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  • Writer's pictureIlaria Galliano

Watch out.. I bite!

During their time at the nursery, children have the opportunity to learn and gain experience. They use their bodies to interact, socialize, and communicate. When babies start saying their first words, they often accompany the words with gestures or movements of their body, whether light or intense.

Children express themselves with words and with their whole bodies.

And when words aren't enough?

There are misunderstandings occur at the beginning of language development in children.

They would like to express themselves, but often struggle to do so. This can be due to not being heard properly, unclear communication, or simply not having enough time to explain what they want. Children engage in various activities such as play, thinking, building, and creating different dynamics within a group comprising of various persons and personalities. As a result, they sometimes get along, but unfortunately, conflicts arise when one child's desires clash with another's demands.

In these potential situations of miscommunication, the mouth could become the tool not only to affirm one's words but also to convey a "sign" and deliver a "message" - thus, instinctively, I bite you!

Biting is a form of communication in children: a search for connection and understanding, for what cannot be expressed through verbal language.

Why does the child bite?

A child who is starting to say their first words may not have full control over verbal expression and may use gestures to communicate with others. There are several reasons why a child may do this instinctively, without premeditation.

We can see some of the main reasons together.

When a child bites, it can be a way of asking for space from another child. This space could be for playing with a specific toy, using an object, or just for physical movement.

Another reason children might bite is to seek affection.

It seems almost improbable to think that we can express affection through an action that causes pain. There are situations in which the child has difficulty managing his emotions of love, well-being, and pleasure, and a hug or a kiss seems 'almost' not enough to demonstrate how much he loves and wants to play with that person.

Let's consider the games that are often played in a family setting. In moments of affection or play, adults may playfully say things like, "I'm going to eat you!" while pretending to “bite” the child, or "What cute little feet! I'm going to nibble on them!" These phrases make both adults and children smile, and we, as adults, understand that they are meant ironically. However, children may not interpret these phrases in the same way. What is amusing to us may not be understood the same way by them, and they may attempt to recreate these game dynamics without understanding the humor, leading to the opposite effect.

How should we behave in these situations?

A child requires consistency in his educational journey. It is essential for the family and the nursery to maintain open communication to support the child as he develops. One of the initial steps is to try to comprehend why the child uses this particular communication strategy.

It is important to try to mediate and avoid borderline situations, such as when a child is left alone to manage their emotions.

When we observe a child in a situation that could lead to a potential bite, we should suggest and recommend alternative ways of handling the situation. It's important to encourage and reinforce respectful and kind behavior towards others, and demonstrate how to communicate and interact in various everyday scenarios. We should avoid games in which adults pretend to bite children, as this can create confusion about how to relate to others.

We have seen a few reasons why a child may resort to biting. Each situation needs to be carefully observed and teamwork is required from both the family and the nursery. Biting is a manifestation of a need or a requirement, and it's important for both the child who bites and the one who is bitten to be supported through effective communication, behavioral guidance, and overall support for the well-being of the child.

The bite is a message with different nuances that we, as adults, must interpret and understand to convey to children the importance and effectiveness of verbal language in communication.

If you have any questions or would like to share your experience, please leave a comment and follow our blog for more updates!

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