Welcome to the Bite Club


Ouch. Nothing hurts like finding out your kid bit someone. Biting is a common behavior problem for toddlers and preschoolers.

Chances are pretty high that at some point your child will get bitten or bite, giving you unsolicited membership into the Bite Club. As a member of this exclusive club and the mother of a lovable little biter, I’ll never forget the awful feeling that came with the knowledge that my baby bit and hurt another. However I can assure you that understanding why your child is biting and knowing what to do about it will take away some of the sting and prevent future biting behavior. 

Why do kids bite?

Strange as it sounds biting behavior often has nothing to do with anger. Emotions run high in young children and sometimes emotions that are difficult for our kids to communicate get expressed as undeserved bites that inflict pain on other children.

Biting is a form of communication that sends a strong message while speech is still developing and often goes away once your child finds words to express what they are feeling.

Knowing what cues might set off a biter can help prevent yours from biting.

  • Are they tired?
  • Are they frustrated and unable to communicate while playing with others?
  • Is your child biting to retaliate against bullying or exclusion from playtime? 

What can you do?

First and foremost it’s important to understand that biting can be an attention getter. Kids love attention so it’s important not to over react to a bite and reinforce negative behavior. I was advised to first place concern and attention on the child who received the bite to provide them with care and relay the message to the biter that biting HURTS.  Once the “bitee” has been tended to, you can discipline the biter. It’s recommended to not reinforce hurtful behavior with more hurtful behavior like spanking but to remove the child from the situation in a time out and remove rewards like playground time or treats as a consequence.

It’s important to communicate to your child that biting hurts. It’s the wrong thing to do and you don’t bite your friends. Yo Gabba Gabba has a great song with this title that has helped my biter understand that it’s the wrong way to use your teeth. 

Books are a good way to get this message through to your child and explain in multiple ways why biting is wrong. No Biting by Karen Katz is a popular one and Teeth Are Not for Biting by Elizabeth Verdick is a favorite at our house. 

Sometimes children associate “play biting” as a way of expressing affection like a puppy who nips or nibbles. Banning any play biting in your house should help avoid confusion. Explain that biting hurts. Some parents recommend biting your child to get this painful message across but only as a last resort. 

Giving your child something to bite like a chew teether or a pacifier can help. My biter rarely took a pacifier as a baby but allowing one that can be used when the urge to clamp down strikes has proven successful in our house. A pacifier can provide comfort and cue to mom when your child needs a little downtime and cuddle time. 

I’ve also heard that associating biting with something yucky by placing something unpleasant like vinegar on a child’s tongue can help. We haven’t tried this yet but I could see how this might help get the message across to older children that biting is nasty and should be avoided. Just stay away from any dangerous hot pepper sauces!

What environment is biting behavior occurring in?

At home, on play dates, at school or daycare? It’s important to get all parties on the same page with a game plan if your child is biting at school or under supervision outside the home.  Meeting with my toddler’s teachers to agree on a plan of action helped to nip his biting behavior in the bud. 

Biting is a cringe worthy phase and one I hope you avoid altogether on your parenting journey.

If you find yourself a member of the Bite Club know that you’re not alone! Already a member of this club? What have you found that worked to stop biting behavior?