What Should I Do When My Child Bites?

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Last weekend, Elizabeth had a sleepover at her cousin’s house. She seemed to really enjoy it. But after her first day at nursery this week staff had said that she was much less willing to share than before. And even worse, she had bitten another child! I was horrified. What should I do when my child bites?

What Should I Do When My Child Bites?

What Should I Do When My Child Bites?

Biting is common, and you aren’t alone if your toddler or small child does this. In fact, it is quite often seen in small children and toddlers, because they cannot express themselves well. However, if you have an older child, this article is not for you. It may be that you have to talk to your child over why they have bitten another and seek further advice.

Why do toddlers and small children bite?

There are a lot of reasons, including

  • A little one doesn’t have the ability to vocalise or rationalise their feelings, so they lash out by hitting or biting. We had already seen this when Elizabeth was hitting herself. Children can also be easily overwhelmed and feel crowded. They cannot put into words their feelings of anger or frustration, so they bite.
  • Children aren’t old enough to have developed self control.
  • Imitation of other children’s behaviour.
  • A child is defending themselves.
  • To get attention.
  • Because they are overtired or overwhelmed.
  • A child is experimenting in how far they can go behaviourally. This is know as testing boundaries.One thing that I do know about my little girl is whilst she is only 3 she does love to test boundaries. She loves to see what she can get away with. Usually yelling all the way.

Is it preventable?

We do try to keep with routines and set mealtimes/bedtimes with E. That way she hopefully never lets overtired and hungry, which helps her behaviour. It is certainly worth looking at the situation where the biting took place. What happened? And if it recurs, is it the same situation? Or the same child?

The incident at nursery took place because E didn’t want to share space under a table with another child, and so I imagine she was a bit cranky and felt a bit overwhelmed. She couldn’t express these emotions and so she bit instead.

Learning how to share is a huge part of growing up. Being an only child, E isn’t going to need to share much at home. Except with her cousin, so I can feel more sleepovers happening!

Our parenting at home will always focus on us letting E know what behaviour we do expect. If we focus on good behaviour and praise her kindness hopefully we will see much more of that!

Interestingly there are also some books that teach about not biting.

Teeth are Not for Biting by Elizabeth Verdick


No Biting! by Karen Katz

here are some more of our favourite toddler books…

So, What Should I Do When My Child Bites?

What Should I Do When My Child Bites?

Always step in if you think a bite is about to happen. But what do you do if a child does bite?

  • Say a firm “No” or “Biting Hurts” to the child doing the biting. Let them know that biting is an unacceptable behaviour and that you expect kind behaviour.
  • Give the bitten child some attention, as this shows the child doing the biting that he/she won’t be rewarded with more attention from their behaviour.
  • Then sit and make eye contact with the child doing the biting. If you can, establish why the bite happened. Was it about sharing? Help the child express their feelings with more acceptable words and actions. In E’s case, she should have told the other child not to come into her space as she was uncomfortable with that. Biting is not an acceptable response though.
  • Do not shame or over punish a child for biting. Sometimes this leads to more recurrences.
  • And never bite back – this just gives out the message that biting is acceptable!

Sometimes we push our own children’s boundaries so do acknowledge when your child asks you to stop. It is only respectful, and it shows teaching by example. Teaching our children to tell others respectfully when their boundaries have been reached should hopefully stand them in good stead for the future.

So hopefully I’ve helped if you are asking yourself “What Should I Do When My Child Bites?”. Have I missed anything? I’d love to hear your comments. Do let me know, or find me on social media.

Having problems with potty training? Read this post.

Why not pin this for later?

What Should I Do When My Child Bites?

 

Enjoyed this? Why not read about Getting a Toddler to Take Medicine?

or 10 Ways To Help Your Child Not Be Anxious At The Dentist

 

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34 Replies to “What Should I Do When My Child Bites?”

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      I’m sure it is Karen. It will be great to read what you write about your biting experience!

      Reply
  1. Barbara says:

    I worked with many children with special needs who had behavioral issues that included biting and your suggestions are spot on.

    Reply
  2. sam says:

    Great advice, my youngest used to bite but luckily he grew out of it X #anythinggoes

    Reply
  3. Fiona Cambouropoulos says:

    Such a helpful and sensible post, I’m sure we have had the odd incident when mine were young, as you say it is not uncommon, but needs addressing. #GlobalBlogging

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Thank you. And yes, hopefully we won’t see it again now it has been addressed

      Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Thank you so much. Hopefully firm words will work for us too.

      Reply
  4. Kerr says:

    Some sound advice there…luckily my daughter was never a biter, but did go through a stage of hitting. As with everything with kids though, it was just a phase. I do, however, have a new puppy that is biting everything, I don’t suppose you have any advice about that do you?!

    Reply
  5. Lisa Pomerantz says:

    Oh if I had this some 10+ years ago! My Big, had a bestie who was a biter. We had to watch like hawks, and it seemed he would bite and break skin in between blinks. It was a very trying time and his parents didn’t do much to dissuade the behavior. It turned out, Big got too scared to make playdates and we all grew apart. #globalblogging xoxo

    Reply
  6. Sheila Yale says:

    When I worked at a daycare for young children parents would become upset about biting but just as you said, they were not able to express themselves with words. Thank you for your article. #KCACOLS

    Reply
  7. Heather Keet says:

    I worked with young toddlers for 13 years and I think the most important thing for parents to remember is that this is a normal occurrence that most children have a phase with. The less they stress and react, the more likely the biting will stop quicker. Love your tips, they are spot on with what I used to tell parents. #DreamTeam

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Thank you Heather. Hopefully she will grow out of this one!

      Reply
  8. loopyloulaura says:

    My eldest used to bite quite a lot but I think it was linked to his social anxiety and lack of ability to communicate. Once we worked on those it stopped! Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      I do think that it is a communication issue. My little girl is constantly frustrated.

      Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Me too, anything that helps you get the message across to a toddler.

      Reply
  9. Peachy & Clementine says:

    When Peachy was very little, maybe a year old or so, she went through a phase where she would bite me every time she wasn’t getting her way. It’s like she wanted to punish me for not letting her do what she wanted. I did all sorts of research and did all the things you suggested but nothing worked.
    At that point language was still a new concept so it was hard to explain to her why biting was wrong. So one day I did one of the things you said to never do. I bit her back. Somewhat hard but not to the point of bruising or breaking the skin. I regretted it instantly but you know what, it worked. She’s three now and has never bitten again. I don’t recommend this but somehow I got lucky and it didn’t make things worse. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      As you say, so much harder when they aren’t able to communicate at all. Thank you for reading!

      Reply
  10. Veronica Lee says:

    Great advice. I was told I used to be a biter when I was little! Looking back, I think it was because I had separation issues – I lived with my grandma while the rest of my siblings were with my parents. Grandma was recently widowed and at that time, Mom thought it was a good idea to have one of us live with Grandma so she wouldn’t be lonely.
    #kcacols
    Veronica Lee recently posted…HakkaMy Profile

    Reply
  11. Jennifer Cannon says:

    I had cousins that would bite me when I was growing up and I still remember it! LOL My kids never did bite but my youngest liked to hit and it was difficult to get under control.

    You have shared some great tips!
    #KCACOLS

    Reply
  12. Bread says:

    We had a book called No Fighting, No Biting but we lost it before we came home from our trip to the US. So far Snappy hasn’t bitten anyone but he dies hit himself which scares me. #kcacols

    Reply
  13. Jennifer says:

    I remember that I had an aunt that used to let the kids bite her child back if she bit them. Yes…really! I don’t think the approach worked very well from what I can remember. LOL

    #KCACOLS

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Yes, I don’t think that biting back is a good tactic!

      Reply
  14. Crummy Mummy says:

    My youngest is a bit bitey so I enjoyed reading this – I didn’t realise you could buy books about it! #DreamTeam

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      My LO loves books, so it seemed the right place to start with her!

      Reply

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