one or two biting phases, the first of which occurs during late infancy—from 10 to 20 months, and the second during their second year.
I have developed five steps which are usually successful in handling children who bite. If your child continues to exhibit bite marks, you might want to pass these steps along to his day care teacher. They include:
- Always go to the victim first. Give the bitten child plenty of TLC. If there is a wound cleanse it with soap and water, apply an ice pack, and be on the lookout for infection.
- Then, approach the child who did the biting. Avoid using the child’s name, so the child will not equate biting with receiving attention. Give the child simple directions, such as saying, “I will help you learn to be kind and gentle, like this.” Stroke the child’s and in a gentle manner, and then help the child stroke the victim in a similar way.
- Separate the child from others for a few minutes. Tell the child he can rejoin his friends when he has calmed down. In a few minutes, help the child rejoin the play group.
- Be aware of circumstance that may have caused biting, such as boredom, higher, frustration or fighting for the same toy.
- Find ways to redirect the child’s behavior, showing him appropriate ways to express affection or angry feelings. It may be necessary to the child a plastic ring or other harmless objects to bite on.