Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Spotlight on Biting

By: MILICA ATANACKOVIC

Tuesday 27 February 2018

From an adult perspective, biting is an anti-social behaviour. It is grossly inappropriate to negotiate a situation or express your frustrations, sensory overload or teethache woes by biting your peers. With a child who has only a few years of life experience, the behaviour of biting shouldn’t be seen through an adult lens. As adults we have the advantage of more experience and resources to regulate our emotions, to express ourselves in socially acceptable ways.

Biting is a behaviour that provokes highly-charged emotions. But I would argue that these emotions are adult-led. We should unpack the emotions that we, as adults, bring to what is (most commonly) an age-appropriate behaviour expressed by many children. Like all behaviours, we need to consider what is going on for each child, what is the trigger, and how we, as educators, can support the needs of all children experiencing different stages of self-regulation. Child development is complex, particularly when we consider the wide-ranging experiences and circumstances that children are born into. Development is layered and multifaceted and all children, like all adults, are unique - with unique personalities and emotional needs.

In the context of ECCE settings, the educator is always responsible for supporting the emotional needs of each child. It is imperative that educators always look for ways to promote children’s sense of security and stability. Young children are learning to regulate their emotions and develop skills to respond appropriately to challenging situations. It is important to be aware that any child can go through a stage of biting and any child can receive a bite. Biting is a natural and common behaviour, but it can take time, patience and strategies to appropriately stop it.

Biting is not a problem of bad behaviour, it is a normal part of many children’s development that passes when they learn other ways to express themselves. While it can hurt, and be upsetting for the child who is bitten, there are generally no health risks. All children need to feel secure and know that their feelings are supported. Biting often occurs when a child is under emotional stress they can’t control. They may be very upset or angry, and the biting is a way to show their distress and pain. Educators, therefore, must use appropriate guidance strategies for children who are biting. These may include working with the biting child on helping them overcome their frustrations and resolving conflict in a more appropriate manner. Reflecting on the environment and ensuring it supports children in keeping frustration levels low, for example, or providing appropriate resources, using small groups and offering equal opportunities for indoor/outdoor play. The environment, routines or activities may need to be changed. It is up to educators to observe and then plan supportive interventions and changes. Language is also important and educators should use language the child can understand, and label emotions for the child:

“I know you are frustrated but I am not going to let you ______ (hit, bite, hurt).”

For children demonstrating ongoing biting behaviours, the educator may develop a Support Plan in conjunction with families and other health professionals (if required). Educators need to be tuned in and anticipate biting situations and support other educators to respond to biting appropriately: Reinforcing appropriate behaviour in a potential biting situation, tracking triggers, environmental changes and other changes that may start a biting response. Educators should closely observe or shadow a child demonstrating ongoing biting behaviours to identify possible triggers and intervene where possible to minimise incidents.

When an incident of biting occurs, educators should ensure they comfort the child who has been bitten, whatever the reason for the bite. However, it is also important not to overreact. After some brief comforting, educators should encourage the child to go straight back to normal play. Some families may expect the child that has bitten to be excluded. It is imperative in the long run to ensure all children are given support. Adults should support children’s behaviour and make them feel safe and secure as they learn to regulate the complex range of emotions experienced daily in their young lives.

 

Bio:

Milica (Mili) Atanackovic is a Practice and Training Manager with Early Childhood Ireland. Her background in the early years is rooted within a passionate interest in Creative Arts. Mili originally studied Design Communication before moving into Early Childhood Care and Education in Australia.  Considering training and mentoring as a key element of quality in the early years, Mili has worked as an Educator, Service Manager and Trainer, she also combines experience from a range of creative disciplines to her work.

3 comments Comments

3 Responses

  1. Another interesting perspective on Biting in the childhood setting.
    From my experience and perspective Biting can also be related to teething and another way for a child to communicate , however challenging as it may be.
    Biting always creates a lot of anxiety for the childcare professionals because they do not want to see any child hurt and parents get very upset and angry when their child receives a “bite”.
    Biting can also be a learned behaviour in the childcare setting especially if it is ongoing for a period of time.
    It is one of the most frustrating behaviours for childcare professionals to manage and report to parents , however sensitively done.

  2. Milica Atanackovic says:

    Thank you so much, Fiona, for your perspective and comments. As you point out biting is triggered and happens for a variety of reasons and it absolutely causes highly charged emotions for everyone concerned. As I discuss in the blog, Educators play a vital role in minimising the likelihood and opportunity for biting to occur and managing those that do occur positively and in the best interests of all children involved. That said and as you importantly discuss, biting is very testing for ECCE professionals because all situations are different and unpredictable. Biting can cause huge concern for Educators and parents, as you raise when a biting incident occurs it can be very challenging to communicate. Working collaboratively with the families of both biting children and children that have been bitten frequently to keep them informed and to develop joint strategies for change has in my experience proven to result in the best outcomes. Biting is more common when young children are in groups, information evenings and open communication with families prior to children beginning ECCE can help to minimise and deal with biting if it occurs.

  3. Saidhbh O'Brien says:

    Is bitting an incident to be reported on the Accident/Incident Book?If bitting occurs, should it be registered on the book?

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

Support(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(1) Irish(1) Malaguzzi(1) Reggio Emilia(1) Budget 2018(1) Early Learning and Care(1) Seas Suas(1) parents(5) PIP(1) Story(1) research(6) Reggio(1) Teamwork(1) Visual Impairment(1) Appreciation(1) AsIAm(1) Performing(1) Qualifications(1) Valentine's Day(3) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Iceland(1) routine(2) Inspirational(2) Norway(2) Weather(1) Photographs(1) Thanks(1) Maynooth University(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Meal time(1) Kerry(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Exploring(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) CPD(1) Universal Design(2) environments(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Mo Scéal(1) Loss(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Community involvement(1) Oireachtas(1) CCTV(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Environment(2) AIM(2) Upcycling(1) RTE Investigates(1) Academic Skills(1) CIT(1) Map(1) Síolta(100) Autism(3) Diversity(1) Self-regulation(1) Plants(1) outdoors(3) National Awards 2019(1) United Nations(1) Online(1) Child mental health(1) Workplace well-being(1) Learning journals(1) Exercise(1) Iraq(1) Ceremony(1) Interests(1) Ariana Pucci(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Masterclass(2) Quality(3) Technology(2) Painting(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Mantra(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Syria(1) Cognitive development(1) worries(1) Gratitude(1) Party(1) Xbox(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(1) Trade Unions(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) stories(2) Event Guide(1) Confident(1) MA(1) Engineers Week(2) Self Help Skills(1) InspireMe.ie(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Potential(1) Workplace Relations(3) Emergent Curriculum(1) listen(1) dining experiences(1) Fabric(1) maternity health(1) early childhood educator(1) Routines(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Sleep(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Decisions(1) Maths Week(1) Time(1) TOY Programme(1) Thank you(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Care routines(1) Twitter(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) play(29) Awards 2019(1) Running(1) Creative(1) transitions(10) outdoor space(3) Montessori(2) feisty(1) Snack Time(1) Little Buddies(1) Settling in(3) Engineering Ireland(1) Mathematicians(1) Treasure(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Playschool(1) Sweets(1) Mount Everest(1) Inclusion(3) Thinking(1) science(3) Giraffe(2) Maths(4) Pobal sector profile(1) UD(1) Sculptures(1) risk(2) Christmas Creativity(2) Sport(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Leprechauns(1) Pobal(1) Independence(1) Mixed age groups(2) Through the looking glass(1) ICBN(1) role playing(1) Wesco(1) Halloween(2) Plastic(1) Administrative Burden(1) Favouritism(1) Aistear(105) Line-ups(1) Facebook(1) Celebrations(4) babies(7) memories(1) christmas(8) Interaction(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Stress(2) Children's Research Network(1) Shapes(1) Exit interview(1) ears(1) Socioemotional development(1) Drawing(2) friendships(1) Love(2) Dance(1) communication(4) Certificate(1) SPICE Framework(1) Human Resources(1) Arts(1) Research Conference 2019(1) experience(1) Children's Rights(1) baby room(1) Snakes(1) NCCA(2) ERASMUS+(3) Margy Whalley(1) Recycling(2) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Queues(1) Professionalisation(4) interacting(2) Learning Stories Award(3) University(1) Maria Montessori(1) Maynooth(1) Flowers(1) National Awards 2018(2) Horizon 2020(1) Sustainable(1) animals(2) Blocks(1) RIE philosphy(1) Kilkenny(1) Nonverbal(1) DCYA(4) dining(1) Home Corner(1) Meet the Members(1) INTO(1) Family wall(1) Penguins(1) ECEC(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Yoga(1) curriculum(5) Death(1) Childcare(2) Primary School(2) blog(28) Mud kitchens(1) Traditions(2) GDPR(1) planning(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) child-centred approach(1) mushrooms(1) ReCreate(2) early years research(1) EECERA 2016(1) NAEYC(1) Bereavement(1) books(4) risk assessment(1) Communicating(1) Trick or treat(1) Learning Stories(7) Sequins(1) Wonder(1) Playdough(1) conversations(1) Identity and Belonging(3) Laughter(1) Budget 2019(2) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Sociodramatic play(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) story time(1) Mayo(1) documentation(2) respect(5) Magda Gerber(1) under 3's(3) Visitors(1) First 5 strategy(1) Design(1) St. Patrick's Day(1) Investment(1) reading(4) Identity(4) toddlers(3) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Mental Health(3) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) curiosity(3) Orla Kenny(1) Traffic Lights(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Tuscan Approach(2) dogs(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) First 5(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Grief(1) Adoption(1) Arithmetic(1) Light table(1) Trigonometry(1) San Minia(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(1) development(8) Inspired Practice Award(5) scéalta(25) Cork(1) Lego(2) National Holiday(1) Scents(1) Anxiety(2) Vertical grouping(1) Magic(1) Siolta blog(2) Liz Kerrins(1) food(1) Sustainability(3) Snacks(1) Pen green(1) Empathy(1) education(2) journey(1) Training(2) Competent(1) Limerick(1) Health(1) Our Little Seed(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) STEM(2) budget(1) Body Language(1) Affordability(1) Wilenski(1) Spiders(1) EM Standing(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Care-giving routines(1) Laugh(1) overhear(1) Fantasy play(1) Obesity(1) Recycle(1) Leargas(1) Frustrations(1) Arlene Forster(1) Children(1) learning(15) Academics(1) Art(6) Graduation(1) Patterns(1) risky play(2) Síolta QAP(1) Early Years(1) UN(1) play stories(1) Music(3) Touch(1) Graduate(1) TRAP(1) Craft(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Wendy Lee(2) Confidence(1) New Appointments(1) Shoes(1) Imagination(3) Treasure Chest(1) San Miniato(4) College(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Maternity Leave(1) Capable(1) Inter-generational learning(1) Jenga(1) science week(2) Buddy Bench(1) educating(1) Vietnam(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Study Trip(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) UNCRC(1) Self-Esteem(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Inter-generational(1) Degree(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) refugees(1) ECCE(6) Positivity(1) Employee(1) Social Skills(1) Games(1) grandchild(1) MECPI(1) Brain(1) Storytelling(2) Japan(1) Smiles(1) Glitter(2) Biting(1) Prexit(1) Performance Management(1) Mark Twain(1) Communications(1) Italy(1) Behaviour(3) Afghanistan(1) Rituals(1) Breathing(2) Mealtimes(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(1) listening(1) Decision Making(1) European Project(1) Trade union(1) Engineering(2) Impact(1) Childhood(1) Albert Einstein(1) Reggio Children Network(1) meals(3) Supernanny(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) supportive environments(1) Scéalta Blog(82) Nutrition(1) dublin(2) Winter(1) Awards(2) Educators(1) Santa(2) Role play(1) bonds(1) pets(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Policy(2) Kids Own(1) Well-Being(6) IGL(1) Advocacy(1) Culture(2) Mindfulness(2) The Jelly King(1) Learning Story Awards(1) Buddies(1) Time Out(1) linc(1) Magnavacchi(1) Celebrate(1) Titles(1) Research Seminar(1) Book Club(2) Belonging(3) emotions(2) Interactions(2) Feeding(1) Funding(1) Workforce(1) Gardening(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) social media(1) eating(1) Family(1) Change(1) Builders(1) Names(1) Exclusion(1) Eritrea(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) Challenges(1) relationships(14) trust(3) Awards 2018(3) Window(1) Relaxation(1) community(5) preschool(2) emotional environment(1) Consent(1) educarer(1) Creativity(4) Easter(1) outdoor play(6) Early Years Educators(1) Wrapping paper(1) Learning Story(1)

SIGN UP FOR BLOG UPDATES

SUBSCRIBE
Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine