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Parenting Tips:How Can I Stop My Child Biting Other Kids?

Updated on February 5, 2011

Why is My Child Biting?

For the purposes of this article, I am going to assume the child is young, possibly a toddler, or under the age of five years old at any rate.

Why is the child biting? Toddlers biting show aggression and frustration. This applies to older children who bite as well, of course. That may seem obvious, but that is why the child is biting. "Why" is not as important as how to stop it.

Children and Biting

I have read several articles that suggest that you explain to the child why the biting is inappropriate and have them make amends to the person they have bitten or suggest that there are some consequences to the biter such as a time out, etc.

I could not disagree more with these articles. From my own experiences with children, reasoning with a child is not a very good parenting tactic until the child is quite a bit older.

Consequences are normally a good idea, but with biting, there is an element of lack of impulse control, so the biter may still bite despite repeated negative consequences.

So, what can you do?

Almost Getting Kicked Out of Daycare...

Here is a personal confession: when my daughter was little, she used to bite the children at her daycare. It was particularly bad because her favorite target victim was the daycare owner's niece.

The daycare staff told me I had to get a handle on her biting or they would have to expel her. EXPEL her? Who gets expelled from daycare?  I asked myself, "Can a child get expelled from daycare?"

I was at my wit's end. I tried explaining to her that it wasn't nice and that she had to stop. I tried punishing her on days when she had bitten -- taking away favorite toys, etc. But nothing worked.

So, finally, I went to see a chartered psychologist and she set me straight.

Biting Alternatives

The psychologist suggested that I purchase a length of non-toxic PVC tubing from a local hardware store. This was before it was known that PVC is not particularly healthy. She said to tell my daughter to bite this instead of biting the other children.  These days, they actually make chewable jewelry that is especially for biting and other specially made chew toys for children who are having trouble controlling biting impulses.  To the right are some examples that are sold on Amazon.com.

I'll be honest. I thought this was a stupid idea and that it wouldn't work. However, I did not know what else to do. So, I went and bought the tubing and explained to my daughter that she was to bite it whenever she had the urge to bite another child. She was about 3 years old.

She said, "But I'll be 'mbarrassed." I said, "Well, I think it is less embarrassing than biting people, don't you?" She looked at me with her big blue eyes. So cute and yet so dangerous. I said, "Besides, the other children will be so happy that you are not biting them."


Implementing the Strategy

I explained the new strategy to the daycare teachers. She always had her "biting stick" near her and whenever she got frustrated and wanted to bite, she would bite the stick. Oddly, instead of ridiculing her for it, all the other children wanted their own biting sticks.

This makes me wonder if, at that age, maybe there is an urge in most children to express frustration, but most children control their impulses, and yet the idea of having an outlet is sort of a dream come true.

At any rate, the day I bought the "biting stick" was the day the biting stopped. And if she forgot her biting stick at home, the daycare teacher would improvise by having her bite a stuffed animal.

A friend had a problem with her son biting when he was 4 years old and I told her about my solution.  She ended up using dog chew toys to resolve her problem.  However, it worked like a charm for her as well.

It was truly like magic.  I would not have thought that something so simple could hold the solution to such a challenging problem.  You can't really reason with a toddler or young child, but when given an appropriate alternative, the child will use that alternative. 

That way, my daughter was able to express her feelings of frustration and anger, but she was able to do it in a way that was not harmful to anyone or to herself.


Summary

This is the only effective way I know of to prevent a child from biting: to provide the child with a biting alternative. Some children feel a strong urge to bite when frustrated and it is important for them to learn that it is not okay to bite people or animals.

However, when given a biting alternative such as a stuffed animal, a dog chew toy, or one of the many products especially designed for children who feel the urge to bite and fidget (such as the "Chew"lery Chewable Jewelry and the Chewy Tubes Chew Stix line of products), they will use that instead.

These commercially available biting products are preferable to the PVC tubing I used since it is now known that PVC can be harmful. I wish I had known that at the time.

Since my daughter was little, I have known many children who finally stopped biting other children when given a biting alternative. It is such a seemingly simple solution, but such a huge relief to everyone involved.


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