When Little Kids Bite

WhenGuest Post by Alison Smith
When Little Kids Bite©

Why does she do it?
How can I handle it?
When will it stop?

A parent asks:

“My daughter is just under 2 years old. I think usually it’s due to tiredness and teething pain however I’m not sure that’s the only reason, as she sometimes lashes out too. She calmly bit my hand yesterday, hard enough to leave a bruise. She forgets what she did a minute after it happens though. 

We have a special chewing teether which I offer as a substitute for biting me but it’s too late by then. She bit a child at daycare the other day, which left a mark, then laughed. I really need some advice on how to tackle this issue before she really hurts another child.”


These are excellent questions. Many kids bite to some degree at this age.*

* As with any concern you have, be sure to rule out physical reasons and if you suspect the behaviour is outside the realm of typical for their age, consult with a developmental specialist, such as an occupational therapist or ask your family doctor for a referral.

1. Look at the big picture
What is your child like when rested, fed and happy? Are there changes or stress in her life right now? Are there other related behaviours causing you worry?

2. Look for what’s behind the biting to decide on your course of action
For example, if the biting is due to teething, we handle it differently than if she’s frustrated. Could she be getting overstimulated? Tired? Needing connection? My own kids can get quite grumpy and uncooperative when they’re hungry. We make sure we have snacks if we are going to be out for a while. Your solution depends on the underlying need(s).

3. Observe. A lot.

What is happening in the time leading up to the biting? Are there patterns? Observation is your most important tool. This is how you will discover the need she is attempting to fill. For example, is she just discovering ‘cause and effect’? For example, “When I bite, people do interesting stuff like shriek and jump. I feel so powerful when I can make things happen.”

Perhaps she needs more relief for her sore mouth? Yet others will bite when feeling overwhelmed.

4. Meet the need(s).

A met need is just that…met. If it’s met, we can stop trying. This is such a simple concept, but we often forget it in the busyness of daily life. Don’t be tempted to punish. That will backfire.

5. Prevention is your ally
Watch for signs she is moving in for a chomp. Calmly say, “I won’t let you bite. It hurts.” If she routinely gets tired after lunch, organize a nap or quiet play. If nursery school is overstimulating, work with staff to ensure quiet breaks more often.

6. Communicate with childcare providers.
Good daycare providers will understand that little ones sometimes bite. They should be aware of helpful prevention and response strategies. Let them know what you notice at home and what helps. Ask them what is working for them, too. Be consistent in your approach, when possible.

7. Rest easy knowing that it doesn’t last forever.
The biting will stop when that behaviour is no longer filling a need.

Be sure to let me know how it goes!

Alison Smith is a certified parenting coach, teacher and mom of two. She lives with her family in New Brunswick, Canada. Alison helps parents raise happy, confident kids in a way that leaves both parent and child feeling empowered. Learn 20 fun and simple ways to connect with your kids while increasing cooperation, plus get weekly modern parenting tips, direct to your inbox. www.AlisonSmithCoaching.com/freeguide

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