In daycare and preschool, biting is the ultimate faux pas. Still, having a biter for a child doesn't mean you're raising a mini Hannibal Lecter who will soon be requesting mashed fava beans. But what does it mean, and what can you do about it? We asked a childhood education specialist, a pediatric dentist, and a home daycare provider.
Gretchen Kinnell, author of No Biting: Policy and Practice for Toddler Programs:
"We see biting from about ages 1 to 3. It's a reflection of temperament, environment, and developmental stage. Toddlers know what they want, but many can't yet express it verbally. They bite because it relieves that frustration, or they're anxious or excited. Sometimes they're just practicing their oral motor skills. Show your disapproval. Use a firm voice and say, 'Stop. You may not bite.' Your tone is more important than the words."
Lois Jackson, DDS:
"From a dental perspective, babies' urge to bite mainly comes when they're teething, typically when they're under age 2. Putting pressure on the gums is kind of like anesthesia and feels good to them. Biting hard things also helps the teeth break through the gums, which feels good too. That's why babies mouth a lot of things and why teething rings make them feel better. The mouth is a pretty dirty place, so if a bite breaks the skin, you'll want to watch out for infection."
Elizabeth Ettinger, licensed home daycare provider:
"I had this girl who was attached to a boy. He'd walk in the room and she'd get a twinkle in her eye. They were both about 2 and not very verbal. She would corner him in hopes that he would return her affection. When he didn't, she'd get frustrated and bite him. The key was to recognize when it was about to happen and redirect her. As soon as I saw that shadow cross her face, I'd say, 'Hey, let's go look at those dolls over there!' They forget biting is an option if it doesn't happen for a few weeks."