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Understanding Biting: A Developmental Milestone

Biting is a behaviour that can leave parents puzzled and concerned, often wondering why their sweet little ones would engage in such an act. It’s essential to recognise that biting in toddlers is not uncommon and is often a part of their developmental journey. In this blog post, we’ll explore why young children bite, what it may signify, and how parents can navigate this stage with understanding and patience.

The Developmental Stage of Biting

Children are in the midst of exploring the world around them, and biting is one way they express themselves. At this stage, children are learning about cause and effect, testing their boundaries, and discovering the power of their bodies. Biting is a form of communication for toddlers, who may not yet possess the language skills to express their needs, frustration, or curiosity adequately.

What Biting Can Mean

Communication and Expression: Young children may resort to biting when they feel overwhelmed, excited, frustrated, or unable to convey their emotions verbally. It becomes a tool for expressing their feelings and needs when words fail.

Exploration: Biting is also a means of exploration for young children. They use their mouths to learn about textures, taste, and the world around them. Understanding that biting is a natural part of this exploration can help parents approach the behaviour with empathy.

Teething Discomfort: Teething can be an uncomfortable experience for young children. Biting provides relief and helps soothe the discomfort caused by rumbling teeth. Offering appropriate teething toys can redirect this behaviour.

Social Interaction: Young children are still developing their social skills and may use biting as a way to engage with their peers. They may not fully grasp the concept of cause and effect, and biting may be an unintended consequence of their attempts to connect.

How Parents Can Respond

Stay Calm and Observant: It’s crucial for parents to stay calm when addressing biting. Observe the circumstances surrounding the behaviour to identify triggers or patterns.

Teach Alternative Behaviours: Encourage Young children to express themselves through words, gestures, or other forms of non-harmful communication. Try to encourage alternatives to biting, such as using words or pointing.

Model Empathy: Help young children understand the impact of their actions by demonstrating empathy. Acknowledge their feelings and guide them towards more appropriate ways of expressing themselves.

Set Clear Boundaries: Establish clear and consistent boundaries, emphasising that biting is not acceptable behaviour. Be patient and reinforce positive actions with praise.

Consistent Language & Tone: Consistent language and tone create opportunities for effective teaching moments. Adults can use these moments to guide children toward alternative behaviours, promoting learning and growth. Having a specific phrase that is used can help. For example, “it’s not okay to bite your friends we use our teeth for eating food.” Or even as simple as, “that is not okay we have gentles bodies here.” A consistent approach offers predictability, which is crucial for young children. Knowing what to expect helps them feel secure and understand the consequences of their actions.

Communication with Kaiako: If the biting behaviour persists, communication between parents and kaiako is crucial. Understanding the context and consistency in addressing the behaviour can contribute to a more coordinated approach. The more we know the more support we can offer, we are here to help

In conclusion, while biting in young children may be challenging for parents (and all involved) to navigate, it’s important to recognise it as a developmental stage rather than a sign of malicious intent. By understanding the reasons behind the behaviour and responding with empathy and guidance, parents can help their children navigate this stage while fostering positive communication and social skills.