Of all the behaviors common to the toddler years, few incite more distress and panic than biting. A single, split-second incident can arouse guilt and embarrassment in the family of the biter; horror in the family of the child who was bitten; and an alarming set of teeth marks on an unsuspecting classmate. Worst of all, the child who does the biting often feels even more bewildered about their behavior than their caretakers do. So why does it happen?
- Exploration. In infancy, your child was programmed to seek information about the world with their mouth, which offered much more tactile and sensory feedback than their not-so-nimble fingers. Now that they are older, they may not have entirely given up their exploratory ways – but now there are teeth to reckon with!
- Frustration. Imagine knowing exactly what you want (a little space, some peace and quiet, that particular red shovel) and being unable to use the words you need to communicate. Toddlerhood can be a frustrating time, and biting offers a quick release of the negative energy a young child cannot verbally express.
- Egocentrism. Young toddlers have not yet developed the recognition that their actions can cause others to experience pain. They only know that biting feels powerful. It solicits an intense response from the child who was bitten … and, for bonus points, it gets adults pretty worked up too! Which leads us to…
- Attention-seeking. Once a toddler has experienced the dramatic reactions biting brings on, it may become a pattern, wherein the child “tests” us by repeating the behavior over and over to see if they’ll get the same result every time.
The Toddler faculty at Greensboro Montessori School takes biting very seriously, and they do their very best to prevent any such incidents while students are at school. However, it’s not unusual for a toddler classroom to experience a few biting episodes over the course of the year. Rest assured, our Toddler faculty have a wealth of experience with this behavior, and they can partner with parents to craft a plan to address it. Even better, the plan will conform with the needs and motivations of the child who is biting. If you observe this behavior in your own child, please know that – although alarming – it is a normal and common part of toddler development, and it will pass.
If you’d like to read more about this parenting concern, or if you’re experiencing biting at home, we recommend reading Maren Schmidt’s blog entitled “Help! My Child Is Biting!“