Toddlers and Biting

May 24, 2016

Biting is a very common behavior among toddlers. Children bite in order to cope with a challenge or fulfill a need. For example: it could be frustration, a need for personal space or to satisfy a need for oral stimulation. The better we understand the underlying cause of the biting will help develop an effective response. As we watch a child at play, we can begin to anticipate when a bite might occur. If we see signs that the child might be on the verge of biting we can . . .

  • Distract the child with a book or toy
  • Offer the child something that they can safely bite or chew on.

The goal is to reduce the tension and shift the child’s attention. When a biting incident occurs we must be firm without yelling. Comment on how the other child is feeling. Keep it short, simple and clear. Next, shift the attention to the child who was bitten. Often when a child bites we pay a lot of attention to him or her. This is usually negative attention but it is still very reinforcing and can actually cause the biting behavior to continue rather than stop. When we shift the focus to the child who was bitten, we clearly communicate that biting does not result in more attention.

Below are some helpful books on the topic of “Biting”

  • Teeth Are Not For Biting: by ElizabethVerdick
  • No Biting: by Karen Katz
Encouraging Independence and AutonomyOutdoor Play