Teething, frustration, defense mechanism… It is common for young children to experience biting. However, when the action of biting becomes a means of making oneself understood or a mechanism allowing to externalize an anguish , it is advisable to be vigilant. The doctors on Livi share with you their advice and tips to help you react well if your child bites.
Why does a child bite?
Biting is an impulsive act whose meaning varies depending on the age of the child.
An infant never bites with the intention of hurting, as its brain is not yet sufficiently developed to understand the consequences of its gestures. His mouth represents his way of exploring. Indeed, it is through this that he discovers, tastes, feeds , chews. However, as children grow older, they may continue to bite for several reasons.
Biting and teething
If, between 3 and 12 months, your baby has a tendency to bite, there is a good chance that he is teething. Biting or putting pressure on his gums can ease the discomfort he feels. In order to soothe the pain associated with teeth that break through, you can give him a teething ring that he can chew on to relieve himself.
Biting to Manage Emotions
A young child may, due to a lack of vocabulary, find it difficult to express his emotions, thus generating frustration. He can therefore bite because he feels:
- anger ;
- tiredness ; _
- stress (change of routine, return to nursery or school, move, birth of a little brother or sister, etc.);
- psychological distress (victim of aggressive gestures, witness to violent situations, etc.);
- emotional, motor and cognitive immaturity;
- sensory overstimulation (noise, light, movement, activity, etc.)
Bite to assert yourself
Growing up, the child begins to assert his personality. He learns to know his qualities, his faults and tests those around him and his limits. It can therefore bite for:
- express a need to experiment with cause/consequence relationships;
- express a need for power (during games in particular);
- understand personal physical limitations;
- attract the attention of adults ;
- get what he wants;
- express a need for space;
- express a feeling of unease in the face of a situation.
What if my child bites me?
Although biting is in most cases the result of experimental behavior, it is necessary to react. No need to get upset though.
Depending on your child’s age, his brain is not always able to draw conclusions from his actions. It is therefore better to explain to him calmly and simply (without launching into a long explanation) that you must avoid biting and show him the consequences of his action. For example, you can tell him that a bite received can be painful, that it can cause tears.
Help him express his feelings
If the child bites repeatedly, open the dialogue with the child. Try to put words on this act to try to understand what it feels like. So that he can communicate his emotions on his own, teach him short sentences such as: “I don’t want to”, “I don’t like”, “It’s mine”.
Console the bitten child
If your child tends to bite to get your attention, turn to the bitten child. This will show your child that acting like this doesn’t necessarily get them your attention and they’ll be less tempted to do it again. If you catch your toddler biting, pull him away immediately so he understands that he can’t play with others if he acts like this.
Encourage him to fix his gesture
As soon as your child understands that biting can hurt the other, encourage him to repair his gesture. Accompany him in this process by giving him the keys so that he can apologize to the bitten child or adult. You can help him to express his regrets verbally or by gestures (offer a blanket or a toy to a child for example, give a hug or a little caress on the wound…).
Who to consult if your child bites?
Biting is one of the behaviors that children will no doubt experience at some point and that they must learn to control. This behavior is usually transient, so it is not necessary in most cases to consult. Be firm and patient to accompany him as well as possible during this phase.
However, if this behavior lasts or is accompanied by other aggressive or even dangerous behavior for the child or others, do not hesitate to consult a health professional. On Healthlinerx, general practitioners , paediatricians, child psychiatrists and psychologists are at your service 7 days a week.