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How to Get Through Your Child's Biting Stage
Biting happens mostly commonly between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. Each child bites for a different reason; often it's due to an inability to communicate what he or she feels or wants.
By Hadley Lewis
I was working at my son's daycare the day he bit another child. When a child cried out in pain, I dashed to the other side of the playground to find two-year-old Robert looking pleased, wearing his "I'm guilty" face. The other child was screaming, one hand clamped to his cheek. Robert said, "I bite," and my world fell apart. I was angry at my son, angry at the other teacher who had not been paying attention, and angry at myself for not preventing the bite. I was also scared that I might lose my job.
My son's daycare was less than a year old and hadn't experienced biting before. They did not have a policy for dealing with the situation. Shocked by the incident, they said biting was uncommon and unacceptable behavior. Ensuring that Robert did not bite again was my responsibility, they said, so I started my research right away, seeking out pediatricians, dentists, child development professors, and people who worked in the daycare field.
I found I wasn't alone, it wasn't my fault, and that there were specific things I could do to prevent it from happening again.
Before a Bite
Biting happens mostly commonly between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, according to William Sears, M.D., the renowned child development expert and author of numerous books on raising children. Each child bites for a different reason; often it's due to an inability to communicate what he or she feels or wants.
One way to avoid that frustration is for parents to learn techniques for teaching kids to talk, says Lisa Shaughnessy, co-director of Adventures Preschool in Belmont.
" Read books about feelings, and sing feeling songs and finger-plays like 'If You're Happy and You Know It,'" she says. "We encourage our teachers to be dramatic. If they bump themselves, or they are frustrated, voice those feelings. Say, 'Ouch, my elbow hurts.' Or, 'This puzzle is frustrating!' It takes quite a few months between the ages of 2 and 3 for children to master their emerging language and identify and express their emotions."
Shaughnessy also suggests watching the child for signs of frustration in order to offer safe substitutes to biting, such as teething rings.