Biting… And what we are doing about it!

Good morning Parents. I wanted to take the time to talk to you about a behavior that has been happening in our toddler area. We have been experiencing some biting behaviors in some of our children, and I wanted to take the time to explain to you what is happening and what we are doing about it. I know that hearing that your child has been bitten or has bitten someone else is a horrible feeling, but I want to stress that biting is a normal developmental behavior in children. Usually, biting in children up to the age of three is a behavior that children use to express fear, stress, frustration or anger. We clearly do not want to encourage physical violence in children, and want to teach them instead to have great social skills from a young age and to learn more appropriate ways of dealing with those emotions.

In doing some reading and research on this topic (in hopes of helping this behavior dissipate over the next few weeks), I discovered a few articles that were really helpful for me as a director in understanding what further steps I can be taking to help the staff, children, and you as parents through this difficult time. One of the articles is from the Early Childhood and Parenting (ECAP) Collaborative in Illinois (I will include the link at the end of this post). Much of the research that they present “suggests that teachers and caregivers need to understand why children bite and the range of developmental issues that arise when toddlers are in group care. They should understand that very young children really are not developmentally ready to share, and that toddlers communicate physically before they are ready to use language. Because their social conscience and expressive communication skills are limited, toddlers may tend to shove, push, and bite.”. Further, it is suggested that “teachers at center-based programs need to recognize that biting is as normal and natural as toileting and tantrums, yet accept their responsibility to provide and maintain a safe environment”.

That being said, biting is a behavior that is hard on everyone. It is hard to tell a parent that (for the millionth time, it might seem), there is an accident report for them because their child got bitten at some point in the day. It is hard to tell a parent that their child bit someone else throughout the day. It is hard for the caregivers here at the center, as they are doing their best to shadow our biters,  to plan new activities for the children to do, or change the set up of our play areas. Sometimes it seems like a bite can happen in 3 seconds, when we are doing everything that we can to help these behaviors change. As difficult as it is to remember, sometimes your child is biting because they aren’t able to properly express how they are feeling, and sometimes your child is being bit as a retaliation to other rough behaviors that they may be exhibiting. This is not always the case, we know, as sometimes there is a biting behavior happening because a child is simply bored.

This is where we are hoping to approach things in a new way over the next few weeks. We have created a new chart for documenting and will be carefully tracking the times and dates of all biting incidents. We will be looking at what is happening in the center during these times. Is the music we are listening to too loud? Is it too hot or too cold in the center? Are the lights all on and too bright, therefore over stimulating the children? Are the children bored or finding themselves with too much time to be physical and rough with each other? We will be taking all these factors into account, and changing our environment or planning activities for them to counter these antecedents. We will also continue to work with the parents of children who may be biting so that we can be on the same page for strategies to stop these behaviors both at the center and at home.

I want to deeply apologize for the parents and families that have been affected by these behaviors. We will continue to try to grow and change as educators and caregivers for your children while they are in our care. I would love to say that as of today, there will never be another bite in our center, but I can’t promise that to you. What we will do though, is challenge ourselves to constantly become better in the care we are giving. I am always available to talk to parents if they have any questions or concerns. What I will not do is talk about “who is biting who” and use names when talking about these incidents. I believe that confidentiality is important in our center. We will work with families to stop biting behavior, and we will work to protect our little ones who are getting bitten by helping them to also learn to display positive behaviors. I would encourage you to read some of the following articles if you feel that your family is being affected by biting right now, especially the ECAP article, as it lays things out very clearly for parents and care givers alike.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions or concerns. I may not be able to fix everything with a snap of my fingers, but I care about each one of you here at Normanview and hope that you will be patient with us through some of our trying times. Having 20 busy toddlers in our center is always a challenge that we welcome, but we ask that you learn and grow with us as we work on curbing difficult behaviors and help your children grown into happy, positive humans.

Links for further reading:

ECAP Article (quoted in above post): http://ecap.crc.illinois.edu/poptopics/biting.html

Together Families: http://www.togetherfamilies.com/redirecting-toddlers-violent-impulses/

Web MD (a great read if you are working on this behavior with your child): http://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/stop-children-from-biting

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