Archive for January, 2011

When Little Ones Bite Others

January 4, 2011

When our children bite others, we feel helpless and probably need some help to correct this before something really harmful happens!  Much of this information comes from the television show, “The Doctors”, and I think it might be useful to parents and baby sitters.  Take a look at this YouTube entry entitled ‘Charlie, the Biter’.  (  The boys are cute aren’t they, and Charlie appears to be too young to respond to corrective measures, doesn’t he?  Why did Charlie bite?  Probably just curious and trying out new behaviors at first, but when the brother puts his finger in Charlie’s mouth, the bite is more serious, and probably motivated as much as anything by ‘attention getting’.  So, why do children bite and what are we to do about it? (From:

  • Exploration: Children learn by touching, smelling, hearing, and tasting. Biting is another way to explore the world.
  • Cause and effect: Children at this age are exploring what happens when they do something; that curiosity includes biting. They may not realize that biting can hurt others.
  • Attention: Children may bite to get attention. Biting is quick way to become the center of attention, even if it is negative attention.
  • Imitation: Children may see other children biting and decide to try it themselves.
  • Independence: Children at this age are trying hard to be independent. Biting can be a quick way to get a toy you want, or example, or to make another child leave.
  • Frustration: Growing up can be stressful, especially for young children who don’t have control of their bodies yet and have not yet learned to find the words to express their feelings. At times, children may resort to hitting, pushing, or biting when they don’t have the ability to talk about their frustration.
  • Stress: A child’s world can be stressful. Biting can be a way to express feelings and relieve tension that results from stressful events such as a divorce, death of a pet, or starting a new preschool.
  • Self-defense: Some children bite because other children have bitten or shown aggression toward them.

First:  Don’t ever bite the baby back!  You may reason this will teach the child  not to bite, and in fact, it probably does just the opposite – you teach the child that it’s OK to bite someone as you’ve just demonstrated.  Don’t ever bite the baby back!

Secondly: Respond naturally, emphatically and loudly:  “Ouch, That Really Hurt!”  And, then resist the temptation to lecture (more attention).  Instead, after responding, walk away from the baby for a short time.

Thirdly:  A recommendation from one of the doctors:  When you anticipate the baby is going to bite, lift the baby’s arm into a position where the child bites him/her self.

Fourthly:  If biting persists beyond about age three, seek a professional to help correct this behavior.

Finally, this should not be ignored after one or two times of a child’s biting.  Quick responses are valuable here!  Good luck!