Kids who bite lurk in playrooms and play areas, in our homes and at preschools and crÃ¨ches around the country. If your child is a biter or if your child has come home with bright red and painful bite-marks – do not fear – biting is very normal. If your little one has been at the receiving end of a nasty bite, you’re understandably angry and upset, but don’t overreact too much, as your adorable child could be the class biter next week.
Kids usually bite when they are not getting what they want, so if their innocent playmate is playing with a shiny toy (or any object, for that matter) and they want it – if their playmate does not comply and hand it over immediately, the chances are high that they will sink their milk teeth into their rival’s wrist, hand, leg, arm or even cheek (they may even try to bite their head!). A human bite, even if it is from a tiny pint-sized toddler, is excruciating and not only will the toy be released quickly, but the child may be unable to fight back and regain the lost toy.
Toddlers are unable to effectively express or vocalise their needs, demands and frustrations and since a good bite achieves the desired effect, they will continue to use this method as and when needed. Apart from biting playmates, the gnashing toddler may also bite their parents (or other family members) who are attempting to put them to bed, or remove a toy or a dangerous object from their clutches. Due to the fact that biting is unacceptable, it’s critical that parents put an end to biting quickly and help the toddler to understand that biting is not tolerated! Here’s how:
- Right after the child has administered a bite, the parents or caregiver needs to step in and give a firm warning. –No, no biting! Toddlers are able to understand the word -NO and it must be made clear that the act is wrong and not acceptable.
- Due to the fact that tensions are high – the other child will be in severe pain and the biter will be trying to get their own way, it’s a good idea to remove the biter from the scene. Explain to the toddler that what they did was wrong and that they’ve hurt their playmate. A time-out of a few minutes will also help the biter to calm down and realise that what they did was unkind.
- After the kids have calmed down (both the biter and their victim) make sure that that the tot apologizes for his or her action and that the toddler is shown what damage their bite has caused. Encourage kids to hug or pat each other. This will help to enhance the toddler’s empathy and will also help him to realise that they have caused pain to their friend.
- Once the biting saga is over, encourage the kids to continue playing together!
- Bear in mind that all children are different. A child may give one bite and after being reprimanded not bite again, but others may need further guidance and may continue to bite to get their own way. As such, parents and caregivers need to be consistent.
- If the tot seems to have learnt his or her lessons, parents must praise their behaviour and the fact that they were able to play without resorting to nipping at their playmates.
- If parents or caregivers have tried all methods of positive reinforcements to stop the little bitter and the toddler is still biting, it may be worthwhile to chat to the child’s paediatrician.
Parents, who are constantly being summoned into the -principal’s office’ because of their child’s biting, must try all means possible to put an end to the biting. However, although it is upsetting (for both sets of parents) it is normal and it will stop (as long as parents continue to have positive reinforcements in place!).
Dealing with bites
If your little one was at the receiving end of a bite at school or from a sibling, it’s essential that the bite is washed immediately with soap and water. The wound can also be cleaned effectively by running cool clean water over a wound site. One can use a mild soap to clean the wound, but alcohol or peroxide should not be used on the open wound as this will cause injury to the tissue. If the skin is broken and bleeding, it’s suggested that a good quality antibiotic cream be applied. Ice can also be rubbed directly onto the area as the coolness of the ice will help to reduce any swelling. It’s also very important for parents to ensure that the area is kept as clean as possible (which is not always easy!).
If the bite wound is a deep wound and the skin has been punctured, it’s usually best to consult a doctor. It may be necessary for the child to be put on a course of antibiotics to prevent infections from developing, and depending on the severity of the bite (if the skin has been punctured) it may also be advisable for the child to have a tetanus injection. The medical professional will offer the right advice on how to treat the bite wound.
Parents must keep an eye on the wound for any signs of infection which include redness or swelling at the bite site, or if the child develops fever.