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Ideas to help stop biting


A child biting can be a very upsetting event. Parents and caregivers often want to know why the child is biting and what they can do to stop it. Many times the initial thought is that the child is intentionally trying to hurt someone. In actuality, children under three rarely understand that a bite causes pain. They are more often biting because their mouth hurts from teething, they are over stimulated or they are angry or frustrated.  

Adults can help a child who is biting in several ways.

• Shadowing or staying close to the child without being intrusive will allow an adult to see which events trigger the biting and allow timely intervention.
• Scripting words for an idea the child wants to express will help alleviate frustration. (i.e. “That hurts. Please stop.” “No thank you.” “May I have that back please?”)
• Reinforcing the request of the child will help him feel empowered when using his words. (If the child asks for a toy back, make sure the child who took it gives it back.)
• Praising the child when he is able to problem solve without biting will show him that positive attention is much more pleasant than negative attention.
• If a bite does occur take care of the child who was bitten first, but talk with the child who bit in a timely manner. If too much time passes the child will not connect what is being said with the action of biting.

Biting is an upsetting but very normal occurrence in childhood. Helping children learn skills and options, even at a young age, can help them curb that urge to bite. For more information visit Ecels Fact Sheets  and PSU Better Kid Care

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  • Catherine Gray 5 years ago

    This article was very helpful because I am the grandmother of a child who does this. I found that this article gave me some insight on what todo and why she does it. Very well written.

  • Peggy Collins 5 years ago

    My daughter was a biter. No one could ever give me reasons why a child bites. The reasons and solutions offered in this article make sense. Wish I had this information 24 years ago! Keep the articles coming. You'll help a lot of parents. Thank you!

  • Cathie Walker 5 years ago

    Although my little one is (thankfully) past the biting stage I was still interested to learn why he did it. I wish this article was available 2 years ago when I was at the peak of my frustration!

  • Denise Kalisz 5 years ago

    I volunteer to work with our primary and nursery children at our church. This article gave me the helpful tools I will need when I have a child that bites. Thank you.