Children and biting

Parentree-editors 2008-09-21 22:00:42

Biting by children is very shocking to parents. There are many reasons why children bite. Understanding them can help parents put an end to the biting.

Experimental biting

Children may bite because they want to explore or experience something. They may bite anything that comes their way - a toy, a book, a parent.  

What should parents do:

  • Help them understand what is OK to bite and what is not
  • When they bite something that is unacceptable, make it clear to them with a strong tone that it is unacceptable.
  • Sometimes the child may think it is funny. Do not give them the impression facially or verbally, that you think it is funny.
  • You may have to repeat yourself a few times but with your coaching your child will figure it out

Imitation biting

Children learn from each other. When one child sees another bite, they want to do it themselves.

What should parents do: 

  • Make it clear to them that the behaviour is unacceptable. Do not punish them but use a clear tone that makes it clear that biting is bad behaviour.
  • Tell them about the harm biting can do.
  • Explain to them that their friend's behaviour is unacceptable too.

Frustration biting

Sometimes children (especially under three) may encounter a situation that they cannot cope with. Often, it is because someone has grabbed a toy or a book or a crayon from them. They are not old enough to react in a measured manner and they communicate their frustration by biting.  When they bite, they see that it gets the desired reaction and it encourages them.

What should parents do: 

  • Keep a very close eye on your child in a group setting. Step in before the situation becomes frustrating
  • If the child bites, make it clear that it is unacceptable.
  • Speak with the child. But importantly listen to them. Unless you listen to them they will not listen to you. Let them say what made them bite and then you explain to them why it is unacceptable.
  • Teach them how to use words to protect their rights first. 
  • Spend more time with them in activities where they may get frustrated.

Struggle biting

When kids get into a physical fight, sometimes one bites the other especially when they are pinned down or in a tough situation. This happens particularly when the child at a disadvantage is in a vise grip and feels there is no way out.

What should parents do: 

  • Make it clear that biting is unacceptable but at the same time listen to the child about how the situation happened.
  • Think about what you taught them about defending themselves and if you have not, teach them.
  • Give the child a lot of love, so he feels like he is protected and does not need to take extreme measures to protect himself.

Biting is not a phenomenon to be treated lightly but neither can it be rectified quickly. Punishment is not going to solve the problem. It needs time and patience and concentrated effort from the parent to change the behaviour of the child.


2009-01-22 12:46:44


my 16 months old son has suddenly started biting me..he doesnt bite anyone else, and bites me all of a sudden while playing, while eating, or while sitting quietly together. i try to divert his attention, tell him its a no-no, give him safe things to bite on, but so far it hasnt helped. dr says its coz of his teething pain, but he refuses to bite on teethers..despite telling no, he continues to bite (lovingly), as if he just cannot control it. i am worried how to handle this.


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