When Children Bite: A Plan of Action

By Lesley Iwinski

Did your cute, little child just bite someone? You are shocked.   And you are not alone!

An article in “Pediatric and Child Health” suggests that in day-care settings, biting occurs approximately once a day. We don’t hear about it because most parents don’t talk about it.

Remember: Your child is not bad if she bites. She is doing her best to express a need, and she is learning how life works.

As her parent, you are her most influential teacher.

The moment biting happens, act calmly and with compassion, even if you feel like overreacting.

Take a deep breath, collect yourself and speak in a kind, firm manner. Then follow these steps: *

1. Interrupt the behavior. “No biting.  Sit right here and we will talk in a minute.”
2. Help the victim. “That really hurt!  Let’s see if we can help you feel better.”
3. Reflect each child’s feelings. [To the child who bit] “I can see that you felt frustrated and angry.” [To the child who was bitten] “And you felt scared.”
4. Define the problem. “I see the problem. You both wanted to play with the same toy at the very same time.”
5. Clarify the limit. “We are always gentle with people, even when we are upset and angry.
“If you hurt people, you’ll have to stay next to me. You will not be allowed to play with other children when you hurt them.”
6. Provide ideas for expressing feelings. “You can take big breaths, tell the other person how you feel, put your hands on your hips or fold your arms.”
7. Provide ideas for ways to express needs. “You can say, ‘I’m waiting for the next turn.’ ‘How many minutes before you are done?’ ‘Want to trade that for this?’” (For toddlers, suggest short phrases like “My turn!” “I want that.” “Mine now?”)
8. Let the kids get back to playing.  “I’m glad the biting is all done. Let’s go and find a game to play.”

You might need to do this a few times, but the results will be worth it. Stay persistent, consistent, calm and loving, and your efforts are likely to be rewarded.

*(To see a more detailed description of these steps and to find a link “The Biting Solution” by Lisa Poelle, visit: www.growingpeacefulfamiles.com/recommendations.html.)