Q: [Preschool to Elementary] My daughter bit her best friend. What do I do?
A: There is nothing worse than picking up your child from daycare and receiving a note that he or she bit someone. Whenever a child displays behaviors good or bad, there is a reason for that behavior, biting included. Before you can address how to stop the biting, you must figure out why your child is acting in this manner.
Here are four reasons a child may engage in biting behaviors:
- Sensory Input — The sensation received from biting is naturally reinforcing for the child. The child isn’t biting to hurt anyone, yet they are soothed from biting.
- Escape or Avoidance — The child wants to avoid or escape something like a task, activity or person.
- Attention — The child is not getting attention for positive behaviors and has learned they will get attention or a reaction for negative behaviors.
- Access to a Tangible Item — The child wants a preferred item that was denied are biting to gain access.
Now that we know why biting can occur, the big question becomes how to stop this behavior from happening again. Use these tips below to assist in stopping the biting now and from repeating in the future.
- Sensory Input — Find a more socially appropriate replacement, like chewable jewelery or teething rings.
- Escape or Avoidance — Teach the child appropriate ways to escape through communication (i.e. saying “No, thank you,” ).
- Attention — Provide verbal praise when the child playing and not biting (i.e. “Wow, you are being so nice to your friends today”). It is very important to provide positive attention to the behaviors you want to see.
- Access to a Tangible Item — The child wants an item that was denied and is biting to gain access. Avoid terms like “No biting” as this may inadvertently reinforce the biting behavior.
If behaviors continue or seem beyond your control, contact your pediatrician or a behavior therapist.
Chaundra Jones has worked in the mental health field for 11 years. As a marriage and family therapistshe works closely with parents nurturing the connection between parent and child. Her specialty is working with children with challenging behaviors, developmental delay and autism spectrum disorders.