Toddler Biting

Are you frustrated with a toddler who is biting? Know you are not alone!

Biting is a normal part of a child’s development which usually occurs between the ages of 1-3. Young children begin to bite for many reasons. The majority of biting occurs to fulfill a need or to cope with a challenge. The good thing to consider is most biting is not intended to be malicious and it is a stage that the majority of toddlers will soon outgrow.

If biting occurs, it could be because the child is:

  • In pain from teething. This can cause a toddler to begin biting because it helps relieve the swollen gums.
  • Exploring the world! Very young children often explore the world by putting objects of interest in their mouth.
  • Expressing strong feelings. Toddler’s with a lack of language skills may use biting as a way to express that she has strong feelings about something she wants.
  • Communicating needs such as frustration. Biting is a way a toddler can say ”leave me alone,” ”I am frustrated” or ”I want my toy back”.
  • Wanting to get your attention. Although biting will receive negative attention it is still a way of being noticed.

Here is what you can do if biting is an issue:

  1. Evaluate the situations in which your child bit someone. Attempt to determine the reason for the behavior and remove the object/cause. Ensure she is being monitored in situations where biting may occur.
  2. Redirect the biting behavior. Help your child express what he is trying to say by teaching him the words to say so he can label what he is feeling. Have a cold teether or washcloth available for a baby or toddler that is teething or needs to chew.
  3. Teach empathy. Shift the attention away from the child doing the biting and focus on the person who has been bitten, begin to show your child cause and effect by saying “when you bite it hurts”. Do not “bite your child back” this only reinforces the behavior.
  4. Support coping skills. Give your child age–appropriate choices so he can begin to feel in control of situations. Teach your child small phrases to say if he needs physical space from others, such as “leave me alone” or “back up”.
  5. If your child’s bite breaks the skin of another person, be sure to seek medical assistance as human bites can lead to serious infections.