Parenting: How to curb biting habits in toddlers

July 29, 2010

A few days ago I was holding Sienna while pouring her a cup of milk and all of a sudden I feel a sharp pain on my arm.


As the word came out of my mouth, I looked over and saw Sienna giggling. Guess what? She did it again. That was lesson one. Don't react in a way that could be perceived as positive or funny.

Obviously, at a year old she is too young initially to realize what she is doing is wrong. Luckily, I was the first one she bit and it hasn't happened again. But I'd be willing to guess it's going to surface again at some point.

So how do you teach your toddler biting is wrong? Since Sienna is still learning to communicate and largely depends on facial expressions, vocal tones and reactions the best way to "discipline" her is to be consistent. In some cases, no reaction is the best reaction but biting is a bit more tricky. There needs to be some reaction considering another child may end up getting hurt if she doesn't learn that biting is not appropriate.

So how do you handle biting? Here are some tips I found from a few different resources.:

  • Look your child in the eye and use a firm "NO we don't bite."
  • If your child is old enough, give them a time out. You should use 1 minute for every year of the child's life. But even 30 seconds will do for a young toddler.
  • Make sure you teach your child to say "sorry" to the person or child he bit.
  • Remember, biting is normal. In fact, the National Association for the Education of Young Children estimates that 1 out of every ten 2-year-olds engages in biting behaviors. But if you feel your child's behavior is getting out of hand you should contact your pediatrician.
  • Now if your child is at the receiving end of a biter try to wash the bite mark right away with soap and water, even if the skin is not broken. If there is a little bleeding treat it as any other cut to avoid infection.
In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends these guidelines for disciplining infants and toddlers. These are good rules of thumb for correcting any undesirable behavior in your little ones.

Distraction and diversion are the best disciplinary measures for infants and toddlers. Changing the environment or the activity is an effective way to change your child's behavior.

Redirect any activity using a neutral voice. Infants don't understand the word or concept of "no" before they are about 9-months-old, and need frequent reminding for a long time after that.


  • Never bite or hit back
  • Redirect your baby; pull her away.
  • Show her alternative behaviors.
  • Watch for the warning cues prior to the biting and redirect her to something else.
  • Give immediate praise for behaviors you want to reinforce. Don't laugh or smile at behaviors that you do not want to continue. Be consistent in communicating what you expect.
  • Ignoring behaviors, such as whining or tantrums can be very effective. Negative behaviors are often attention-seeking behaviors, but sometimes just redirect a child
Good luck and happy parenting!

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