Why do some children bite?

Has your child ever bitten or been bitten by another child? During the preschool years, biting is a common cause of concern, and is a frequently-reported injury. While it happens quite regularly, it is no less distressing for the child who was bitten, their parents, as well as the parents of the child who did the biting. If biting is something you’re concerned about, let’s take a closer look at why children bite and what you can do to stop your child from biting.

The reasons for biting

While biting is an unacceptable behaviour, no matter what the reason, it is helpful to understand why a child would resort to biting. Like other aggressive behaviours in children, biting usually happens when they feel overwhelmed or overstimulated by a situation, such as:


  • Welcoming a new baby at home
  • Moving to a new school or house
  • Joining a new playgroup
  • Experiencing a sensory overload 
  • Feeling intense emotions (including affection for a caregiver)


Young children are still learning self control, and they often don’t know what to do, how to ask for help, or how to get relief for their fear, stress or anger. Their frustration can be made worse if they aren’t able to express their feelings through words. As a result, they bite to react to a perceived threat, take control over a situation, seek attention, or get some relief.

How to stop the biting

If your child is a biter, rest assured that it is a behaviour that can be corrected, but first, you have to get to the root of the problem.

1. Your first reaction

Whether or not you were present when your child bit another, it is important to remain calm. Check if the person bitten is alright, and offer help or first aid.  

2. Find out what happened

When things have calmed down a bit, ask your child what happened to find out what may have triggered the incident. Please note, however, that your child may not be able to remember or explain what happened in detail.

3. Tell them it’s wrong

Without raising your voice, tell your child that biting hurts, is wrong, and is dangerous. Say firmly, “No. We don’t bite. You hurt Michael.” 

4.Pay close attention

If your child has bitten before, especially more than once, it is best to keep a close eye on them and their tolerance levels when they are with other children. This may help you to identify what may cause them to bite, and how you can stop them from biting to begin with. If you think your child is getting triggered and may bite, intervene immediately and redirect them to a different activity.

5. Teach your child what to do

Talk to your child about their feelings, and encourage them to go to a grown-up when they feel anger, stress, fear or frustration. Some children may be hesitant to do this at times, so offer other solutions, like hugging a soft toy or punching a pillow to help them feel better.

6. Give your child quality attention

While biting can be a call for help, it may also mean that your child needs your attention. If a change is happening at home, like a new baby, or moving to a new school, be sure to spend quality time with your child to help support them during the transition.

7. Don’t bite back

Some parents pretend to bite, or actually bite their child back in an effort to teach the child that biting hurts. Modelling this aggressive behaviour can make the situation worse. Rather than modelling violent behaviour, use a positive approach instead.

As a parent, it is natural for you to feel frustrated and confused when your child bites. Bear in mind that many children bite others on occasion and rest assured that you’re still a good parent. Keep working on addressing and putting an end to the behaviour. If you’ve tried your best and your child keeps biting, it is best to seek help from a paediatric specialist for solutions in tackling the behaviour. 

If you’re concerned about your child’s biting or other aggressive behaviours, please don’t hesitate to reach out to The Energy Source’s team of paediatric specialists. 

This article was reviewed by The Energy Source’s Director, Physiotherapist and Sensory Practitioner, Joanna Hutt.

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