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Most children younger than age 3 bite someone else at least once. Most children stop biting on their own. Biting that happens past age 3 or that occurs frequently at any age may need treatment. Biting isn't always intentional, and a bite from a child rarely causes serious injury to another person or poses any health risks.
Children bite other people for different reasons, depending on their age.
Biting occurs in a variety of situations, most often when many children are together, such as at day care. Most biting can be prevented when adults help children find better ways to express their feelings.
A child of any age who frequently bites other children may need special arrangements for day care. If biting becomes an ongoing problem, parents may be asked to take their child out of a day care center.
Biting in young children usually doesn't lead to behavior problems at a later age. But children who bite others often and act aggressively in other ways, especially if they are older than age 3, may have health problems or emotional issues. These children should be seen by a doctor.
Not all biting can be prevented. What you can do to reduce biting depends on how old your child is and why he or she bites. For example:
Learn to recognize the signs that your child is about to bite. You may be able to stop the biting before it happens if you can distract or redirect your child. Don't try to reason with young children or have long talks about biting. Use simple and direct language.
Positive reinforcement also helps. Praise your child when he or she shows behaviors that you want to encourage, such as sharing, being kind, or being patient. A reward can be as simple as giving your child a hug or a pat on the back and telling the child how well he or she is doing.
Be sure to model the behavior you would like to see in your child. Avoid angry outbursts, and set a good example by showing your child how to deal calmly with everyday frustrations. When a child bites:
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Learning about biting:
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This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can sign up to get weekly emails about your area of interest.
Other Works Consulted
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Anger, aggression, and biting section of Behavior. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 565–570. New York: Bantam.
- Brazelton TB (2006). Eighteen months. In Touchpoints, Birth to Three: Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development, 2nd ed., chap. 11, pp. 164–178. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.
- Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, American Academy of Pediatrics (1998, reaffirmed 2012). Guidance for effective discipline. Pediatrics, 101(4): 723–728. [Erratum in Pediatrics, 101(2): 433.] Also available online:
- Goldson E, Reynolds A (2011). Child development and behavior. In WW Hay Jr et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 20th ed., pp. 64–103 New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Howard B (2005). Biting others. In S Parker et al., eds., Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics: A Handbook for Primary Care, 2nd ed., pp. 136–138. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
- Sonnett FM, et al. (2006). Mammalian bites and bite-related infections. In FD Burg et al., eds., Current Pediatric Therapy, 18th ed., pp. 200–204. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||John Pope, MD - Pediatrics|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics|
|Last Revised||March 21, 2012|
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