Biting is a behavior that has been feared by parents since their baby’s first teeth started to sprout. It’s awful when it happens, especially if the ‘bitee’ is another child, friend, or family member. However, it’s important to understand that this action isn’t random, there is a reason they are biting and we must learn that before we can correctly change this behavior. As this is not often talked about, it’s important to remember that this is a natural process of growing up. Every child goes through a biting phase and the sooner you can correct this behavior the better. But it is by no means something rare, or a sign that your child has bad intentions. It is simply something they go through, and with the right guidance will grow out of quickly.

Why Kids Bite

Toddlers and young children bite for a variety of reasons, some of the most common include:

  • Exploration: Young children are curious, and they have to be. They are just beginning to understand the world they have become a part of. Biting is one way to explore different textures and sensations, even if it hurts. 
  • Communication: Toddlers are still developing their language skills and can use biting as a way to express anger, frustration, and (while it might not seem like it) affection. 
  • Teething: When they are younger biting is also a way to fend off the pain of teething. This is why we suggest buying a good teether so they get more used to biting that, rather than others. 
  • Attention-seeking: Children want the spotlight to always be on them, especially from their parents. If they ever feel neglected they may bite as a way of acting out. 

Strategies to Stop Kids from Biting

Addressing biting behavior requires a dedicated approach that combines understanding, patience, and consistent reinforcement of positive behaviors. Here are some of the best strategies we have come across in working with biting children:

Teach Alternative Behaviors

You should encourage your child to express their feelings in other ways that don’t consist of hurting others. Use simple language and physical cues to help them understand that biting is not the way to communicate how they feel.

Keep Calm

You should not get angry at your child as they may not understand why you are angry. As we mentioned earlier they may be biting to show you affection, and if you get angry at them they’ll associate anger with that emotion.

Provide Positive Reinforcement

You can’t just get upset or teach lessons when they do something wrong. Make sure to cheer them on when they do good things as well. This will help them understand that good behavior garners praise, and they’ll make sure to continue behaving in the best way possible. 

Set Clear Boundaries

Kids need boundaries, it’s something they crave, which is why they are constantly testing limits. As long as you keep consistent, and clear boundaries for them to follow, eventually they will learn what they can and can’t do. 

Team Them Empathy

You can teach your child to be empathetic by discussing with them the impact their biting has on others. This is much more suited to older toddlers who can understand how biting might hurt someone’s feelings, or cause them pain.

Provide Safe Outlets for Teething

If they are biting because of teething, make sure to buy good teethers that they can chew on. It’s important to pick something they like so they only bite on that and not others. 

Consistency Is Key

You must stay consistent in your message that biting is unacceptable. If you waiver even for a little, your child will continue trying to push the boundaries and this can leak into other behavior problems later on. 

Seek Support

If your child continues to bite and there is no end in sight do not hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician, child psychologist or parenting support groups. You are not alone and you have a team of people waiting to help!

By keeping up with these strategies you can effectively stop your child from biting and create positive behaviors that will continue into early childhood. Remember that every child is unique, and it may take time to find the correct approach. Many parents with multiple children can tell that some techniques work on one child, and are lost on the other. Simply stay consistent, be patient, and remember to keep those boundaries up so your child understands right from wrong. Your child is learning the world the same way we all did, through exploration and trial and error. You as the parent are there to guide them and help them along the way, and if you ever need extra support, be sure to reach out to your Coastal Kids pediatrician, that’s what we’re here for!