Children who bite others cause a great deal of concern for the parents. The parents
of the child who has been bitten are also usually very concerned about infection.
Biting is an unacceptable behavior that needs to be stopped at an early age to prevent
it from happening again.
Why young children bite
Biting is fairly common in young children, and it is often worrisome to adults. A
family member, playmate, or classmate at daycare or preschool may be the one bitten.
Biting can be painful and frightening when it happens. It upsets other children and
often angers teachers and other adults.
Biting is usually caused by 1 of 4 different factors, including the following:
Experimental biting is done by infants and toddlers as they explore their world. They
put everything in their mouths and sometimes bite in the process. You can help decrease
biting by telling them, "No—biting hurts!" and being firm. Offer them things that
they can safely bite on such as teething rings.
Frustration biting happens when young children become frustrated and unable to cope
with a situation. Until they learn how to play cooperatively, they may respond to
the demands of other children by hitting or biting. Some helpful guidelines for decreasing
this type of biting include:
Keep playtimes short and groups small.
Supervise young children's play closely. Try to recognize frustration and intervene
before the biting happens.
If biting happens, say, "No, don't bite. Biting hurts." and remove your child from
the situation right away. Stay with your child and help him or her to calm down. Explore
other, better ways to handle the situation with your child, so he or she learns to
handle emotions differently next time.
Powerless biting happens when a child is in need of feeling powerful. Sometimes, the
youngest child in the family uses biting to gain power. To help prevent this type
Make sure your child feels protected and is not always being "picked on" by others.
Explain the situation to bigger or older children and get their help to make things
If biting happens, tell your child that he or she is not to bite and remove him or
her from the situation right away. Stay with your child and help him or her to calm
down. Explore other, better ways to handle the situation with your child, so he or
she learns to handle emotions differently next time.
Stressful biting is done when a child is under a lot of emotional stress. Biting may
be a sign of distress or pain when the child is upset or angry. If this occurs:
Try to find out what is bothering your child. Watch for what happens right before
the biting happens.
Help your child to find other ways to express his or her feelings. Let him or her
know that biting is wrong and remove him or her from the situation right away.
If your child bites, respond firmly, but calmly, to the biting. Let your child know
that you disapprove and remove him or her from the situation. Help your child learn
new ways to handle things. If your child bites repeatedly, be sure to talk with your
child's healthcare provider about the problem.
What do I do if my child is biting others?
While every child is different, the following are some recommendations that may be
used to help with the child who bites:
Be firm. Tell your child that you will not accept biting and why. Tell him or her
biting hurts others.
Offer another behavior the child may use instead of biting. If the child bites because
he or she is angry, have the child come to you and tell you this instead. A child
who is younger than 18 months may need a toy that is allowed to be chewed on.
If you catch your child biting, use a firm "no" to stop the behavior, or try to stop
the child before the biting actually happens.
Use time-out if your child bites, or take away a favorite toy or activity.
Do not bite your child for biting someone else. This teaches your child that biting
is still acceptable. Do not bite your child in a playful manner, as this might teach
him or her to bite others.
Give praise when your child does not bite.