why toddlers bite

Why Toddlers Bite and What You Can Do About It

Last Updated on September 11, 2021.

You go to pick up your toddler from daycare and you notice a new red mark on their arm. You ask the teacher, and you find out your tot bit another kid first. “Why did he do that?” You feel sad and embarrassed, but you’re not sure what to do about it. Toddlers have been biting for generations. But why do toddlers bite? And how do you stop it?

Why Toddlers Bite

Toddlers bite for a number of reasons, but there are three reasons that are very common.

They don’t know how to express their feelings

Toddlers don’t know how to express their feelings. If they’re frustrated, mad or sad, biting is their way of telling you. It’s a primal behavior that comes from the need to be heard.

RELATED: How to handle the transition to daycare without issues

They lack impulse control

Kids lack impulse control thanks to their slow brain development. Sometimes kids just act without thinking! Even they don’t understand why they’re doing it.

They’re getting revenge

When toddlers feel betrayed or get pushed to the limit, they’ll bite as a form of revenge. This is why two-year-olds are known for their biting sprees when things don’t go their way.

RELATED: How to help toddlers with transitions

How to prevent biting

Here are three tips to help prevent your toddler from biting:

  • Make sure the toddler’s basic needs are met. If they are hungry (or hangry), tired, or overstimulated, they’re much more likely to lash out with biting.
  • Help kids develop emotional intelligence and the skills to regulate their emotions by teaching them calming techniques, naming their feelings, reading books about feelings, and practicing mindfulness.
  • Learn your child’s signs and indicators. Every child displays warning signs when they are getting overwhelmed and frustrated. Watch for those indicators and proactively handle the situation by working through big feelings or distracting/redirecting your child to a new activity.
why toddlers bite
why toddlers bite

What to do when your child bites you (or someone else)

When your child bites you or someone else, immediately remove them from the situation and check on the victim. This signals to your child that the person they hurt is the priority.

After you make sure he’s ok, then redirect your attention to your child. One of the most important things you can do is to talk calmly about why he bit.

Explain that biting hurts and it’s not a way to get what they want or feel better. Your child might not fully understand why, but by simply naming the behavior – “You bite when you are frustrated” – your toddler will start to see why it’s not a good idea. Now you can help them find other ways to express their feelings and turn this behavior around for the better.

RELATED: How to handle two toddlers fighting

Is it normal for toddlers to bite?

It is normal for toddlers to bite. Virtual all toddlers are involved in a biting event at some point during childhood. Don’t feel like you’re a bad parent or that your child is a bad kid because of a biting incident. It’s a normal part of childhood.

RELATED: What to do if your child hits you

How do I stop my child from biting at daycare?

To stop biting at daycare, you’ll need to set up a clear plan with the daycare. Kids who are prone to biting need to be monitored more closely than other kids. You’ll want to share the warning signs or biting triggers you’ve noticed with your daycare provider.

You’ll also want to understand what the consequence is for biting, so you can discuss this with your child. He might not understand the details, but if you have a serious conversation with him, he’ll understand it’s an important topic.

It’s important to remember, however, that toddlers are not in complete control of their impulses. Despite your best efforts, it’s possible that your child will bite again. This is why this behavior needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis by daycare providers and parents who have the same expectations for appropriate behavior.

RELATED: How do I Stop My Toddler from Hitting Himself?

Do toddlers grow out of biting?

Yes! Kids grow out of biting. Once they develop impulse control, they’ll learn to speak up when they’re frustrated instead of biting. This is why it’s important for toddlers to develop the emotional skills and coping strategies needed so that this behavior can be avoided altogether.

Do I need a child psychologist?

Most children grow out of biting without any professional help or treatment as long as their basic needs are being met and they’re getting support in managing their emotions. However, if you notice your child is biting more than once a week or it’s causing major disruptions to his day-to-day life, then you might want to seek out professional help for the whole family.

The Bottom Line

Virtually all toddlers will have a biting incident. Don’t feel like you’re a bad parent or that your child is unlovable because of one biting incident. Toddlers bite when they are frustrated, but there are many ways to handle the situation and help them learn why it’s not an appropriate way to express themselves or get what they want. You can tackle biting challenges and help your child grow out of this bad behavior.

What You Should Do Next…

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