Q: Is there a Berenstain Bears book about not biting people? My daughter has been biting other kids at preschool. Her teachers say it’s getting worse! Is there a book I could read to her showing how wrong this is?
A: Yes! Your question is a profound one. Children’s authors, publishers, teachers, parents, therapists, and children themselves have been seeing books as bibliotherapy for generations. As a result, there are a variety of books both silly and profound that could help in this situation. How can bibliotherapy help?Among other things, kids realize...
It's okay to have feelings
It's okay to talk about it
Other people have faced similar problems
There are different solutions available
Kids can solve problems
So, where to start? The easy answer is to look up your preschooler’s particular issue in our online catalog. (...type in biting – or any other behavioral issue – and limit to children's books.) If nothing comes up, we'd take a look at A to Zoo: Subject Access to Children’s Picture Books. It has picture books indexed under 1,215 subjects, including 53 different behaviors, from “animals, dislike of” to “worrying,” although, biting is not there – but we can look through the 35 books about “fighting.” A cool online resourcehas a few more titles. The Berenstain Bears books often have a clear behavioral message, and kids like to hear stories about characters they know and love. Since there isn’t one on biting, you might take a look at this one; The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Friends
I am often asked for books to help a child overcome a particular problem – biting, hitting, whining, lying, stealing, teasing or bullying others, fears, sucking her thumb, screaming or throwing tantrums, etc. Practically every kid does something, sometime! So...is misbehavior a universal experience?
When I was a new parent, I read several parenting books that put forward the view that all children's negative behavior is an attempt to communicate. (Like the 3 below.) These authors proposed that when the behavior annoys, angers, scares, or hurts others, it's very likely an indication that the child has some strong or negative feelings. Therefore, the solution – to all irksome behavior – is to teach the child how to effectively communicate negative feelings & whatever caused them.
An adult who spends a lot of time with a child teaches this vocabulary simply by saying aloud what they observe and guess about the child's feelings – but some things just don’t come up until a moment when the parent isn't there to interpret.
Books provide extra scenarios to absorb or to discuss feelings – the characters’, your own, and your child’s – so you don't have to wait for something to surprise you. Any book that shows characters having any feelings can start a conversation. The language of feelings is complex and may take a lifetime to fully explore. Here are my favorite books on the general topic of expressing feelings, in order from those for the youngest kids (2 years) to the oldest (about 9+ years):
In addition, the popularity of some rather uncomfortable books illustrates how negative feelings are human and common– it really is a comfort when someone else (even a character in a book) struggles through similar feelings. Here are a few that are wonderful to read to a child. They convey that you will love her and take care of her, even when she has so-called bad feelings, and even when she makes mistakes:
All these books (and many others on unrelated topics) show characters feeling something and being heard – by the reader if not by the other characters in the story!
You may not need a book about a biter, a hitter, a screamer, a liar, a thief, or a tantrum thrower. Children's books, by providing a wide range of situations and responses, build the child's repertoire of familiar life experiences. Each book, on any topic, can build understanding, empathy, and self-awareness, and allow your child to witness or imagine possible responses.