How can I stop my child from biting?
Louise Chang, MD
Internist, WebMD Medical Expert
Medical Editor, WebMD
Rather than having to stop a biting incident, practice prevention so that your child will be less likely to bite in the first place.
- If your baby is teething, make sure to always have a cool teething ring or washcloth on hand so he or she will be less likely to sink teeth into someone's arm.
- Avoid situations in which your child can get irritable enough to bite. Make sure that all of your child's needs -- including eating and nap time -- are taken care of before you go out to play. Bring along a snack to soothe the savage beast if your child gets cranky from being hungry.
- As soon as your child is old enough, encourage the use of words ("I'm angry with you" or "That is my toy") instead of biting. Other ways to express frustration or anger include hugging a stuffed animal or punching a pillow. Sometimes shortening activities or giving your child a break can help prevent the rising frustration that can lead to biting and other bad behaviors.
Give your child enough of your time throughout the day (for example, by reading or playing together), so he or she doesn't bite just to get attention. Extra attention is especially important when your child is going through a major life change, such as a move or baby sibling. If your child is prone to biting, keep an eye on any playmates and step in when an altercation appears to be brewing.
Even with your best prevention efforts, biting incidents might still occur. When your child bites, firmly let your child know that this behavior is not acceptable by saying, "No. We don't bite." Explain that biting hurts the other person. Then remove your child from the situation and give the child time to cool off.
You might have heard from other parents that if your child bites you, bite your child back! This isn't good advice. Children learn by imitation. If you bite your child, the child is going to get the impression that this behavior is acceptable, and he or she will be more likely to do it again. The same goes for hitting a child for biting.
If you are unable to get your child to stop biting, the behavior could begin to have an impact on school and relationships. You or another adult might have to closely supervise interactions between your child and other kids. When biting becomes a habit, or continues past age 4 or 5, it might stem from a more serious emotional problem. Talk to your child's pediatrician, or enlist the help of a child psychologist or therapist.