Biting is common in young children, but it’s still alarming to parents and caregivers. Learn why children bite, and learn how you can help prevent biting.

Help! My child is biting

Biting Child Teething Baby

Did you know that as many as 20 percent of infants, 56 percent of toddlers and 23 percent of preschoolers engage in biting?

Don’t worry! This is normal behavior until around age three, when children develop better language skills and impulse control. Nonetheless, biting is alarming to parents and caregivers of the biters and the bitten.

Why is My Child Biting?

  • They’re teething. Four- to 15-month-old children who are teething will chomp on just about anything to relieve gum ache, including mom’s breast or shoulder - ouch! Offer the infant other cold teething objects or teething biscuits to gnaw on. If breast feeding, say, “Ow, no!” and put down the infant.
  • They want attention. Children ages 9 to 15 months old start to learn about cause and effect. They may enjoy the large reaction to the bite - negative attention is better than no attention to a child. Always give lots of positive warm attention and help them play with toys to learn about cause and effect. 
  • Toddlers don’t like to share. Be sure to have many toys per child and let the toddler choose the toy, to have power and control. Give them a different toy when one is taken away. Non-verbal children can imitate trade, rather than imitate biting.

Ways to Help Prevent Biting

  • Feed children every three hours so they don’t get extremely hungry or fussy.
  • Consistent routines are calming. Give kids positive individual attention multiple times daily. 
  • Use group activities to calm children down, especially after energetic play time. Singing songs and reading books are both great ideas.
  • Puppets or people can model "nice words" and "nice hands."
  •  Teach young children words like "mine" and "no" to express their feelings. A preverbal child can even be taught to growl like a tiger. Teach assertiveness and communication but not aggression.

Be a Role Model

  • Reinforce the rule, "We do not hurt people."
  • Don’t bite or hit the child as punishment. It will teach them that violence is okay.
  • Puppet shows and role playing can all help model positive interactions.


About the Author

Dr. Fanya Nori Seagull has been with Sentara Pediatric Physicians since 2006. In 2012, she moved to Virginia Beach with her husband and two children to be part of the community in which she works. Dr. Seagull is a compassionate pediatrician and has special interests in children’s literacy, breast-feeding, bedwetting, ADHD and promoting life-long healthy habits.


About Sentara Pediatric Physicians

At Sentara Pediatric Physicians, we understand that keeping your children healthy is more than just treating them when they have a cold. That's why we partner with you through every step of your child's development. And with locations throughout Southeastern Virginia, access to quality care is closer to your home than ever before. Find a Sentara Pediatric Physicians location near you or schedule an appointment today.