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10 Ways to Stop Your Child From Biting

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Childhood teethingAs parents, we are always so proud of our little ones’ achievements. But unless your child is at a Twilight audition, there is nothing more disturbing or embarrassing than being at the park or at a playmate’s house and seeing your toddler’s teeth embedded in the arm of another child. As you extract your mini vampire and offer your mortified apologies to the victim’s parents, remember you are not alone. When you sit in the car wondering where your parenting skill have failed, hopefully this blog post gives you reference as to what to do next.

Before looking at the steps you can take to stop your biting child however, we first have to look a little but at some of the root causes for childhood biting. So, let’s dig in (pun intended).


  • They are in pain. Often times, when babies bite it is because they are teething and are trying to relieve the pain of their swollen gums.
  • They are exploring. Toddlers use their eyes, hands and mouth to explore the world surrounding them. Most of what they can pick up ends in their mouths and biting these object is also part of their method of exploring.
  • They are experimenting. Hand-in-hand with exploration, is experimentation. Toddlers will often try many things, including biting, to see what will happen or what reaction they get from their parents.
  • They are frustrated. Young children who have not mastered their vocal communications skills yet and are unable to say what they want, may express their needs and wants through an aggressive chomp. Additionally, children who crave attention may bite to get noticed. After all, negative attention is still attention, isn’t it?
  • They are defending themselves. If children feel threatened by other children, for example, and cannot express their anxiety vocally, they may create a safety zone by biting anyone that gets too close.

Now that we have some idea as to why your child might be biting, let’s explore more deeply what we can do to prevent and ultimately put an end this undesirable behavior.

  1. If your baby is teething, carry a teething ring or washcloth with you to sooth her gums so she won’t have to look for an attractive arm to nibble on until relief arrives.
  2. It sounds obvious, but paying a little more attention can go a long way. If you have determined what triggers cause you child to bite, avoid putting him in that situation.  If there is a particular playmate that does not share well, observe closely and prepare to intervene if your biter has his toy taken.  If he bites more when he is overtired, delay that play date until after your little guy has had a nap.
  3. Calmly and quickly remind your child that biting is not allowed, nor accepted. Biting is typically reactionary, so getting excited or yelling can be as reactionary and therefore, may not be the best approach to mitigating the problem. Instead, try a quick, compassionately-delivered phrase to acknowledge your biting child’s feelings, while never condoning the behavior. Saying something like, “I know you’re upset, but biting hurts people and it’s not okay to hurt people” can go a long way toward easily ending the behavior.
  4. Respond immediately with consequences connected to the act of biting. If your child bites another child over a toy, remove the toy and make it clear that the toy will not be played with for a while.
  5. Insist that your biting child immediate apologize to the person he has bitten or their parents. This helps not only express remorse, but it also teaches your little learner about remorse and consequences. If possible, lavish the bitten child with positive attention.
  6. Have your child try to express her feelings. Teach her to say “no thank you” when someone does something that may provoke her to bite. Helping your child learn verbal alternatives to biting, promotes early conflict resolution skills building.
  7. Remove your child from the situation. Make it clear that if he does not apologize and stop biting that you will leave immediately and go home.
  8. Talk to your child about why it is wrong to cause other people pain. Now might be a great time to introduce the golden rule.
  9. After the incident is over, talk to you child about what happened and what else could have been done to get what he wanted. Let him try to come up with ideas on his own, but provide suggestions if he is having trouble.
  10. Give your child extra attention and praise when she does use her words to express herself.  If she uses an alternative method of dealing with her frustrations, express your happiness with her ability to find new, healthy ways to get her needs met. Be specific too. Tell her how proud you were to see her walk away when her sister wouldn’t share a doll. Tell her what a great decision she made not to bite. Parents may spend unequal amounts of time redirecting an undesirable behavior when compared to the time spent on praising a desired one.

Although it may be an early instinct, most experts agree that biting children to show them how it feels, is not a good idea. Children model their behavior after their parents and may be confused as to why they cannot bite, but their parents can. Even worse, if your child gets bitten one day in daycare and tells the teacher she bit because, “…that’s what Mom and Dad did to me,” you might find this method of behavior modification coming back to — well — bite you.

So what do you think? Did I leave something out? What methods do you use to stop biting? Is there a behavior you’d like to see your child stop exhibiting? Tell us about it, we’d love to know.

Photo Credit By: Michiel Thomas

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