What is the best strategy to help a toddler who bites?

A biting situation must be approached from several angles.

  1. Try to determine if the toddler has enough language to be able to express their needs. If the child has beginning verbal skills, give the toddler language to use in various situations, e.g., “my work”, “move back”, “mine”, or “stop”.
  2. Observe so as to determine triggers to the biting. 
    • Is the child too crowded in a group which makes them bite to eliminate this feeling?
    • Do they get a lot of attention when they bite? If yes, could that attention be somewhat diffused? 
    • Are they teething and need something to bite on to relieve the pressure/pain? If yes, provide a special item that can be bitten.
  3. Give very clear, but as unemotional as possible, statements that say, “We do not bite people.” Acknowledge the frustration (or other trigger) but clearly state that biting is not acceptable.
  4. Talk with the parents about how they handle biting. Or does the toddler bite in other situations? Reach a mutually agreeable handling of the toddler when they bite.
  5. Know that this is usually a transitory situation, and the majority of toddlers mature out of biting once their needs are met. Certainly, by the time a toddler is 2.5 – 3 years old, this should no longer be happening. If it is, discuss strategies with the parents.
Woman holding child's hand