Welcome back to Best Case Parenting. Today we want to do a short article about a common problem that many parents have. I am sure many parents dread this day! A call from your child’s school (or maybe a note from their teacher), telling you that they bit someone today!! If this ever happens to you, I want to make sure you are prepared. That you have an idea what to do or why this happened!
What’s the short answer? Simply don’t panic. You would be surprised at some of the apparently calm children that might resort to biting. Before a child learns how to deal with situations in a more diplomatic way (i.e talking) there is always the possibility they may resort to biting. In 99% of cases you won’t get taken to court. You child won’t get kicked out of school! In most cases, it’s a totally normal part of a child growing up and attending school!
So…relax…get a coffee… and let’s take a deeper dive into this!
I would like to start with a disclaimer. I am not offering legal advice in any way here. There are situations when your child may be involved in that 1% incident of biting where it is serious. In this situation, you should seek your own legal advice. This article is aimed at the vast majority of biting incidents that happen at schools across the country on a daily basis.
As a general rule, if the person your child bit is seriously injured or permanently marked or scarred for life. This is the situation where you should start thinking about legal advice. These incidents really are few and far between though. I have personally been a teacher of preschool age children for over 12 years and I have never seen an incident that involved legal action. I am not saying it never happens, I am saying it is incredibly rare!
Why do young children bite?
As I eluded to above, biting can be a part of a child’s natural response until they are mature enough to “talk a situation through.”
As an adult, when we perceive a danger or threat to ourselves, what do we do? Usually, we will sort out the problem in practical way. Often using our adult communication skills to get us out of trouble.
Have you noticed what a baby or very young child does if they perceive a danger or threat? Most of the time, they will use body parts to lash out against the threat (possibly with some screaming thrown in for good measure!)
This ‘lashing out’ against a threat can include biting. They are not thinking through what they are doing, they are using basic instinct to react.
Although more common in younger years, this biting instinct can still be present in children as old as five or six years old.
But why did MY child bite at school?
It’s all well and good saying that biting is part of the normal process of growing up, but you may still be asking why your child is biting at school?
This would be a good question. Generally, it depends on a child’s maturity level as to whether they are likely to bite at school age.
By this age, a lot of children have already developed excellent communication skills and would not feel the need to resort to biting.
Bear in mind that every child is different, but this is a general trend I have seen.
It is likely that your child perceived an extreme threat.
Observe your child during their home life. Have you seen them attempt to bite anyone? If this is not something that you have seen at home, it is likely that your child experienced what they perceived to be a serious threat at school. Even some rather mild mannered children have the potential to resort back to basic instinct and biting in these situations.
Everyone has an “off” day!!
As adults, we allow ourselves to sometimes have an off day. You have heard many adults use this as an excuse for abnormal behaviour.
Children are no different. Maybe they got out of bed the wrong way today! Maybe one child has been particularly annoying them at school today.
So don’t jump straight down your child’s throat if they are involved in a biting incident. The serious problem arises when (at school age) you start seeing a repeated pattern of biting behaviour.
Maybe they are reacting to a major change
Young children need routine in their lives. This routine helps to bring stability and a clear knowledge of what will probably happen at any given time.
When there is a major change to this routine, it could unsettle a child. This could lead to the child feeling more emotional than usual, and thus biting someone when there is a problem.
The type of changes we are talking about could be when a parent is away (that is usually around the child daily), or moving house or even having a new baby in the family.
Maybe they were just too excited!
Sometimes a young child gets so excited that they may do a biting motion as a result. It is a way to release this extra energy their body is releasing.
What should I do as a parent when my child bites?
As a parent, your child often feels like an extension of yourself. This is why many parents are mortified when they hear that their child has bitten someone at school.
I will say it again. Most children grow out of biting, and it’s a totally natural process. You only need to feel concerned about this behaviour when you see biting as a repeated behaviour.
Should I contact the parent of the other child involved directly?
In my experience, in the vast majority of biting cases, this type of gesture is not needed. Most parents should view a run of the mill biting incident as a part of their child’s learning (and growing up) process. They may not be happy, but unless it is a regular incident, nine times out of ten they won’t think anything more of it.
Usually, if a biting incident is serious enough, your child’s teacher would probably have told you this first. Usually, the teacher would ask you to talk the incident through with your child at home and would let you know that they have done the same at school. On rare occasions, they may organise a meeting between the involved parents to clear the air. In my teaching experience, I have only had to do this one time in over 12 years.
If you don’t hear anything more from the teacher, then the incident was probably a run of the mill one. If in doubt, I would always contact your child’s teacher first. I would never try to contact the other set of parents directly, as it always has the possibility to get out of hand when outside of school.
The only exception to this would be if you already know the other parents well. Of course, in this case it would be easy for you to discuss the situation with them.
My child told me who they bit, should I go round there and apologise?
Most schools will take the position of not telling you who the other child involved was, for obvious reasons. And, for most situations, this issue should remain and be dealt with by the school.
I don’t recommend taking the situation into your own hands! Even if your child tells you who they bit, it is not a good idea to act on it.
A lot of adults don’t think about the fact that often a child’s view of what happened is not always accurate. They may miss out key details or even add their own details! This varies from child to child, but for this reason it is not a good idea to directly act on what they tell you.
All the information you require about the biting incident should come through the school. This will help you balance what your child has told you.
Should I talk to my child?
Every time a biting incident occurs, I would simply talk this through with your child. Ask them what happened and why they bit the other child? Remind them what they should do in the future if the same situation happens again. As long as you show your child you take these incidents seriously, this will be as far as most parents have to go.
However, if you start noticing biting behaviour happening multiple times, then I would step up the consequences for your child.
How can I stop it happening again?
As we said many times already, usually this situation happens when a child feels that (for whatever reason) they cannot talk a situation through to its resolution. By teaching your child how to talk first, you will be reducing the likelihood that they will feel the need to resort to biting.’
Whenever your child faces a problem when they are in your company, help talk them through the problem and demonstrate how they should be dealing with it.
When your child deals with a problem in a positive way in front of you, make sure to give them positive praise for this. It will encourage them to act in this way again.
Of course there are extreme cases where a child may be constantly biting and showing aggressive behaviour. For those, you will need a different approach.
Will I get taken to court?
This is more my opinion and is definitely NOT legal advice of any kind. As I eluded to earlier in the article, in my experience it is incredibly rare that biting incidents lead to court dates.
There is only risk of this if the other child has been scarred in a permanent way. And even then, I would say it has to be quite serious in nature.
I know America does have a litigation mentality, and you may be unfortunate enough to meet a hyper sensitive parent who starts threatening legal action. But the general rule is that you shouldn’t worry, it is rare.
To wrap up!
Thank you for taking the time to read our article. Hopefully, it will help you see that most biting incidents are perfectly normal for young children and are nothing to worry about.
No need to feel embarrassed, a lot of parents have to go through this! Only start to think about further action if it turns into a more regular occurrence.
If you have personal experience on the matter of kids biting, we would love to hear all about it in the comments section below.
And, before signing off completely, I will say that I know what some of you will be thinking. Where is the article on the reverse of this?? What should I do if my child is bitten? That is an excellent question and I do plan to write such an article. If only there were 28 hours in a day, I might have had it posted already! Watch this space ><