Why children bite and what to do

Many children go through a phase of biting and it can take their parents completely by surprise. Children who behave in this way can be labelled from a very early age as aggressive and troubled and can be blamed in many nursery and school social situations. While biting isn’t a nice habit for any toddler or child to pick up, it sometimes isn’t the naughty, disobedient behaviour many people put it down to be. Here are five reasons children bite and how you can stop it before it gets any worse.

Angry child

To defend themselves

Biting is a natural reaction to being in a frightening or threatening situation and some kids will use it to defend themselves in social situations at nursery, school or playgroup. Even minor arguments in play areas can result in biting, but at such a young age it is the most effective way children have of telling others to back off. Feeling threatened or anxious is very frightening for a child and it is natural for them to want to protect themselves, even if it is at the expense of another child. Try and find out if there has been any problems or arguments with other children prior to your child’s biting. You will probably find there was, even if it was just over a toy at playgroup, which explains the reason behind the incident. Watch your child carefully around others for the next few weeks and if a disagreement starts when they are with other children, remove them to avoid any biting.


Toddlers and young children are pushing the boundaries and experimenting constantly to see what is acceptable and what they can get away with. Biting can be part of this and will not want to hurt or upset whoever they bite, just provoke a reaction. This type of biting can usually be stopped immediately by letting your child know that it is not acceptable. Once they have realised that biting is not allowed they have completed their experiment and will move on!


Many children will use biting as a way to get noticed and as a channel by which to vent frustration. If your child is naturally quiet and placed in a loud social environment such as a nursery where every child is fighting to get noticed, biting may occur and be nothing more than an “I’m here! Don’t forget about me!” plea. All that is needed is to make sure your child has enough attention, even if it is a quick chat or cuddle so they don’t feel biting is necessary anymore.

Being affectionate

Believe it or not biting can be used by children as a way of showing love and affection. Small toddlers have very little way of showing their emotions and so use this to show their loved ones how they feel in a similar way domestic animals do. It is something they will normally grow out of as soon as they can speak but is definitely not a cause for alarm. If it is only the mother or main care giver who is bitten this is most likely what is happening and showing them other ways to be affectionate such as cuddling or squeezing a hand can work well and stop the biting.


Some young children will bite as a way to control other children around them. This needs to be treated in a different and more stern way than any of the methods above. By biting, some children can frighten others and scare them into giving up possessions or performing actions. Children with this reason behind their biting should be told firmly that this behaviour is not acceptable. They should be reprimanded if they carry on, with methods such as time out, until they realise the biting cannot be tolerated.

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