Biting is a common behavior among young children that can be concerning for parents. While it may seem aggressive, four factors that cause biting among children are simply related to their development and needs. Understanding these factors can help parents address the issue effectively and guide their children toward healthier behaviors.
One of the most obvious reasons that babies and very young toddlers bite is teething. As their teeth start to emerge, children experience discomfort and pain in their gums. Biting provides temporary relief by applying pressure to the affected area. In the absence of a convenient teething toy or a soothing cold object to gnaw on, a child who is teething may turn to the nearest object (or person) to bite. It’s important for parents to provide appropriate nontoxic teething toys or chilled items for their child to chew on.
Frustration and Communication Difficulties
Children often resort to biting when they feel frustrated or have difficulties expressing themselves verbally. They may lack the language skills to communicate their needs or emotions, leading to frustration. Biting becomes a way for them to release their pent-up feelings or seek attention.
To address their child’s frustrated need to communicate, parents can encourage alternative methods a child can use to express their needs. Teach children simple words, signs, or gestures to express feelings and provide a supportive and nurturing environment to help reduce frustration and decrease the likelihood of biting.
Sensory Exploration and Cause-and-Effect Learning
Young children explore the world around them through their senses, including their mouths. They may bite as a way to experiment with cause and effect or for sensory stimulation. Biting allows them to understand how their actions influence their surroundings and also provides oral sensory input.
To redirect this behavior, parents can provide a variety of safe and age-appropriate sensory toys or snacks with different textures for children to explore. Engaging in sensory play activities can fulfill their need for stimulation and help them learn about cause and effect in a more appropriate manner.
Stress and Overstimulation
Children may resort to biting when they are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or overstimulated. These situations can trigger anxiety or heightened emotions, leading to an instinctual response of biting as a means of self-soothing or exerting control over their environment.
Parents can create a calm and predictable environment by establishing routines and providing opportunities for relaxation, such as quiet time or sensory breaks. These help reduce stress and prevent overstimulation. Teaching children alternative coping strategies, such as deep breathing or engaging in
Alongside biting, thumb sucking is a common habit among children. Like biting, thumb sucking can serve as a means of self-comfort and sensory stimulation. However, prolonged thumb sucking can have negative effects on dental development and oral health.
When a child is deterred from biting, they may resort to a substitute activity, like thumb sucking, which is also unhealthy and potentially harmful. Parents should learn how to break thumb sucking habits at the same time they’re deploying strategies to discourage biting. Encouraging positive alternatives, such as using a comfort object or engaging in other soothing activities, can help.
Understanding factors that cause biting among children enables parents to respond effectively and guide their children towards healthier behaviors. With patience, consistency, and understanding, parents can help their children overcome both biting and thumb sucking, fostering positive habits and healthy development.