It is common for young children to bite themselves or others. Often this is because the child has not yet learned to express himself in words, and the biting becomes a way to make contact and show emotions. Young children do not bite to be mean or troublesome. They often have close feelings and can be impulsive. If your child bites, it is important that you mark immediately, but calmly. A child who has been bitten rarely needs care.
Why do children bite?
There can be many different reasons why children bite. For example, it may be because they are
- jealousy, for example of a sibling.
Cutting can also be a way for children to show that they need attention.
Young children often bite when milk teeth begin to grow as the gums become sore.
What do I do if my baby bites?
Mark at once if your child is biting someone. Calmly say that “You absolutely must not be bitten. It hurts.” There may also be points in telling what the child is allowed to do with his mouth, such as kissing, eating, or talking.
Then focus directly on comforting the child who has been bitten. Show that you understand that it hurts, blow on the bit mark, and possibly cool with something cold.
Also, mark directly if your child bites himself. Stay calm and explain that it hurts. Do not pay much attention to the situation, but offer, for example, the child a toy or something else that can break the situation.
Help the children solve the situation
Your child may feel guilty if they bit someone. How you as an adult can help depends on the age of the child. For the youngest, it is enough that you lift the child away from the situation and explain that it hurts.
Encourage, support, and help your child if you notice that they are sorry and want to repair what has happened. You can try letting your child meet the other child afterward.
Let both kids tell what happened and how it feels. Try to avoid giving the children ready solutions. Feel free to ask if they have any suggestions for a solution. How does it feel to the other? How can children help each other to be happy again? Try to put words into and confirm the child’s feelings, for example, “I understand you got angry when they took the shovel. Should we together try to figure out what you can say when you want the shovel to rest? Look here, there are more shovels to play with. ”
Don’t force a “sorry”
Forcing a child to say sorry usually does not resolve any long-term conflicts. The risk is that the child eventually says sorry to get a quick end to the situation. But remember that children do as adults – your child will learn to say sorry if you do it in situations where it is needed.
Talk to other adults in the child’s environment
It is easy to feel pressured to have your child stop biting, especially if the child bites others. But please tell the other child’s parents or other adults who are responsible for the child, even if it feels difficult. Describe the incident and the children’s reactions without evaluating or accusing any of the children. The situation may be easier to handle if you show that you are aware of the problem and that you should try to prevent it from happening again.
If your child bites someone when you are not
Sometimes you may not be present when your child bites someone else. Take help from the staff if, for example, it happens at the preschool. It is important that they also help prevent children from biting each other. For example, by:
- pay attention to children in quiet and positive moments
- helping children to express thoughts and feelings in ways other than being bitten
- does not leave the children alone when playing and resting
- break the situation and help the children if someone is still bitten.
The staff at the preschool have a duty of confidentiality and are therefore not allowed to talk to others about your child. An exception is if they are worried that something child is doing badly in any way – then the staff is obliged to inform the Social Services.
Try to see signs
Some parents learn to see in what situations the child is about to be bitten. For example, children may find it harder to stop impulses when they are tired, hungry, in pain or want to be in peace.
Write down what happens every time the child bites. Then you can more easily see any patterns and characters.
Give positive attention
Try to give the child proximity and positive attention in quiet moments, instead of focusing much on the biting. Then you show that you see the child. For example, you can show that you are curious and ask “what have you drawn?”, Say “what fun to see you!” Or give the child a task that shows them to be important: today, would you like to help me with that? “
If the child has younger siblings, try to occasionally focus on the older child by giving them some time of their own, without competition from anyone else.
What do I do if my child continues to bite?
The vast majority of children, even small children, learn through the reactions of adults and other children not to be bitten. But the instinct to be bitten often comes very suddenly and therefore some children find it difficult to stop.
Remember that there is a difference between “doing wrong” and “being bad”. A child can make mistakes when they bit, but should not need to hear that they are stupid or bad. Children who hear it can begin to accuse themselves. Everyone can make mistakes, but the child can learn from the situation and repair it, especially if they have adults showing.
Continue to treat your child in a calm way even if they continue to be bitten. Try not to give so much attention to the bite itself, provided no one is at risk of injury. Change the situation by, for example, distracting the child with a toy or by changing rooms together if someone is at risk of injury.
Feel free to talk to the child in a quiet situation at a later date about what happened.
When do children stop biting?
Some children only bite a few times, for other children it can continue for longer. But as the child gets a little older and gets a more developed language, it usually disappears gradually.
Here you can get help and support
There are several places you can turn to for support and learn more about why children bite. It can feel easier to deal with the situation if you get to talk to someone you trust. For example, you can get help at
- the childcare center, BVC
- health center
- Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, BUP.
You can also apply for a habilitation clinic if your child has a marked disability such as developmental disorder or autism.
What should I do if my baby has been bitten?
A child who has been bitten rarely needs care. You do not need to do anything if the bite just gives a small mark on the skin. Wash with soap and water if the child receives a wound.
You may need to contact a health care center if the wound starts to hurt more after a day or if it becomes infected.
If your child is repeatedly bitten by the same child, talk to other adults in the child’s environment. Talk to the preschool staff if your child gets bitten there. Then you can ask the staff about their routines, for example, if the children are left alone when they are playing or going to rest.