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Biting - Home Treatment

How to help prevent biting

Positive reinforcement helps to prevent your child from biting. Praise your child when he or she shows behaviors you want to encourage, such as sharing, being kind, showing empathy, or being patient.

Growth and Development: Helping Your Child Build Self-Esteem

When you see your child behaving well, reward him or her for that behavior. A reward does not need to be candy, toys, or other treats. A reward can be as simple as telling the child how well he or she is doing and that you appreciate cooperation or a good-natured response to a problem or frustration. For example, say "Great job! You used your words when you were angry." An enthusiastic pat on the back or a hug when the child is behaving well helps the child associate nonaggressive behavior with good things. The child will gradually realize that it feels better to get positive attention for being good than it does to get negative attention for biting or other aggressive behavior.

Also, model the behavior you would like to see in your child. Avoid angry outbursts and other forms of aggression. Set a good example by showing your child how to deal calmly with everyday frustrations. Tell your child "Next time you feel like biting someone, remember that I can help you stop before you start."

How to help a child who has been bitten

When one child bites another, first take care of the child who was bitten and give emotional support:

  • Move the child away from the situation.
  • Comfort the child within sight of the child who bit him or her.
  • Help the child express his or her feelings about being bitten, such as by saying, "It's okay to cry. Being bitten hurts."
  • Do not say, "Johnny was bad to bite you."

Examine the area where the child was bitten. Most bites from children are not harmful and leave little, if any, evidence. A tooth mark on the skin or slight bruising may appear, which usually does not require medical attention. Tender loving care and an ice pack on the bite are most often all that is needed.

In rare cases, a bite from a child will pierce the skin and bleed. If this happens, call your child's doctor.

For more information on treating bites, see the topic Animal and Human Bites.

How to respond to a child who bites

When your child bites, let him or her know that biting is not acceptable. React to the biting incident in a dramatic way (but without violence or aggression). If you were the one bitten, overreact to the pain. If your child bit someone else, react with a firm voice and stern facial expression. Say, "No! We do not bite." Many children are as shocked and upset as the person who has been bitten, because they may not be aware that biting hurts.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 08, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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