Biting

Biting

Some children tend to bite their little friends, siblings and some time parents also. Biting is a normal part of childhood development. Young children bite for many different reasons, from teething to seeing what reaction it will provoke. Many children between ages 1 and 3 go through a biting phase, which they eventually outgrow.

 Why Children Bite

Kids bite for a number of reasons -- and most of them aren't intentionally malicious.

  • They're in pain. When babies bite, typically it's because they're teething. They're just doing it to relieve the pain of their swollen, tender gums.
  • They're exploring their world. Very young children use their mouths to explore, just as they use their hands. Just about everything infants or toddlers pick up eventually winds up in their mouths. Kids this age aren't yet able to prevent themselves from biting the object of their interest.
  • They're looking for a reaction. Part of exploration is curiosity. Toddlers experiment to see what kind of reaction their actions will provoke. They'll bite down on a friend or sibling to hear the surprised exclamation, not realizing how painful the experience is for that person.
  • They're craving attention. In older kids, biting is just one of several bad behaviors used to get attention. When a child feels ignored, discipline is at least one way of getting noticed -- even if the attention is negative rather than positive.
  • They're frustrated. Biting, like hitting, is a way for some children to assert themselves when they're still too young to express feelings effectively through words. To your child, biting is a way to get back a favorite toy, tell you that he or she is unhappy, or let another child know that he or she wants to be left alone.

How to Stop Biting

Practice prevention so that your child will be less likely to bite in the first place.

  • If your baby is teething, make sure to always have a cool teething ring or washcloth on hand so he or she will be less likely to sink teeth into someone's arm.
  • Avoid situations in which your child can get irritable enough to bite. Make sure that all of your child's needs -- including eating and nap time -- are taken care of before you go out to play. Bring along a snack to soothe your child if he or she gets cranky from being hungry.
  • As soon as your child is old enough, encourage the use of words ("I'm angry with you" or "That's my toy") instead of biting. Other ways to express frustration or anger include hugging a stuffed animal or punching a pillow. Sometimes, shortening activities or giving your child a break can help prevent the rising frustration that can lead to biting and other bad behaviors.
  • Give your child enough of your time throughout the day (for example, by reading or playing together), so he or she doesn't bite just to get attention. Extra attention is especially important when your child is going through a major life change, such as a move or welcoming a baby sibling. If your child is prone to biting, keep an eye on any playmates and step in when an altercation appears to be brewing.
  • Watch the child closely for a few days during play with other children. Every time she looks like she is ready to bite, cup your hand over her mouth and say, "It is not okay to bite people. Tell the other child what you want." If the child is pre-verbal, after cupping your hand over her mouth and saying it is not okay to bite, offer a distracting choice: "Do you want to play on the swings or with the blocks?"
  • When your child bites before you are able to intervene, quickly remove the child, give her a hug, and say, "It is not okay to bite people." You may need to do this several times while you are teaching the child other skills or waiting for her to outgrow biting.
  • Comfort the child who has been bitten and apologize to the parent. Be honest with your feelings. "I feel very embarrassed about this, and I will do everything I can to help my child stop biting. However, I do not believe punishment solves anything." Comforting the child who has been bitten, after hugging the biter, models loving ways to deal with people.
  • If you are dealing with another parent who thinks you should punish your child, stand your ground.  Then walk away with dignity and respect for yourself and the other person. Your child is more important than what others think of you.

Planning Ahead to Prevent Future Problems

1. Play "Let's Pretend" with your child. Pretend the two of you are fighting over a toy and that you are going to bite him. Stop and ask, "How would you feel if I bit you? What would you like me to do instead?" Then pretend you are fighting over a toy and let your child try whatever he suggested to do instead of biting.

2. Brainstorm other ways to handle problems. If your child doesn't have any ideas of what to do instead of biting, teach him to use words. You can make suggestions, such as suggesting that he tell the other child, "I'm mad at you" or "Let me have a turn" or "I'll go get another toy and we'll trade" or that he ask an adult to help settle the problem. Then play "Let's Pretend" so he can practice these ideas.

3. Use emotional honesty: "I feel bad when you bite other people because I don't like to see people get hurt. I wish you would find something else to do besides bite people."

4. If you child is pre-verbal, it is important to accept the fact that he needs close supervision and kind and firm distraction until he learns socially acceptable ways to handle frustration.

5. When you are supervising closely, you will be able to understand what your child is trying to accomplish. Verbalize his intention before showing him another way: "I can see that you want the ball. It is not okay to bite to get the ball. Let's find another ball.


  • Clinic 1
    Dr. Hemendra Gupta's Child Care Center
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    0141-2762167

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