Biting is normal among kids who are younger than 3 years old, according to the Lehigh University. Children bite for various reasons such as teething, frustration or excitement. By having a written biting policy at a daycare, parents understand the actions a facility will take when there is an incident and how they can help keep the problem under control.
Helping the Victim
When a child is the victim of a bite, a staff person should remove her from the area and comfort her. In addition to making the victim feel better, this action helps her understand that she didn’t do anything wrong, according to the American Psychological Association. If there is only one staff person minding the children, she should first tend to the victim and then the biter. As the staff person comforts the child, she should administer first aid. For example, it is important to immediately clean the area with soap and water, and then apply an ice pack, if necessary. The staff person should refer to the center’s policies regarding wounds that are more serious. After the child calms down, she can play in an area that’s away from the biter. The staff person should write an incident report and notify the victim’s parents about the bite. Depending on the facility’s policies, the staff person might not disclose the biter’s name to the victim’s parents.
Addressing the Biter
When child bites a peer at a daycare facility, the Macklenburg County Health Department in North Carolina recommends removing him from the area. If a staff person witnesses the child bite another kid, she should calmly and firmly tell him to stop with a simple phrase such as, “Biting is a no-no. It hurts.” After removing the biter from the situation, the staff person should explain that biting is not allowed and the child needs to use his words to express himself. To get the point across that biting is bad, it may be helpful for the biter to see a staff person consoling the victim to show that biting will not give the biter the attention he may seek, according to KidsGrowth.com. The American Psychological Association recommends helping the child understand the emotions that drove him to bite and how to communicate his emotions in a positive manner. After the staff person directs the child to a different play area, she should write an incident report and notify the biter’s parents. Depending on the daycare’s policies, the staff member might not disclose the victim’s name to the biter’s parents.
Disciplining a Biter
If a daycare intends to take disciplinary actions for biting, it should clearly outline the actions in its policies and the enrollment literature that parents receive. KidsGrowth.com suggests that immediate timeouts in an isolated area may be an effective form of discipline. The timeout should last one minute for every year of the child's age. For example, if a kid is 2 years old, the timeout should last two minutes. A daycare should never use physical punishment in response to biting.
Parental Communication and Involvement
A daycare center should always notify the parents of the biter and victim, following the communications policies established by the facility. This could mean contacting the parents with a phone call, email or letter, or talking to them in person. If biting persists, staff members, the daycare director and parents may meet to determine why the child bites and how to correct the behavior, using positive reinforcement and logical disciplinary actions. The California Childcare Health Program states that depending on the situation or the child’s age, the child may need a different environment and/or professional help.
In addition to being painful, bites can transmit bacterial infections and hepatitis B. The chances of a bite spreading HIV or hepatitis C are unlikely, according to an article on the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s website. Daycare centers can prevent biting and the associated health risks by understanding why kids bite, knowing which kids have a history of biting, their stressors and reinforcing positive behaviors. For example, a center may prevent a teething child from biting by letting her use a biting ring. Staff members may encourage sensory-motor exploration in kids who bite to test boundaries or exert independence. When a child bites because she doesn’t know how to express herself well, the daycare may choose to implement a policy that involves having a staff person help the child talk about or identify her feelings when she appears stressed.