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    Updated at March 10th, 2023


    DisclaimerThis material is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it. It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor does it replace the advice or counsel of a doctor or health care professional. Reference to a specific commercial product or service does not imply endorsement or recommendation of that product or service by CPCMG.


    • The bad habit of biting people
    • One of the most unacceptable of aggressive behaviors

    Health Information


    • Children usually discover biting by chance when they are about 1 year old and teething. Many children first learn to bite others by biting their parents in a playful manner. The biting will continue if the parents initially think it is cute and turn it into a game.
    • Later, children may bite when they are frustrated and want something from another child. For children with limited verbal skills, biting can become a primitive form of communication. After a child is 2 or 3 years old, biting can become a deliberate way to intimidate others and get their way.

    Adult Reactions to Biting

    • Being attacked by a biter can be scary to a child.
    • The parent of the child who has been bitten is usually very upset. They may be worried about bad infections.
    • If biting happens in a child care setting, the other parents may want the biter to be expelled. If it happens in someone else’s home, the child is often told never to return.
    • Adults tend to forget that some biting behavior in a group of toddlers is to be expected.

    Prevention of Biting

    • First, never give in to your child’s demands because of biting.
    • The best time to stop biting behavior from becoming a habit is when the biting first starts.
    • Be sure that no one laughs when your child bites. Avoid any “love-bites” or nipping games. Reason: Your child will not understand how they are different from painful biting.
    • Make sure that child care providers understand your approach and are willing to follow it.

    Care Advice

    1. Clarify the Rule: “No Biting”:
      • Give your child a simple reason for the rule: “Biting hurts. We do not hurt other people”.
    2. Interrupt Biting with a Sharp “No”:
      • When your child bites someone, intervene immediately. Be sure to use an unfriendly voice and look your child straight in the eye. You need to have zero tolerance for biting.
      • Sometimes if he looks as if he is going to bite someone, interrupt before he actually does it. Do not wait until the victim is hurt or screaming.
      • This is one behavior where punishment for intent may be needed. Close supervision of your child will be necessary until you are sure biting is no longer a risk.
    3. Give a Time-Out When He Bites Someone:
      • Send him to a boring place or corner. Require one minute per year of age in time-out.
      • If time-out does not work, take away a favorite toy or all video time for the rest of the day.
      • If he tries to bite you while you are holding him, say “No.” Always put him down immediately and walk away (another form of time-out).
    4. Never Bite Your Child for Biting Someone Else:
      • Biting back will make your child upset that you hurt him. It also teaches him that it is okay to bite if you are bigger.
      • Also do not wash your child’s mouth out with soap.
      • Never pop his cheek or slap his mouth. It won’t help and it might be reported as child abuse.
    5. Teach Your Child Acceptable Ways to Get What He Wants:
      • Tell your child that if he wants something, he should come to you and ask for help. Teach your child to ask for what he wants rather than take it.
      • Teach him how to take turns. Teach him how to trade one of his toys to gain use of another child’s toy.
    6. Praise Your Child for Not Biting:
      • Before you embark on any high-risk visit with other children, remind your child gently not to bite.
      • Then if he doesn’t bite, praise him afterward for being a “good friend”. Praise your child especially when he is in settings in which he used to bite.
    7. Biting in Child Care Settings - Special Instructions:
      • Biting behavior is common in child care settings. This plan can be shared with child care staff to stop the behavior in their setting.
      • Provide close supervision and quickly place the biting child in time-out, even when he looks like he is going to bite someone.
      • Reassure the staff that while biting must be stopped, it is not medically harmful. Reason: Bites from baby teeth rarely break the skin.
      • Calling the parent at work is pointless. The problem should be dealt with immediately by the person who sees it.

    Call Your Doctor If

    • Biting causes a cut that breaks the skin
    • Your child bites or hurts himself
    • Your child has many other behavior problems
    • Biting has not stopped biting after using this plan for 4 weeks
    • You have other questions or concerns


    Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP

    Copyright 2000-2020 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC