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Why does a child bite?

When a child bites another child, an adult or their parents, it can have several meanings. Depending on his age, a bite can range from a way to soothe the discomforts caused by teething to a way to ease the tension caused by his environment. This is a fairly common behavior in young children. In this article, identify the cause of this behavior in your child!

Why do young children bite?


For the baby, biting is a means of exploring its environment. As it is through the mouth that he has discovered the different sensations so far, he puts everything he finds there in order to be in contact with what surrounds him. By his mouth, he can judge whether or not he likes such and such a thing. Whether it is food, objects, or even another person, this is how the baby proceeds, and this, until the accession to language (around the age of 3 years) .

From the eighth and ninth month, the baby will bite harder because it is at this age that his teeth begin to grow gradually. Teething causes a lot of discomfort, which causes the toddler to bite everything that is within reach. If your little one is in this situation, you don't have to scold him or explain that biting is wrong. In addition to being too young to understand these explanations, it is simply a way for him to relieve physical discomfort.

Around the age of 2 years, the child no longer suffers from physical discomfort. He begins to bond with other children his age. If around the twelfth and eighteenth months, babies play together with the same toys, they develop an inner desire to play with each other once they are 2 years old. That said, they don't know how to do that. So the best way he has is to imitate what the other is doing. If your baby sees the other biting an object, this one will also do it again as soon as the opportunity arises.

Why do children over 3 still bite?


The bites of a baby under 2 years old and those of a child over 3 years old do not have the same meanings. For the latter, they are more charged with meaning. From the age of 3, the child's language begins to develop gradually, although it is still poor. Sometimes they may find it difficult to express what they feel or what they think. Also at this age, children still have trouble managing their emotions.

Your little one can bite objects or people near him because:

  • he wants to take another child's toy
  • he's angry
  • he feels tired
  • he wants to defend himself
  • he is very excited
  • he wants to show his joy or his affection
  • he has been bitten or has witnessed an act of aggression from another child
  • he is worried
  • he tries to attract the attention of an adult or his parents
  • he has already done it several times and has understood that it is an excellent way to get what he wants…

In short, your little biter can resort to this type of behavior to release tensions, to discharge the emotions that consume him or to compensate for the poverty of his language. It should be noted that different circumstances can put these little beings in a stressful situation. This is particularly the case for the arrival of a little brother or a little sister, a move, a change of school, a divorce...

Also, children do not adapt in the same way to community life. While others appreciate the company of other children, others feel more reassured when they are alone. The ones most prone to biting are the latter. They tend to develop a sort of defense mechanism to cope with this life in the community (at school, in the nursery, at home, etc.). However, a child can also bite just for fun, he just can't measure his strength.

How to react to a child who bites?


If your baby is still teething, buy him a toy or teething ring. This allows him to relieve his gums without having to bite anyone. Just be careful not to attach his teether to him. Indeed, with the cord, your little one is exposed to the risk of strangulation.

On the other hand, if your child is already older, you must identify the cause of such behavior to better correct it. The ideal, to convince him to stop biting, would be to react immediately after the bite. If another child has been bitten, here are some tips to follow.

  • You need to stay calm and have a measured reaction. Biting is a fairly natural behavior that every child has had during their development. If your reaction is not proportional when your child wants your attention, he may be tempted to bite again. He feels all your attention on him.


  • Then focus on the child who was bitten. If he is injured, check that the injury is not serious. In case his skin is torn, take hot water and soap to wash the wound. Then, apply a cool cloth or ice to it so that it does not swell. If your little one wanted your attention, he'd think his strategy failed. He will therefore not be encouraged to bite again.


  • You can also ask your child to calm the one who has been bitten. You can ask him to fetch ice, fresh linen or even his comforter. Through this, he could become aware of the pain and the consequences of his gesture.


  • All the while, make sure there's no one encouraging your little biter's behavior by laughing. This one must not think that it is about a play which amuses the others.


  • After that, speak calmly to your little one while remaining firm. Tell him in age-appropriate words not to bite others. Look him in the eye and explain the consequences of his action (his friend is hurting and crying). You don't have to go into long explanations.


  • If you see that your son or daughter is still stressed, help him calm down with a comforting object such as his comforter. Once calm, you must help him put his feelings or what he wants into words (“I'm sad” or “I want to take back the toy my friend took”). Then, reflect on what happened using simple words and short sentences: “I understand that you are sad, but you must not bite your friend”.


  • You can help your child control himself for the next few times. Teach him to react better when a situation displeases him. He can totally tell his friend if he doesn't like him to take his toy to avoid being bitten. Tell him that he won't be able to play with other children if he bites again.

If it bites you or another adult, adopt these gestures.

  • Always stay calm, try not to shout. It is you who will teach him how to manage his emotions.
  • If he bites you because he's angry, explain to him that he has a right to be angry, but that's not a reason to bite. Tell him that in the family, we don't do that.
  • Like the previous case, you must help him name his emotion or recognize the object of his frustration. Then help him express it.

Be careful, it is useless to bite your child after he has bitten you. Not only would he not be able to find the link between the two bites, but he will above all think that it is a normal gesture since his own parents do it.

Also, it doesn't do much good to ask him to apologize or to call him "mean". He doesn't yet understand the value of apologies, and even if he does, it's just to please you. Calling him a villain will only impact his self-esteem.

What to do to prevent the child from starting to bite again?


To prevent your little one from re-offending, you need to know why and under what circumstances he bites. You can try to see it yourself or talk to him. Stay vigilant the days following the bite. If you feel like he's going to start again, isolate him from the other children and ask him to stay close to you.

Always encourage him to name his emotions and to exteriorize them through words or why not drawings? Do not miss the opportunity to value the small positive gestures he makes so that he can keep his good behavior and improve.


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