Understanding Why Your Preschooler Bites

It's never a pleasant revelation to learn that your preschooler has bitten another child, butthe fact of the matter is most preschoolers have bitten someone or have been bitten at least once by the time they enter preschool. So why do they do it, and how do you stop your child from doing it? Read on.


Why It Happens

Biting is a result of aggressive behavior that stems from fear, anxiety, frustration, anger or retaliation. Such emotions can occur as a result of being cornered, threatened, or exposed to an unexpected or unpleasant situation. Biting can also be the result of curiosity, overstimulation, or as a misguided expression of love. 

Understanding the reasons behind your child's behavior is the first step towards correcting it. Regardless of the reason behind your child's biting, remember to keep a cool head and remind yourself that your child isn't doing it because it enjoys it, but rather because it doesn't know how else to express how it is feeling.


What to Do When It Happens

  • Separate both children so that they're out of biting distance of each other and check that they're both unharmed and safe.
  • Remain calm, don't scold your child, and don't begin doling out the punishment just yet. Punishing your child and lecturing it in its current state will only make it lash out again.
  • Check whether the other child has been hurt and whether it needs medical attention, but don't forget your own child. Your preschooler might act like it doesn't care or that it's unaware of the pain it has inflicted, but in reality it knows exactly what it has done. By being caring and warm towards him or her you will put your child at ease, allowing it to express its feelings better both about why it bit the other child and what was frustrating or overwhelming for your growing tot.
  • Your relationship with your child should be such that your preschooler feels comfortable enough to talk to you when it's feeling upset, so encourage them to come to you when they are frustrated or unhappy for help, or to ask for another adult's aid if they are at preschool.
  • Once things have calmed down, sit with your child and discuss what happened. You can give your child some coping skills by teaching them through role play about how to react in stressful situations, such as when someone takes their toys or does something they don’t like.

Putting an End to Biting

  • Keep an eye on your child. Watch out for warning signs such as yelling, crying, hitting and foot-stomping, all of which could precede biting. If you think your preschooler might be going for the lunge, be prepared to step in quickly to intervene.
  • Be comforting and loving towards your preschooler. If you're warm and caring, chances are your child might be able to calm down enough to get a hold of itself and to open up to you about what's upsetting them. With time and after several incidents your preschooler will be able to control its urge to bite if you continue to be gentle in your approach.
  • Accompany your preschooler on its playdates. If you can't go with your child to supervise them, at least warn the other parents about its habit so that they can intervene before any of the children are injured. Offer some tips on what you know triggers your child's tendency to bite. If you don't think the other grownups can handle the situation calmly and warmly, postpone the playdate until you can attend it personally or until your child has grown out of the habit.