Biting is a common childhood behavior. It’s upsetting for adults and children alike, but the American Psychological Association says that nearly half of all children in child care have been bitten at some point.  

What if your child is biting?

Respond immediately

If your child bites another child, pay attention first to the child who has been bitten. Comfort that child and make sure they are not badly hurt.

Then tell the child who bit that biting hurts, and it is not allowed. Remove this child from the situation as quickly as possible.

Once the children have calmed down, encourage your child to apologize. If your child was bitten, encourage him or her to accept the apology and forgive the other child. 

Most kids grow out of biting. There are things you can do to avoid biting, or to avoid having it happen again.

Help your child express feelings

Biting, like plenty of other inappropriate behaviors, can be a way for small children to express feelings they don’t know how to deal with. Help your child to express anger and frustration with words or gestures. Choose words or gestures that are acceptable to you and to their preschool teachers or other caretakers. For example, they might cross their arms, stamp their feet, or say, “I’m angry.”

This classic Sesame Street song tells kids that it’s okay to get mad. Kids could sing this song when they feel mad. 

Redirect energy

Kids could also do something that doesn’t usually express anger, such as counting. We’ve all heard the advice to count to ten before saying something when we feel angry. Kids can benefit from this advice, too. 

Other actions could be stepping away from the situation and taking some time to regain their composure, talking to a stuffed animal, or drawing. 

If a child continues biting, look for triggers. A child who bites only at daycare may feel anxiety in that setting. It may be necessary to change the situation. The child should still be told, “No biting! Biting hurts.” But changes in the environment are worth considering.

Continued biting

If your child continues biting even after you’ve taken these actions, there may be underlying issues. 

Talk with your pediatrician if you are concerned about biting. Regular checkups help you catch developmental issues early and deal with them effectively. If you skipped check ups during the pandemic, this is a good time to get back on track.