Most children younger than age 3 bite someone else at least once. Most children stop biting on their own. Biting that happens past age 3 or that occurs frequently at any age may need treatment. Biting isn't always intentional, and a bite from a child rarely causes serious injury to another person or poses any health risks.
Children bite other people for different reasons, depending on their age.
Biting occurs in a variety of situations, most often when many children are together, such as at daycare. Most biting can be prevented when adults help children find better ways to express their feelings.
A child of any age who frequently bites other children may need special arrangements for daycare. If biting becomes an ongoing problem, parents may be asked to take their child out of a daycare centre.
Biting in young children usually doesn't lead to behaviour problems at a later age. But children who bite others often and act aggressively in other ways, especially if they are older than age 3, may have health problems or emotional issues. These children should be seen by a doctor.
Not all biting can be prevented. What you can do to reduce biting depends on how old your child is and why he or she bites. For example:
Learn to recognize the signs that your child is about to bite. You may be able to stop the biting before it happens if you can distract or redirect your child. Don't try to reason with young children or have long talks about biting. Use simple and direct language.
Positive reinforcement also helps. Praise your child when he or she shows behaviours that you want to encourage, such as sharing, being kind, or being patient. A reward can be as simple as giving your child a hug or a pat on the back and telling the child how well he or she is doing.
Be sure to model the behaviour you would like to see in your child. Avoid angry outbursts, and set a good example by showing your child how to deal calmly with everyday frustrations. When a child bites:
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Learning about biting:
Other Works Consulted
American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Anger, aggression, and biting section of Behavior. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 565–570. New York: Bantam.
American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health (1998, reaffirmed 2014). Guidance for effective discipline. Pediatrics, 101(4): 723–728. DOI: 10.11542/peds.2014-2679. Accessed November 5, 2014.
Brazelton TB (2006). Eighteen months. In Touchpoints, Birth to Three: Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development, 2nd ed., chap. 11, pp. 164–178. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.
Canadian Paediatric Society (2008). A bite in the playroom: Managing human bites in child care settings. Paediatrics and Child Health, v13(6): 515–519. Also available online: http://www.cps.ca/english/statements/ID/ID08-04.pdf.
Goldson E, et al. (2014). Child development and behavior. In WW Hay Jr et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 75–116. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Howard B (2005). Biting others. In S Parker et al., eds., Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics: A Handbook for Primary Care, 2nd ed., pp. 136–138. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Sonnett FM, et al. (2006). Mammalian bites and bite-related infections. In FD Burg et al., eds., Current Pediatric Therapy, 18th ed., pp. 200–204. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - PediatricsDonald Sproule, MDCM, CCFP - Family MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerSusan C. Kim, MD - PediatricsLouis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Current as ofJuly 26, 2016
Current as of: July 26, 2016
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
& Donald Sproule, MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
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