Most toddlers outgrow biting when they learn to communicate effectively with words.

Lessons for Toddlers About Biting

by Holly L. Roberts

Watching your baby's first teeth appear is magical. Watching those tiny teeth clamp down on another toddler -- that's not exactly a mommy pride moment. Take a deep breath: Your child isn't a little monster. Biting is normal for toddlers who still haven't mastered the art of expressing themselves verbally and usually stops as little kids learn to use their words, according to Still, it's not the kind of habit that you want to ignore, so cluing your toddler in to appropriate behavior with lessons about biting might be on your to-do list after a chomping incident.

If Your Child Is Biting

The best lesson to teach a biting child is empathy, so if your child bites you or a friend, let him know he's caused pain and give him a chance to help soothe it, recommends Elizabeth Pantley, author of "Gentle Baby Care," on the website Say something like, "No biting, biting hurts. Hugs feel good. Why don't you give Sam a hug?" Sometimes toddlers bite just because they can -- they want to know what happens. Approaching the lesson with calmness and kindness may be all you need to nip biting in the bud.

If Your Child Is in the Habit of Biting

One or two bites aren't a big deal, but if your child is developing a pattern of biting, you may need to step up the intensity of your lessons. Persistent biting calls for a time out, according to Say, "Biting hurts, and we don't hurt our friends. You need to come sit with me." Later, reinforce the lesson: "It made me sad when you bit Susie on the playground. Biting hurts. What would you do if Susie bit you?" If you know your child has gotten into the habit of biting, watch him for potential biting moments and jump in to redirect him. Redirection is still one of the most effective ways to manage toddler biting, according to a review published in the journal "Young Children" in 2006.

If Another Child Is Biting

Kids bite, so your toddler is just as likely to be the victim of a bite as the perpetrator. Teach your child to stand up for herself without biting back. Dan Gartrell, author of the book "The Power of Guidance: Teaching Social-Emotional Skills in Early Childhood Classrooms," recommended via online chat on the National Association for the Education of Young Children website that children who feel threatened by a biter hold up one hand and clearly and loudly say "Stop it." Practicing this with your toddler may help her feel more confident and help her avoid bites.

What Not to Do

It's tempting to give your child a taste of her own medicine by nipping her back, but biting your child sends the wrong message, warns Pantley. And don't assume that she's biting because she wants to hurt another child. Most biting is born out of immaturity, not aggression, so focus on guiding your child, not punishing her.


About the Author

Holly Roberts is an award-winning health and fitness writer whose work has appeared in health, lifestyle and fitness magazines. Roberts has also worked as an editor for health association publications and medical journals. She has been a professional writer for more than 10 years and holds a B.A. in English and an M.A. in literature.

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