How to Stop Children from Biting

Some children are biters. For most kids, this is just a phase that they go through as toddlers. But in some cases, children will continue biting on into their childhood and even early teen years. This points to the fact that there are different reasons that children might be biters. Getting them to stop the biting requires getting to the root of the biting problem and addressing the reasons that underlie it. However, there are some common techniques that many parents find helpful to terminate their children's biting phase as early as possible.

Let's take a look at some common reasons that children might be biting and some things that you can do to treat each of them:

Curiosity. This is the biggest reason that children begin biting when they are young. They are curious about the world around them. They want to taste it and as they get teeth, they want to bite it. They may also be interested in learning what happens when they bite. If this is the reason that your child is biting, you're in luck; this is the easiest biting habit to break. Your child will quickly learn that biting results in negative reactions and will stop biting. Here are some tips for moving through the biting phase if your child is a curious biter:

  • Communication. Talking to your child about the inappropriateness of biting and the reasons that we don't bite is the first step in resolving this problem. Be sure to engage your child in a conversation about alternatives to biting. Merely discussing why your child bites, how wrong it is and what can be done instead might resolve the problem.
  • Consequences. If your child won't stop biting but you believe it's a curiosity issue, consequences should resolve the problem. Use whatever standard form of discipline you use in your home (such as time-outs) so that your child will begin to associate biting with negative consequences.

Frustration : Another reason that young children bite is because they are frustrated with what's going on in any given situation. Because they don't have the verbal skills yet to express this frustration, they strike out. They may also engage in other behaviors such as hitting. Communication and consequences will be important tools to use for this type of biter as well. Here are some other techniques to use when your child is a frustrated biter:

  • Redirection. Children who are clearly frustrated may be redirected into other activities which terminate the acting out and dissuade them from biting.
  • Appropriate aggression. In some homes, appropriate aggression is allowed. This may include hitting pillows (or screaming into them) or using a punching bag. Even exercise can be used. If this is a tool used in your home, children should be sent to do this activity whenever they bite out of frustration.

Attention: This is a tough one and it's unfortunately common. It may occur at any age but is common in preschool. Children who want attention realize that biting gets it because you can't just ignore someone who is biting you. Communication and consequences will be the key in this area as with some of the others. Here are some additional tips:

  • Minimize the amount of attention that you give to the biting. Issue a consequence and stick with it but don't get engaged in arguments or battles over the biting.
  • Use a reward system to reduce the biting. Count the number of times in one week that your child gets consequences for biting. Then institute a reward system using points for each time less than that number which your child bites in the second week.
  • Praise non-biting behavior. Whenever you see your child getting frustrated or even acting out without biting, praise him or her for that better behavior.
  • Consider the root source of needing attention. Biting sometimes occurs when big transitions happen like starting preschool or when a new baby comes to the family. If this could be causing the biting, deal with the biting but also work on solutions to providing more attention to your child during this needy time. "Mom and me dates" are good here.

Pain: In young children, the problem might be as simple as pain in the teeth. If your child is teething, you can try the following things to address the problem and stop the biting:

  • Teething gels. These soothe your child and reduce the pain so they don't feel the need to bite.
  • Redirection to biting something that's appropriate. Toys or teething rings may be implemented to teach your child what is and isn't okay to bite.

Aggression: In most cases, your child is biting out of curiosity, frustration or a need for attention. However, there are some children who continue biting even as they get older and have learned other ways to deal with these feelings. These children (as well as some younger children) bite as an act of aggression. While communication, consequences and redirection are all important to treating this kind of biting, the real key is resolving the underlying problem that is causing the aggression. Here are some tips for doing that:

  • Figure out what the problem is. Sometimes a child who is biting at school is doing so in self-defense. Sometimes fighting in the family is causing the child to act out by biting siblings or parents. Sometimes the child is dealing with a difficult emotional situation and is biting to cope. Take the time to figure out what the problem is. Consequences may help but real problem-resolution is the answer.
  • Consider positive ways of expressing aggression. Enroll your child in karate classes. Create a room in the house with pillowed walls where your child can go act out. Find a solution to let that aggression out without anyone getting hurt.
  • Therapy and / or medication. This is always a last resort when dealing with biting but it could be something that needs to happen. If you've tried everything else and you're at your wit's end, consider seeking professional assistance.

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Comments 26 comments

optimisticbob 8 years ago

Great resource. All my Grandsons have gone through a biting phase before they became mobile and verbal.


chillingbreeze profile image

chillingbreeze 7 years ago from India

Good thought!!!

To stop children from biting, would be very difficult—It is because I found many times even adult bought they nails. They know themselves that this is not good to practice but I can’t stop it.


Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 7 years ago from South Africa

Excellent information. Good thing 99.9% of us manage to rid our toddlers of this disconcerting behavior. The phase can pass over less traumatically if you have the ability to understand the complex world of a little child.


OTmommy profile image

OTmommy 7 years ago from Southern USA

Good article! I work with toddlers with developmental delays and see many kids bite due to not having the words to express their wants, needs, and frustrations. In this case, sign language or gestures can be taught to them to communicate what they can't say with words. Also, labeling what you think they want can be helpful.


stu 6 years ago

"Use whatever standard form of discipline you use in your home (such as time-outs)"

time outs?? im old school i guess, but time out? come one..what is that gonna do?


rebekahhs profile image

rebekahhs 6 years ago

Good Hub! I think I had a Frustrated biter for a little while. Thankfully the phase is over...just in time for the next phase.... :)


missy81 6 years ago

We had a situation, regarding biting, where my then 2 year old daughter refused to listen to us and would have terrible tantrums.

Our problem was resolved, thankfully! My best friend, who's hubby is a Doctor, recommended this program... http://tiny.cc/parentingpotential This program was a small miracle for us and now I finally understand why my best friend, who is also a parent of two twin toddlers girls and a one year old boy, is always so laid back and in control, while I was ready to pull my hair out, lol! You should definitely check it out. A must have for parents. Good luck with everything :)


GojiJuiceGoodness profile image

GojiJuiceGoodness 6 years ago from Roanoke, Virginia

This is a tough issue!


TurnOnYourSenses profile image

TurnOnYourSenses 6 years ago

As a pediatric physical therapist with sensory background, some children may bite in an effort to seek out oral input. Just like adults that bite on the end of pens or pencils. Sometimes, giving them gum, if they are older, spicy foods, sour patch kids and the like, you may see lesser incidences of the biting because they are getting the intense oral input for a shorter duration. They may not seek the oral input through biting as frequently. I have lots of biting suggestions from a sensory input if you are interested.


paiger 6 years ago

my son is 8 1/2 months old and has 9 teeth! bc he is soooo young, it is very hard to figure out what is right. he is too young to understand NO or a reward system for not biting... he bites me, and kids at daycare... never his dad, brother, grandparents or cousins. i dont get it!! HELLPPPPPPPPPPPP!


Guest 6 years ago

My son has been biting off and on since 8 months old. We moved and changed daycares when he was a year old and we are now in the turmoils of a terrible biting phase - we were kicked out of the daycare! I refuse to bite him back and am now trying a calm home method - not giving it too much attention and walking away from him. It has gotten slightly better in the past two weeks, I can't wait for this to end! Any experience out there on how long the calm method takes to work???


jace 6 years ago

Thanks for sharing...good advice!


april6344 6 years ago

I find the article very helpful. I have a great nephew who is 19 months old and he was put out of 3 daycares due to biting the other children. We tell him it's not nice to bite and only at certain times he will attack another child and bite him/her. Just today my 24 yr old son took him over to a friends house to swim with 3 other small children but all older than him. He bit all 3 kids. I felt so bad when my son called to tell me what had happened. The bites were pretty ugly. I sure hope he can break this habit. As of today he can not be accepted in any daycare due to his biting. Wondering why when other relatives who are smaller and bigger than him he seem to not bite. ?????? Not sure if time out will work.


FireworksOfJuly 6 years ago

Good advice for some. However, my daughter is almost 3 and biting again! She was out of the stage after she turned a year old, and went back into it. I'm afraid to put her in any kind of school or daycare (other than grandma) because we would get kicked out. She is behind in verbal skills and is in an early-on program, with therapy classes for her verbal skills. Early-on has suggested these "chew toys" that work.. to a point. She's still biting her younger sister though, haven't figured out what to do for that yet.. with a little brother on the way, I could use a lot of advice here. :) But.. the Ark Grabbers do work for the frustration, hope it helps some more people... oh.. and time out works more for trantrums.. 1-2-3 magic.. check it out! It does work!!


Vmesa 6 years ago

my daughter is 3 1/2 and has been kicked out of 2 pre-schools already for bitting and agressiveness. This is very frustrating for us. I associate her biting with inability to community as we are bilingual and my daughter is just learning english. She was out for one month at home with my sister who is a child tutor. We just put her in a new school and things seem to be getting better after we bit her. I am not encouraging this practice, nor did I do it to hurt her but magically this has worked. I think she was just offended and this made her realize that bitting was awful. She comes home now and tells us that she behaved well and finally we are seeign areward system that is working to our benefit! we are crossing our fingers...


Sunshine 5 years ago

I am a nursery school teacher and have a boy who never talks but bites about 8 children and staff a day. it is his way of getting his message across and he now has a key person with him all the time to be able to spot his triggers and stop it. my sons phase passed very quickly so for it to carr y on this long is very bizzare to us al really but we are trying our best to teach him to use words instead of teeth.


Paige 5 years ago

My son has Autism and has been biting since he was 8 months old. My son is now 5 yrs. I am not sure why he is biting. I believe he is biting to get out of what he is doing. The thing is he bites for no reason and could be happy one second an biting the next! Help!!


Cheap Baby Cribs Reviews 5 years ago

Man.. what an issue!

I've never seen that problem in any children I've come across!


Just About It profile image

Just About It 5 years ago from southern CA

My son started biting when he changed from a home daycare to a preschool. He was so use to being the center of attention with just a handful of kids that he had a hard time handling the larger group... lack of communication and interaction skills. He would bite out of frustration. After about 9 instances over a 6 week period, they were threatening to kick him out. I bought a couple of books to read him about noy biting and what to do instead, I read them multiple time before bed, during breakfast, and sitting in the backseat of the car before going into the preschool for about two weeks... he has them memorized. I also no longer give him options about things that need to be done... I am the boss... when it is time to brush his teeth, if he doesn't do it with the second request he gets a time out... same thing with sitting at the tableto eat, putting on his shoes to leave the house. He still gets plenty of opportunities to make choices EXCEPT with the things I need him to do. Now when I tell him "No Biting", he knows that he has no other option but to do what Mommy says. It is now 12 weeks from his last bite and he is now one of the teachers' favorite. Now he is hugging too much.


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 5 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

Thanks for this, we're still trying to figure out the best way to give consequences to our 10 month old...I yelled at him (as opposed to spanking which we were told is not good) and he cried...he bites to the point where it breaks the skin. This is a challenge.

Thanks again,

Ben


AzikSparx profile image

AzikSparx 5 years ago from Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

I have the same problem as Ben Zoltak with 10 months baby who bites everything she could reach. I am worry if she could get bacterial infected.


Karen Gillete 5 years ago

i have struggled over this predicament with my 1 and 7 months old baby for some time last year. i was troubled that he could be infected because he grabs and eats at whatever his hand may hold on. i tried all the tips i have searched over the net. no luck. but i was amazed when i positioned him at the room where my sons study since i decided to homeschool them, and with the older brother sweeetly talking to him not to eat the pencil he suddenly grabbed, it worked. i was stunned. the baby looked at his older brother and never did put the pencil on his mouth. it was the connection and the communication then that really had it work out.

thanks for this hub though. i should have read this last year. this surely helps.


Jason 5 years ago

Personally I am not an advocate for striking a child, but to those who believe spanking solves nothing; that is not always the case. Now I am not saying go beat your child, but spanking isn't necessarily a bad thing. My mother and step-father spanked me when I was child, due to them LITERALLY trying everything and anything this article and any other book or person has ever advised them to do, though not concerning biting. I turned out rather well, according to quite a few people; so often times I find it does work out also viewing this from other families; quite a bit actually.


Liz 4 years ago

This was a good article. My son is a biter and it is getting really frustrating picking him up from daycare only to hear he bit another child or sometimes two in one day. I don't know what to do anymore.


kelleyward 4 years ago

Great hub! All my boys engaged in biting behavior when they were teething. It was a tough time but we got through it. Thanks!


Asanda 4 years ago

Would it be a bad practice if you make sure that a child has a biting toy of their own, so that when ever they get angry they can bit on that toy

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