Children bite. When they do, you (and your staff and families) should be on the same page about it. Biting is typical of many developing children, especially up until 30 months or so. Children bite for many reasons: they might be frustrated, or hungry, or want attention, or want to give affection.
There are many resources about why children bite and what effective responses are:
- Toddlers and Biting: Finding the Right Response
- All About Biting
- Biting in the Child Care Setting
- Responding To Your Child’s Biting
Reading these and other resources – and working to understand the meaning behind the a child’s biting – is critical to developing an effective policy.
Some families won’t be bothered by their child being bit; other families will expect immediate action. Some families will deny their child bites others; other families will tell you on the first day. A consistent policy exchange of information regarding why biting happens can help families and programs discuss biting in a cooperative manner.
Some programs have specific policies regarding biting. Other programs include biting under general behavior management policies, injury policies, or policies regarding ‘aggressive’ or ‘inappropriate’ behavior.
Ineffective responses are ones that punish, shame, or harm a child. Biting a child back is considered child abuse, and no research supports the idea that it helps children bite less.
Where To Include
At Playvolution HQ, we recommend programs have three handbooks–a Parent Handbook, a Staff Handbook, and an Operating Handbook. Consider adding this policy to your Operating Handbook.
- Children hit, pinch, spit, and kick, too – all of these things can leave marks, break skin, and/or exchange bodily fluids, just like biting can.
- Some state regulations require notification for both the parent of the bitten child and the parent of the child who bit. Check these regulations for privacy requirements – often, notification is required, but revealing any other children involved is not allowed.
Disclaimer: These are sample policies intended for use as a guide in policy development. Your program’s policies should be unique to your program and reflect the program’s culture, practices, and the regulations in your area.
Carmel Mountain Preschool recognizes that biting is a developmentally appropriate behavior for children in the toddler and two-year-old classroom. Parents with children should expect that their children may be bitten or will bite another child in these classrooms. We understand that parents may be concerned or become upset if their child is involved in a biting incident. We ask that you remember this is a developmentally appropriate behavior, and that the staff is working to identify the situations that provoke or elicit this behavior so it can be prevented in the future. Parents are expected to work with staff to identify methods and strategies to curb biting behavior.
Carmel Mountain Preschool, California, USA
A word about biting and pinching
Biting and pinching are common behaviors for infants and toddlers. They have few or no words and little life experience to help them deal with frustrations. They often act impulsively to claim a toy or protect their space. Sometimes they may act to get attention or an “interesting” reaction (from another child or an adult).
Teething and the tenderness that comes with swollen gums may also bring on a rash of biting. Staff will watch children closely and help them find other ways to express themselves. This takes time and patience. Sometimes those little teeth or fingers reach out so quickly that even the most alert adult can’t stop it!
We NEVER recommend that an adult bite or pinch a child.
Frequent biting or hurting of other children can become a serious problem. We reserve the right to remove a child from the program if this happens.
Right Steps Child Development Centers, Indiana, USA
Techniques Twin Oaks Uses to Prevent Biting:
–Group size in the toddler room is kept as low as possible.
–We supply numerous appropriate toys on which children can bite.
–We will attach a teether in a safe manner to a frequent biter’s clothing and encourage him to bite it.
–We will work with our toddlers to teach them the words to express their frustrations.
–A frequent biter will have a caregiver assigned to him to remain in close proximity to the child and to intervene if a biting situation occurs.
What Twin Oaks Will Do After a Biting Incident:
–The caregivers will focus their attention on the victim, not the biter.
–The bite will be cleaned with antiseptic and a bandage applied, even if the skin is not broken.
–An ice pack will be applied to the bite for a few moments to help relieve any pain.
–The caregiver will have the biter to gently stroke the victim, so both children will learn appropriate ways to touch and relate to each other.
–An injury report will be filled out on each and every bite.
What Twin Oaks Will Not Do After a Biting Incident:
–The child will not be physically punished in any way, nor will we bite the child back.
–The child will not be removed from the center.
–Staff members will not put anything into the child’s mouth.
–Staff members will not withdraw love or food, or keep the child in isolation.
–Due to confidentiality rules we cannot and will not reveal the name of the biter to the victim’s parents.
Twin Oaks Child Development Center, Mississippi, USA
Have a Parent, Staff, or Operating handbook you’d like to share with us for use in our policy samples? You can upload PDFs here.
Thoughts on this topic? Share them in the comments, we’d love to know what you think.