As is often the case, the basic principles that allow us to have happy and healthy lives don’t change much from the time we are tots to the time we are so-called adults.  One of the things I learned taking care of pre-schoolers is how important consistent and enforced boundaries are to creating an environment where everyone can grow, thrive, and have a good time.

For example, biting.  I think we can all agree that biting is a no-no.  It’s not okay to bite other people, even if we are mad or upset.  That being said, toddlers often have a hard time expressing emotions and can get easily frustrated when things don’t go their way, and when that happens, they may use their little teeth in not-so-nice ways.  As such, any good and experienced preschool teacher or daycare provider knows how to prevent and manage biting.

First, establish the ground rules: NO BITING.

The rules apply to everyone – kids and grown ups – and they apply all the time, even when hungry and tired.

Second, introduce ways to do handle frustration other than biting.

Like sharing or taking turns. Or using words (which you may need to teach).

Third, take responsibility for preventing bites from taking place.

After all, it’s not entirely the toddler’s fault if he or she bites. If you know a kid gets frustrated easily, supervise them. Or provide special attention.  If they get cranky when tired or hungry, make sure they get a nap or a snack. A good teacher can read the room and see a bite coming down the pike.

Finally, if a bite does take place, handle the situation rapidly and clearly.

See #1:  Biting is never OK.  Communicate that clearly to everyone in the group.  If you don’t handle it, people start to think that biting might happen at any moment. People who were on the verge of biting might now see it as a viable way to get the toy they want. Younger kids see that the older kids bite and aspire to grow teeth so they can too. Kids come to school scared that they might get bitten. The whole place quickly turns into a hot mess.

Luckily, when we grow up and go to work, most of us can restrain ourselves from biting people.  But there are other equally bad behaviors that do occur in the workplace:  yelling, lying, or making others feel uncomfortable or unsafe.  As employees, we should remember that it’s just not OK to yell, lie, or make people feel unsafe – even if you are mad or upset, even if the other person is wrong, and even if you are tired and hungry.

And as managers, we need to remember that we play an important role in setting the tone and culture for the organization.  If yelling, lying, and other bad behaviors are taking place on your team or in your organization, you have to take responsibility for them.  Have you established ground rules?  Have you showed people more effective ways of communicating?  Have you handled situations that have occurred promptly and clearly?  If not, you can bet that your employees are just wondering when someone is going to bite them next.