Most biting occurs in children between the ages of one-and-a-half and three years old. Its occurrence reflects not only the children’s feelings, but also their inability to use expressive language. Children usually bite when they’re afraid, angry, or frustrated, or in some cases, to have power over someone (i.e., to get/take something from another child). Additionally, a major change such a new baby or starting school may cause biting to surface. Children may also bite when they become over-stimulated or excited.
Biting in the Montessori Toddler Classroom: Causes and Redirecting BehaviorIf biting is happening in your Montessori classroom, you may wish to keep the child close to you for a while. Often called “gluing”, having the child close by allows you to hopefully intervene and redirect behavior before the next chance to bite occurs. Also, by carefully observing and documenting when and how the child bites will help you notice a pattern emerge.
Using positive language helps children learn how to verbalize their feelings. For both children, it is important to emphasize that biting hurts and they would not want to be hurt themselves. Positive phrases that redirect behavior are helpful. “We bite apples and carrots, not people. Biting hurts.” or “People are for hugging, not biting”. Then, remind the child to “touch nicely” or “be gentle”.
Through role playing, give her the words she needs to express herself in an acceptable manner. Tell her that it is alright to feel angry or frustrated, but it is never ok to bite. She can tell someone “I am angry because (you are playing with the green shovel) and I wish (you would let me play with it)." Then, role play how she may have to work out a solution with the other child (wait her turn) and what she should do if she gets a turn to play with the green shovel (tell the person “thank you”). Also role play the possible scenario where she does not have a turn to pay with the green shovel that day (i.e., walk away without biting).
Biting, like other unwanted behaviors, may require repeated redirection as the child learns new ways to express herself. With patience and positive redirection, children will learn positive outlets for their emotions.
NAMC’s 0-3 Classroom Guide offers further information on communicating with young children the Montessori way.