Toddler biting: how to stop children from biting

Toddler biting: how to stop children from biting

Biting is very common among children ages 18 months to three years. Most biting reflects not only a toddler's feelings, but also her limited expressive language. A five-year-old may say, "Leave that alone. It's mine!" but a younger child may defend her turf with her teeth.

Why children bite

Biting is an emotional topic for parents. It seems so primitive and unmannered, and lots of parents think it indicates a disturbed child. Nothing gets a kid kicked out of daycare or off the birthday party list quicker than being identified as a biter. Sometimes children will bite when they're excited or even happy. At this age children usually act without thinking of the consequences. In fact, when one child bites another, the one who bit is often as surprised and upset as the one who was bitten.

Helping a child who bites

Don't wait even a few minutes to talk to your child when she bites another. Toddlers have short attention spans, so they need clear and immediate feedback. Avoid vague statements like "Now, be nice to your sister," because a toddler may not see the link between that and her biting.


Try this: "No! We can bite apples or sandwiches, but we never bite people!"

Biting back will not work. It only teaches her that biting is acceptable behavior. She won't understand her parent's aggression and is likely just to be scared without learning anything.

Adapted from Toddlers and Preschoolers by Lawrence Kutner, Ph.D. (Avon, 1994).


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Biting is a game

Jessssbee1245 1/10/2016
My son is 14 months old, and bites me on my hands, feet, shoulder, anywhere he can get to. I tell him "no biting, that hurts!" and he loves the reaction. If I jump away or say anything, he smiles like its a funny game, and then it turns into chasing after me to grab some skin to nibble on. I was trying to avoid time-outs or any separation, but not sure what to do.


I didn't know a child can bite out of excitement. That explains a little something for my daughter...


We always tell our little boy "Teeth are for food, not for friends!"

Two biters

Both of my children were biters. My daughter would bite in anger or frustration. My son would bite because he seemed to like the reaction it got. I used the same technique with both of them: when they bit, I would set them down and move away saying, "No biting! You hurt me!" Neither of them like the separation and would come back to me for a hug. My son stopped biting quickly, but my daughter took longer because her biting was instinctual and she didn't have self-control yet.


My son used to bite me extremely hard (13-17 months). I was to the point my arms and legs were spotted with bruises. Saying, "No, biting hurts mommy!" was not working, so I started with a very short time-out every time he bit me at about 16 months. He's on the cusp of 18 months and the biting has gotten much better. I'm no longer afraid of his hugs including a big bite, but man it is a difficult thing to deal with.

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