What to do if your child starts biting

Read our guide to biting to nip this bad habit in the bud…

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Weaning teaches biting

As soon as you start to give your little one food, he’s learning to bite on his gums to crush and chew. “These muscles become stronger as your baby goes on to lumped food,” says Dr Miriam Stoppard OBE. “The baby’s survival depends on these muscles strengthening. Even in adulthood the masseter muscle (chewing) is one of the strongest in the body.”

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Biting helps development

During their first year a baby will almost put everything into his or her mouth. “Biting, chewing, licking and gumming are an essential part of the discovery of your baby’s world,” says Dr Miriam. “The mouth has the best developed sensory system in the whole body and your baby will use his tongue, gums and lips to investigate. He’ll turn things over to feel texture, temperature and biteability.”

Frustrated toddlers bite

When a toddler bites, he’s telling you in the only way he knows that something is not right with him. It’s not a sign that your child is a bully or a bad child. “Many toddlers use biting as a way of expressing frustration,” says Dr Miriam. But don’t worry it’s probably just a phase. “Most children will go through this quickly and will stop if shown gently and firmly that it isn’t something that is accepted.”

Treat your biting toddler with love

Children don’t understand the pain they cause, so when you’re disciplining you need to do it sympathetically. “Never scold, just use a few simple words to convey your displeasure, expressed in a serious voice, but without shouting,” says Dr Miriam. “Good behaviour needs to be reinforced so reward your little one with hugs and games,” she says. “Make every aspect of his ordinary routine a cause for celebration.”

What to do when your child gets bitten

  • Try not to get angry
  • Try not to get defensive
  • Don’t shout at the biting child
  • Don’t shout at the child’s parent
  • Stay calm, speak slowly and quietly and ask the parent to deal with it.
  • Only refer the biting problem to a higher authority, like a nursery worker or teacher, if the biting continues and, even then, ask that it be dealt with kindly.

Mums’ stories

“My 15-month-old daughter has recently started to bite me when she gets angry, hungry or is having a tantrum. I tend to ignore her and just carry on with whatever I’m doing and she usually gets over it as I’ve found that if I shout about it she only does it more!”

Bhuvana Naveen, 26, from Hayes, mum to Diya, 15 months

“When Kit was 2, he started biting kids at playgroup. I didn’t tell him off as I thought it was somehow my fault and at home I cried, thinking I was a bad mum. I thought about keeping him at home away from other children but we had to get out of the house, so I just put up with it and asked him to not to do it every time he bit. Soon he just stopped. I’d been worried he might become an aggressive child, but he’s grown into the kindest, most gentle boy.”

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Lil Mittendorfer, 40, from London, mum to Joe, 12, Zac, 10, Martin, 8, Kit, 4, and Felicity, 2

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