How to manage biting incidents at your setting

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Biting is a very common behaviour amongst toddlers and is used as a way to express a need. A child may bite because:

  • They feel frustrated or overtired
  • They’re teething
  • They need more active playtime
  • They lack the language skills to communicate

Even though it’s common, when a biting incident occurs at your setting it can be fraught with tension. Whilst the immediate response from staff will be to soothe the child who’s been bitten and reprimand the biter, it can be more difficult to manage the aftermath of what comes next.

Having a behaviour management policy that staff understand and follow when these incidents happen is crucial. When new parents join your setting, it can be helpful for them to read and familiarise themselves with this policy, too. Should their child be involved in a biting incident, you can show them what process you and your staff will follow.

When a biting incident occurs, it’s important that staff understand what happened and why, so they can decrease the likelihood of it happening again. It could be that children were fighting over a toy which they both love to play with, in which case, it might be easy to prevent the incident reoccurring by buying a second identical toy. The solution could also be as simple as making sure the two children are supervised closely when they play together in the future.

Recording the incident

Logging what took place in your incident book; you should try and describe the circumstances as honestly and accurately as possible. This report is important and may be relied on at a later date, so ensure that everything is written down whilst the events are still fresh in your mind.

Finding space to talk

The next step can be more tricky: finding a suitable time and place to have a confidential conversation with both sets of parents involved. This can be difficult if there’s a real lack of private space at your setting, but there should be a designated place you can discuss matters with parents separately.

After speaking both parents, make sure they’re able to sign the incident book without seeing the signature of the other party involved.  This must remain confidential.

Putting a plan together

Once you’ve told the biter’s parents what occurred (without revealing the identity of the child), get their feedback. Is biting out of character for their child? Has it happened at home? Is there a particular trigger for this kind of behaviour? Gathering this kind of information will be helpful in stopping this incident recurring again.

When talking to the parents of the bitee, explain that you have a strict policy in place which you’ll be following. Let them know that you’ll be speaking with the parents of the other child. This will reassure them that you’re dealing with it professionally and are proactive in stopping it happening to their child again.

Top tips for dealing with biting

  • Have a robust behaviour management policy in place
  • Explain this policy to parents when they join
  • Record incidents quickly and honestly
  • Communicate clearly with both sets of parents
  • Put together a plan to stop it happening again

Advice from one of our assessors, Justine:

“For children who bite more than once, I’d ask staff to note when the biting is happening – observing using an event sample, then hold a meeting with their key person and possibly SENCO/room leader to look at what the triggers are.

“Then staff can agree a strategy such as 1:1 practitioner with child (although very difficult in tight ratios), making sure the child has a teether to hand and activities to develop their communication skills (depending on their age and stage of development).

“Biting can also occur more if a child has needs not being met – such as a disability/impairment – so this can help practitioners spot issues and do early intervention.”

Would you like to know more about training your staff?

Find out more - Abacus

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