Childhood Biting (cont.)

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Should parents or caregivers discipline a toddler who bites?

To extinguish an unwanted behavior, the toddler who bites should experience an immediate and proportional response by their parent or caregiver. Time-out serves such a role. Following a time-out, giving the child appropriate verbal expressions or other techniques to deal with their frustrations is important. Parental biting of the child does not teach the child that biting hurts but rather reinforces the biting behavior since it is often done in parental frustration/anger when other techniques have failed.

Can biting be prevented?

Nursing newborns who bite often respond well to an evaluation by a lactation specialist. Pre-toddlers' nips are generally a reflection of excitement and are generally considered part of normal childhood development. They occur so quickly that they are difficult to prevent. The biting toddler may require repeated time-outs to realize that biting is not an effective approach to his goal (such as getting Tommy's toy) but rather provides a negative experience (social separation). Children over 3 years old who repeatedly bite others or themselves warrant a consultation with their pediatrician since this behavior may reflect serious emotional or developmental issues.

Medically reviewed by Douglas Barton, MD; Board Certified Pediatrics


"Biting - Topic Overview." Apr. 17, 2008. <>.

United States. Oklahoma State Department of Health. "Biting in the Toddler Years." 2000. <>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/30/2015