How to Help Your Child Stop Biting

It is common for a child to bite others at some point during their early years. Our family has recently experienced this issue with our toddler.

I have found that young children may bite for a variety of reasons:

  • Lack of play skills: a child might feel overwhelmed by the proximity of other children or expectation to share toys
  • Attention: a child might bite because biting causes a big reaction from adults
  • Teething: a child might bite to relieve pain from new teeth coming in
  • Overwhelming emotions: a child may not know how to express emotions such as feeling hungry, tired, scared or anxious

Here are some suggestions for things to try at home:

  • Help your child learn and practice how to join others in play, take turns, share, communicate with other children, and get help if he or she needs it.
  • Keep your reaction to biting non-emotional, short and uninteresting as possible. An adult’s big reaction can be reinforcing for the child.  (this was the issue with our son)
  • If your child is biting because he is teething, offer crunchy, healthy foods. Give him teething ring or cloth to chew on.
  • I also found a neat book at the library: Teeth Are Not For Biting  author Elizabeth Verdick.
  • Avoid playful raspberries and any pretend biting, which may overexcite the child causing him to bite.

If your child bites another child, first attend to the hurt child. By attending to the hurt child, you are not giving attention to the child who bit. Include your child in caring for the hurt child by letting them get an ice pack, carry a bandage, or bring the hurt child a stuffed animal for comfort.

by Victoria Neuman, NP, ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics in Appleton