What are common mistakes adults make regarding young children biting and how can I avoid them?
Many adults make some common mistakes. The main one I hear all the time is jumping to conclusions and thinking there is just one reason for biting. For example, thinking he is biting because he is teething, or because he does not have enough language, or because his mommy is having a baby. No, it is not one reason, so do not jump to conclusions. Gather your findings, gather your information. I will teach you how to do that.
Another mistake adults make is not understanding the biting child's perspective. This is a key factor. We have to get back inside the child's point of view and see where he may be unclear about how to behave, how to solve a problem, or how to relate to other children in the heat of the moment. What is going on there?
Some people do not take very good notes on each incident. I recommend taking notes on every biting attempt as well as every bite, but in a more detailed way than people generally do. It helps because if you have a child who is still biting three months later, you can go back through your incident reports and start looking for patterns. For example, he is always doing it from four to six or he does it mostly with this teacher or with this child. This will help you solve your problem.
Another common mistake is scolding or pleading with the child, but not coaching the child on what alternatives to use when they feel like biting. They have to have alternatives. Think back a minute into a biting incident. How would you rewrite that scene in the play? If you did not want them to bite at that point in time, what should they have done with those feelings and what should they have said instead? That is what you coach them to do.
How to Avoid Those Mistakes
To avoid making those mistakes, we are going to ask a thorough set of questions to find the reasons. We are going to use observations to see through the eyes of the child. By this, I mean a running observation where you take yourself out of the ratio and sit there for 30 or 40 minutes or longer if you can and write down everything the child is doing and saying and choices they are making and what is happening. You should not be the one to rush to help them if they get into a tight spot, let another teacher do that. You are the eyes of the child right now. You want to keep track of what precedes a bite or a bite attempt. That should be in the notes you are writing and should also be in the notes of every incident report. What was happening right before that? There are two general things you need to be teaching. You need to teach how to express feelings in a more appropriate way that is successful and satisfying but will not get this child in trouble and teach him alternatives to getting what he needs rather than biting.
This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, You Can Become a Biting Solution Expert!, presented by Lisa Poelle, MA.