I orea te tuatara ka patu ki waho
A problem is solved by continuing to find solutions
Biting is a common behaviour for young tamariki as they explore their world through their senses (eyes, ears, mouth, touch). In the early years, they are only just beginning to learn how to regulate their behaviour, their responses to others, and to their environment.
While in this developmental stage, it is important to work in partnership with families and whānau as we respond supportively and consistently to discourage biting, and other behaviours that cause hurt, to keep each child in our care safe.
Because biting can disrupt relationships, and may isolate a child from others, this policy and procedure details how our team will respond to a child who bites and to a child who is bitten; provide some of the reasons and triggers behind why a child bites; and provide preventative strategies to reduce the potential for biting patterns to continue.
Changing behaviour takes time, and requires a loving and consistent approach by Kaiako and parents/whānau to achieve the best outcomes for all tamariki involved. Generally, tamariki outgrow this as they learn more appropriate responses and behaviour, language and other ways to problem-solve.
How to respond when a child bites:
Acknowledging that dealing with a child or tamariki who are biting can be challenging for Kaiako, it’s important that our team slow down, work closely with your Centre Director, and recognise that each child who bites is different, in a different situation, at a different age, with a different trigger. What matters is that we support the child who is biting, respond early and proactively to put strategies and a plan in place, and take each one on a case-by-cases basis.
- Remain calm, get down to the children’s level and ensure you’re in close physical proximity to keep each child safe.
- Firstly attend to the child who has been bitten – ensure they are comforted, soothed and that they receive first aid for the bite.
- If the skin has not been broken, wash the area around the bite with saline solution, use an ice bag to ease the pain, apply Arnica for bruising, and then cover with a band aid/plaster.
- If the skin has been broken, wash the area with saline solution, apply a mild antiseptic cream (Savlon) to prevent infection. Apply an ice bag for pain, and cover with a band aid/plaster.
- Inform your Centre Director of all biting incidents, especially when the bite has broken the skin or left a severe mark.
- If the bite is severe, it may need more professional medical attention.
- If tamariki are able to talk about the incident, listen calmly and without judgement to both – help them name their feelings and explain what happened.
- This is an opportunity for encouraging a child’s social and emotional competencies, and to teach tamariki how we all keep each other safe. Our Kaiako will provide them with strategies /language to choose different behaviour.
- After listening to both tamariki, be firm and set clear expectations with the child who bit:
“No biting” ; “It hurts when we bite” ; “We don’t hurt our friends” ; “Ask a Kaiako for help next time” ; “Next time you feel frustrated, walk away”.
- If possible, stay close by the child who has just bitten, to observe their behaviour, but avoid focussing too much negative attention on them and be mindful of maintaining age-appropriate expectations. Focus your comments on encouraging positive behaviour e.g. “I see you’re waiting for your turn”; “You gave the doll to your friend? Good sharing.”
- Ensure you contact the parents/whānau of the child who is biting, AND also inform the parents/whānau of the child who was bitten as soon as possible after the biting incident.
- Explain to both families what happened and how our team handled the incident.
- Strategies to include in discussion with parents/whānau may include the opportunity to create a Behaviour Plan for the child (in consultation with parent/whānau) including use of a calm down space, activities/resources to relax and relive tension/frustration.
- Explain that, for a time, we will ensure extra ‘shadowing’ of the child who did the biting.
- Provide assurance to both sides that this is common developmental behaviour and that we’ve dealt with it many times before.
- Give a copy of our Biting Policy & Procedure to both parents/whānau.
- Ensure you record the incident on 1Place in the Accident & Incident form. As this is a record of what may be a ‘first event’, and may need to be referred back to should biting continue, ensure the notes on 1Place are as clear and detailed as possible. Observations and the initial response to the first biting incident are vital first steps, going forward.
- If the biting behaviour persists, the Centre Director must be kept closely informed of each incident, every incident must be documented in detail, and parents/whānau of the biting child’s must be informed and communicated with on a daily basis.
- Contact the Family Services Advisor for additional support and resources.
- Should the biting incidents continue, the Centre Director is to arrange a meeting with the child’s parents (and the Area Manager) to discuss the issue and put a clear plan in place including review dates. All meetings must be clearly documented.
Note: If the child is still biting and we have exhausted all options, strategies, and efforts to engage with whānau, a meeting will be arranged in partnership with parents/whānau, to discuss the reasons why we can no longer safely care for their child in our centre.
Unless the circumstances are exceptional and require immediate measures to address safety concerns, Kindercare will give a minimum of two weeks’ notice of the cessation of enrolment, so that parents and whānau can arrange appropriate alternative care for their child. During this time, Kindercare will continue to support the child, and parents and whānau, while continuing to balance this with the safety and wellbeing of other tamariki and our team. Where appropriate, this support may include suggestions around possible alternative care options available to the family, as well as taking all reasonable steps to communicate with the child’s new care provider to support a smooth transition.
Preventative Strategies to Discourage/Limit Biting:
- Our relationship with the child is central to discouraging and limiting biting. Our team recognise that punishment won’t stop the behaviour. Being angry with the child will only cause confusion and damage what little self-confidence they have at this age.
- Knowledge about understanding children’s development is important as well as knowing the individual child and establishing a close connection with them.
- Firstly, explore possible triggers; then establish why the biting is occurring, and then manage the behaviour through whanaungatanga love, one-on-one attention, and patience.
- Develop and implement consistent and predictable routines and behavioural expectations, with gentle reminders and prompts.
- Foster relationships and close connections, and provide an engaging, developmentally appropriate curriculum. Ensure there are plenty of those toys and resources that are most popular – to reduce the potential for feelings of rising frustration and anger.
- Kaiako will use intentional teaching to design and plan how activities are set up in the room. With an understanding and knowledge of tamariki in their room, Kaiako will set up invitations to play e.g. a reading area, a block area, family area.
- Kaiako will be intentional in their interactions with individual tamariki, and responsive to their self-selected activities in different interest areas.
- Foster verbal and non-verbal communication skills for gaining attention and expressing needs, giving clear messages in response to hurting behaviour, to reduce the likelihood of future occurrences
- Review the room philosophy: implementing Head, Heart, Hands and Respectful Care and Education will reduce stress for tamariki by supporting them to manage transitions and other situations that can cause anxiety.
- Listen intentionally to tamariki; be mindful of seeking to understand their feelings so you’re able to teach them strategies to manage conflict, seek help, and calm down
- Focus on giving positive attention and feedback when tamariki are playing well with others and/or using self-control to manage conflict and stay calm.
- Ensure a designated Teacher who is familiar to the child i.e. has a relationship with the child, maintains close physical proximity to the child who is biting, to respond quickly.
- Plan some small group activities with a sensory focus – like playdough; water-play; finger paints. This also enables Kaiako to be close and involved.
Why do tamariki bite?
- To ease teething pain
- Urge for oral stimulation
TODDLERS & PRESCHOOLERS
- to be in control
- to obtain attention
- to defend themselves
- to communicate needs, for example, hungry or tired
- to relieve stress or express frustration or discomfort
- to imitate others
- to explore what happens when they bite
What to do if Kaiako are bitten:
- Ensure Kaiako receive first aid as soon as possible – clean the area around the bite with saline solution, apply ice if necessary for pain, and if the skin is broken, apply Savlon antiseptic cream.
- A separate Accident form for the child and Kaiako must be completed on 1Place with as much detail as possible.
- If at any point Kaiako believe a child needs to be removed or restrained based on their emotional state, remove all other tamariki from the area, give the child some space and opportunity to release safely. Do not put yourself in harms way – just stay close by to ensure the child is safe.
- Consider the use of weighted blankets, calm down corners and activities to relieve tension and frustration to help the child who has bitten.
- Once the situation is calmer, Kaiako will take time for reflection and document what was happening at the time that the child bit, consider what could have been managed differently, identify possible triggers to prevent the biting happening again.
- Focus on ‘Connection before Correction’ to support the child and anticipate triggers.
How can parents/whānau help their child who is biting?
- If the biting is recurring and ongoing, firstly seek medical advice to rule out any health issues e.g. gum or tooth infections.
- Explore other potential triggers like: your child may be unwell, getting new teeth, overtired, wanting their own space, or some peace and quiet.
- Do not punish or discipline your child at home for a biting incident that occurred at the centre during the day. Take time to talk to your child at home about how hurtful biting can be.
- Give your child more of your time and focused positive attention. Time is a precious gift; make sure you give your precious child as much of it as you can.
- Sometimes parent’s games of 'rough and tumble' and comments like 'I'm going to eat you up!' might be misunderstood by a child as acceptable behaviour for them to use on another child.
- If your child is new to an early childhood centre and has been used to a 'comforter' e.g. rug, dummy, toy, please ensure you bring this into the centre for your child during the settling period.
In those cases where a child is exhibiting chronic and consistent biting behaviour, parents/whānau/caregivers will be supported by the Centre Director (and at times Family Services Advisor) to look more closely at all possible reasons that may relate to their child’s health, environment and personality.
Last review date: 5 May 2023