How To Handle Biting

Biting is a behavior typically seen in children ages infants-2 years old. As children get older, they begin to learn self-control, impulse control, and have the vocabulary to voice their needs. While this behavior is seen as normal, it is still alarming and potentially harmful.

Grown ups often forget that biting is a form of communication. Children will bite for numerous reasons including being upset, teething, seeking attention, to communicate unmet needs, or to see what reaction they may get.

If you have a biter, a few things you can do are to maintain realistic expectations of your child and their age and what their current verbal communication skills are. Offer alternative appropriate things to bite such as a teething ring, wet washcloth or crunchy apple to satisfy the oral sensation they may crave. Give reminders of what behaviors you expect and praise them when choosing the positive behavior. Aim to create an environment that is conducive to relaxing and calming their body so a child is not biting out of overstimulation.

If your child gets bit, it is important that the caregiver go over to the children, get on their level, and separate the children. Respond to the child who bit with a stern, firm voice saying “No. We do not bite. Biting hurts.” Then respond to the child who was bit with a calm, sincere voice saying “I am sorry you are hurting. Let’s clean the bite and get ice.” Once both children have calmed and are now in an executive state, go over what happened with both children. Try and figure out the biter’s triggers, have the biter ask the bitee how they are feeling/how they can help, and talk about other solutions to the problem. This is a great learning moment to teach empathy and have children start to voice how they will/won’t allow others to treat them.

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