When your child bites, what do YOU do?

What do you do when your child bites? Biting is something a lot of children do, it’s a reflex action, a sign of anxiety, sometimes a way of getting attention, or because of sensory issues or teething pain, or because they can’t communicate their feelings. It’s incredibly common and happens more often than we like to admit. As a mum and as someone who has worked with children, I know it happens. I was the mum of what we used to fondly call a baby vampire. I was the one running the toddler groups but also having to stop my kid from biting the other kids.

when your child bites

The way I see it, you have three options:

  • Bite them back, apparently, some parents swear by this method, I personally feel uncomfortable with it, but I am not judging, just sharing what I have been told is something other parents do.
  • Don’t react, and ignore the biting, I have been told this too, that it’s a phase, it will pass. (not sure how I feel about this one either)
  • Firmly address the biting, when they are little with some simple instructions they can understand and remove them from the situation, and then make sure you stay on top of the child, in situations where biting may occur, and when they are old enough talk to them about when they feel they want to bite, about how to deal with that (as we are doing now) and also remove them from situations when biting occurs and firm discussions on why biting is not kind.

For us biting happened when our son was very unhappy or overwhelmed usually if he was in busy places and the children around him were in his space. Because he had speech issues, he would get frustrated and bite. This meant I had to watch him carefully and keep on top of him, and try and redirect him and prevent the biting from happening. It wasn’t fun but it did eventually ease and stop. I have a lot of sympathy for parents of children who bite, it’s stressful and challenging. I found providing him with things that he could play with or distract him with helped.

So how do you handle it when your child, or a child you care for bites? What would you do, and what strategies do you use? Do you think you should bite them back, and that will stop them from doing it again, or do you handle it with verbal firmness and a time out?

Posted in Family Life and Parenting and tagged biting, discipline, parenting.


  1. For me I’d be torn between 1 and 3 but don’t think I could actually do it and not sure I agree with the message. I think ignoring babies that bite is fine but when a child is old enough to know whether their behaviour is acceptable then they need to be made aware that biting is not. I personally however would not make a massive deal out of it but would probably treat it the same as if they had hit. I think we as parents are more concerned by the biting as the results are worse butto the biter it’s probably not much different. I think you handled the soft play incident perfectly. These kids are sent to try us!!! Xxx

  2. My daughter went through a bitey phase for a week or so, we went with Option 3 and she learned very quickly it was not acceptable. I don’t think she was really trying to be naughty, she just discovered she could do it and was curious!
    I personally can’t understand Option 1, it seems like it is sending mixed signals to me! “You can’t bite when you are unhappy, but its okay for Mummy to do it”

  3. We only had two biting incidences with our almost 5yo when she was about 2½. The first time she was at nursery and given a stern talking to and time out. The second time she caused her friend such obvious pain, she clearly felt awful about it. A few times she looked like she was going to bite (always when she was really over excited) but I’d intervene before it happened, distract her and stop it in its tracks.

    Personally I’d never bite back as I don’t think it sends very good messages to the child. My friend went down this path and bitterly regrets it now.

    Good luck! Hope it’s a short lived phase…

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