Kids & Company Blog

When Your Child Bites

One of the most upsetting social faux-pas your baby or toddler can commit in their early years is to bite another child (or adult). One baby is in tears, his or her parents are often upset that their child was used as a chew toy and the biter’s parents are embarrassed. No one wants their little one to be excluded from play-dates and birthday parties for using their teeth a bit too liberally but parents and caregivers are often unsure what to do.

One of my sons went through three (3!) separate biting stages before his 2nd birthday. He comes by this trait honestly. When I shared my frustrations with my mother, she gleefully told me that I was a terrible biter and used to hide around corners waiting for people to pass by and then lunge for their legs. Baby karma in action.

My son generally bit his twin brother, which did save us from a lot of apologies to friends but made us feel terrible for one son and very frustrated with the other. While there doesn’t seem to be a quick and easy fix for biting, here are the techniques that we used to get us through this phase.

The most effective thing we did was preventing the bite before it occurred. We noticed that my son was most likely to strike out when he was very excited, tired, hungry or seeking a few specific toys. When my son was displaying those signs, I separated the kids, sometimes putting myself between my son and his playmates or by placing them in boosters or on their own blankets. I also broke one of my own rules. Before my twins were both, I declared that I wouldn’t buy my children two of the same toys so that they would be forced to share. We still live by that credo, but in this specific instance, I found it was very useful to have a couple of duplicates that I could pull out when necessary.

Sometimes the situation changed quickly, or we missed the warning signs or I just couldn’t get to there in time and my son did bite someone. We gave my son a strong “NO” and then turned all of our attention to the child who received the bite. We consoled the child until he was calm and able to return to playing. Only then did we return to our son to remind him again that there was no biting because it hurts and that is not how we treat each other. He quickly learned that there was no attention to be gotten through biting others. This didn’t curb the biting immediately but it did help.

Some parents have told me that their children went through a biting phase while they were teething. This was not the case for us. While there were teething and biting phases that overlapped, I found that the chewing that accompanied teething was repetitive and specific to certain toys. Biting was quick and limited to people.

When all else fails, biting is a phase and your child will outgrow it eventually. One day, you’ll realize that he or she hasn’t bitten anyone in a week. Relish it! The next phase is just around the corner!

Are any of your children biters? How do you handle it? How have you dealt with your child being bitten by someone else?