My Baby Is Biting

Submitted by Tina Boljevac, Director of Infant/Toddler Programs.

Those of us, who have received a phone call from our toddler’s teacher informing us that our little one got bitten or has bitten another child, know just how unnerving this news is! Biting, regardless of the fact that it is a “not unexpected” toddler behavior, can be quite difficult to accept as something that simply happens and we are expected to “simply” get through it. As a parent, this was the message that I was hearing, although it was not necessarily the message I knew I was receiving. Having worked directly with infants and toddlers as a teacher and a director for a total of over 10 years, I knew that there was nothing “simple” about it, and I knew that my son’s teachers never intended to minimize the importance of the issue. I truly began to feel the difference between working with/caring for infants and toddlers and being a parent of one.

I suppose where I am going with this is I would like to emphasize that when we talk to you about challenging behaviors in the classroom, our intention is never to make it seem like we do not take it seriously, regardless of the fact that challenging behaviors – including, but not limited to, biting – are typical for this age group and in one sense are a wonderful indicator that your child is gaining a sense of autonomy. She knows what she wants or needs and she will do whatever it takes to get it, or to defend it. Your child is simply trying to find her own place and gain a sense of her own power, and in the process, she is learning what works and what doesn’t: “How do I get what I want? How do I let [them] know what I’m feeling?” It is up to us to teach a child who may be engaging in an aggressive behavior a more appropriate one; to teach her to use gestures and words to express her needs or wants; to teach her to walk away if she feels threatened or needs space. It is up to us to try to figure out the reasons for biting (or other challenging behaviors) and do our best to minimize its occurrence. The strategies we use are many, just as there are many reasons why children may bite. Please let me know if you would like to talk about our strategies and procedures in a greater detail and I would be happy to set up a time to meet with you.

As the biting behavior, at this age, is not malicious in intent, we do not have an exclusion policy. Instead, if a child seems “stuck” in a biting pattern, we will do our best to break the pattern by helping the child meet his needs in a more appropriate way and working with parents to make sure that there is consistency in response to the behavior at home and at school. In the meantime, we will continue to do our utmost to keep all children safe.

Lastly, I would like to touch upon a frequently raised concern. Parents are sometimes worried that if their child sees another child bite, he might also start to bite. He might certainly try, as children are great imitators and like to attempt doing what they see others do. However, he will also see the teacher’s consistently stern response to biting and will most likely not feel enticed to engage in the behavior that will provoke the same kind of response. Just as some children use biting as the first response to a wide range of emotions and needs, some children rarely or never do.

Biting “phase” is most certainly very challenging for everyone involved, but coming out of it successfully feels more rewarding than you can imagine! We just have to take a deep breath and remember that this, too, shall pass…

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