1. Observe the child to help understand why the child biting. Who is being bitten? What time of day? Where is the biting taking place? What was happening? Is the child under stress?

An Infant Biter

  • is an oral being
  • mouths everything
  • bites because it feels good, just like a teether
  • does not cognitively understand the difference
  • is in a state of mistrust if punished
  • does not connect adult reaction to bite with bite
  • often will bite the same person repeatedly

Preventive Measures

  • lots of mouthable toys
  • close supervision
  • cold water teething rings
  • keeping biter away from targets (if possible)

Toddler Biter

  • toddler chronologically or developmentally
  • does not have language to control his/her world
  • uses physical action to get things
  • common when there aren’t enough toys or space
  • inability to share

Preventive Measures

  • give opportunities for tactile and sensory experiences, to empty and fill to push and pull, for chances to run
  • help the child to be more assertive verbally
  • teach toddlers to say, “No, mine.”

2. Other considerations

  • Does the child have other behavior problems? Suffering from poor nutrition? Eliminate caffeine and sugary products.

3. How to Cope:

  • Say “NO, NO! That hurts.”
  • First, give attention to victim, wash the wound, hug and kiss, apply ice. The biter can help do this – helps the child take responsibility.
  • Talk to the biter about the incident firmly, but not harshly. Keep it short and to the point. A long lecture is not necessary and probably will not be understood.
  • Have a clean rubber toy available for the child to bite. Say something like “You may not bite people, but you can bite the toy when you need to bite.”
  • Have play dough available. Pounding, rolling and hitting play dough will help release hostile feelings.
  • Give lots of praise and attention for good behavior. The more attention children receive for good behavior, the less likely they are to misbehave.

4. DO NOT . . .

  • Bite the child back. This only teaches a child to bite. Biting is wrong whether it is done by a child or an adult.
  • Do not encourage a victim to bite back.
  • Do not humiliate the biter or call the child names. This only makes the child feel worse and is ineffective in preventing the problem.
  • Do not spank. You will teach the child to hit to solve problems.