Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Biting Other Children

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Henry Bernstein, M.D.

Q: My one-year-old has been biting other children at the day care center. At home, she tries to bite out of excitement, never out of anger, but we stop her and matter-of-factly say, "no". I have read several magazines and books and have followed all their suggestions, including keeping her busy, providing something for her to chew on (cookies, crackers, teething ring -- cold or not), putting medication on her gums and correcting her on the spot. There are no other children in our household. I was informed today that if the problem continues she will have to be removed from the day care center for a week. I am in disagreement with the childcare staff on this issue. I am not sure this action will solve anything since there are no other children at home and she will be taken care of by an adult. She seems to exhibit this behavior more toward children. I have asked what kind of training the staff receives to deal with this problem. I was informed that they first attend the hurting child and then the biter. The attendant told me that she bites for no reason. Do you have any suggestions besides the ones mentioned?

A: Biting is very common among children in this age group. Toddlers and pre-schoolers bite for any number of reasons, including getting attention, being over-excited, and showing signs of affection. As you pointed out with your own child, it is not that she is angry, but more that she doesn't know how to control her emotions any differently. If this behavior does result in someone paying more attention, it most certainly will be repeated. If a child has experienced someone"nibbling at the ears," they'll mimic this behavior but not be able to control how hard they bite.

I sympathize with your concern about removing your child from the child care center for a week. That alone will not solve the biting issue. Your approach, however, does need to be consistent with that of her child care providers; otherwise it will not work. You must also make it clear to your child that biting is unacceptable. She needs to know that the biting cannot continue and you and the rest of the family and her caretakers must stick together. It might be more beneficial to establish what the source of the behavior is, and then try to limit those situations as much as possible. You can't laugh about it or ignore it. Biting her back so that she can see what it feels like or using physical punishment is not helpful. If the biting behavior continues, consider speaking with her pediatrician to make sure there is not a larger behavioral problem.

More on: Expert Advice

Henry Bernstein, M.D., is currently the associate chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital, Boston. He also has an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


10 Best Creative Apps for Kids
Looking for apps that foster creativity? Check out these top-rated art and music apps for kids.

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

A New Intergalactic Reading Adventure!
Get your reluctant reader hooked on an irresistible new story, Galactic Hot Dogs! Join the Book 1 reading marathon, and get behind-the-scenes tidbits on the official Galactic Hot Dogs blog. Also, print this cool Galactic Hot Dogs reading log to keep your bookworm excited about reading!

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks