What to Do About Biting
Many young children go through a biting phase that is troubling to parents. Time usually solves the problem, although there are things parents can do to help prevent and solve this problem.
Why does my child bite?
Biting happens for many reasons with different children in a variety of circumstances. Here are a few reasons why children bite:
- Exploration: Children learn by touching, smelling, hearing, and tasting. Biting is another way to explore the world.
- Cause and effect: Children at this age are exploring what happens when they do something; that curiosity includes biting. They may not realize that biting can hurt others.
- Attention: Children may bite to get attention. Biting is quick way to become the center of attention, even if it is negative attention.
- Imitation: Children may see other children biting and decide to try it themselves.
- Independence: Children at this age are trying hard to be independent. Biting can be a quick way to get a toy you want, or example, or to make another child leave.
- Frustration: Growing up can be stressful, especially for young children who don’t have control of their bodies yet and have not yet learned to find the words to express their feelings. At times, children may resort to hitting, pushing, or biting when they don’t have the ability to talk about their frustration.
- Stress: A child’s world can be stressful. Biting can be a way to express feelings and relieve tension that results from stressful events such as a divorce, death of a pet, or starting a new preschool.
- Self-defense: Some children bite because other children have bitten or shown aggression toward them.
Is biting common in children?
Many children between the ages of 14 months and 3 years go through a biting phase that usually disappears when they can express their needs and feelings through words. Parents who stay calm, respond appropriately, and encourage children to express themselves with words instead of biting can help guide children through this phase.
Reprinted with the permission of the University of Missouri. © 2008 — Curators of the University of Missouri
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