Toddler Behaviour: Biting

19 March 2014|

As a first time parent, you are prepped and primed, warned and advised on so much – especially during the pregnancy, birth and baby phase… Natural birth vs c-section, breastfeeding vs bottle, drugs or no drugs in labour, sterilisation, starting solids, rocking and soothing your baby, co-sleeping… The list goes on. So many do’s and dont’s, and often many conflicting views. 
Our approach has always been – all advice and suggestions are welcome but won’t always be taken to heart or implemented… what works for us, works for us. And that is how we will do things.
As the toddler years kick in, the advice seems to dwindle and fade away – maybe because no one is as interested anymore or because by now you are supposed to have this whole thing waxed – who knows?! Not too many people have commented on how to parent a toddler, and maybe because SJ has turned out pretty good and the assumption is that once a good kid, always a good and easy-going child.
Well, we have hit our first parenting hiccup or speed bump – thankfully, a small dip in this long road – not bad considering she is 23 months old – but still a challenge for us newbies…
She has started biting… at school.
Yes, biting. As in wrapping her tiny, little milk teeth around the soft skin of another child and nibbling. 
She started playgroup at the beginning of the year, she settled in quite easily and once familiar with the school, teachers and her peers, she walked in confidently each day and enjoyed her day at school. She greets everyone by name, loves her teachers, interacts well with the other children, eats all her lunch and gets involved in all activities. She settled in well.
And then she started biting. She started slowly, one or two bites here or there, and then she started biting the same child and it became more frequent. We are now in a few weeks down the line and she is still attempting to bite different children, as well as one very nasty bite. We have been told and we believe, this is a “phase” – it is one of those things that some most children go through. Some bite, some kick, some push, some pinch and some even swear. And as much as we know these things happen, it’s still not nice to have to experience this as a parent.
It’s no fun being the parent of the bully (child who bites) or the victim (the child who is bitten), and it is not easy getting to the source of these problems when the child is so young. We have explored many different avenues – asked other parents, other teachers and schools, a child psychologist, an educational psychologist, a doctor, an occupational therapist, you name it… They all have ideas and suggestions but at such a young age, there are so many factors and influences that could cause this behaviour but none seem to be a common pattern with our little SJ.
She isn’t unsettled at school, she doesn’t dislike her company, she plays and loves the children that she targets, she isn’t provoked, she isn’t hungry or tired, she isn’t teething or sick, she isn’t malicious or naughty, she isn’t wild or aggressive, she doesn’t target boys vs girls, or younger vs older, she is disciplined when it happens and she seems to understand it is wrong, she does it on some days and not on others… And she has never done it in front of MC or myself, only at school or when we are not around. 
Did I say how difficult this is to understand and control?
We have made the decision to change schools and see if a new environment or situation will help her in any way. Alternatively, different teachers might be able to help too. All very unsettling for a little two year old in her first year of school, having being at school and then away from school every second week as well as now having to settle into a whole new environment. We are also seeking the advice and treatment of a child psychologist and occupational therapist. We have faith that this phase will come to an end and we will all get through it… hopefully soon. 
Has anyone else experienced this biting “phase” or have any tips or suggestions?


  1. Poor little SJ. Well done my friend for writing this. Really not an easy time for you guys but you are handling it with grace and love as you always do. Proud of you xxx

  2. I can't really proffer any advice as I don't have any kids and haven't been around many either but I think you are handling it as best you can – honesty, asking for advice from ALL kinds of different people and then doing what you and your hubby think is best for you and for your little girl. Good luck x

  3. Ah Cals so sorry you are going through this – it's never pleasant when our kids act out. I just chatted to my mom (Yogie's Playschool) and her advice to you is what she has told every teacher and parents for 20 years. When she bites, is to firmly say "No biting" to SJ, before immediately turning your back on her and making an enormous fuss of the bitten child. Sweep them up into your arms (or teacher, because she hasn't done it in front of you guys yet) kiss their bite mark, say lots of "Oh shame's" and get them their juice bottle, a biscuit, call all the other kids around to look and lavish sympathy on her. In her experience, completely ignoring the biter means she quickly learns it gets her nowhere and nothing. Nobody likes being ignored! She said you are welcome to call her if you would like to chat more. Good luck friend!!

    1. I don't have kids and no experience whatsoever, but isn't making a fuss about a kid that got hurt the worst thing you can do? If a baby falls on his bum you shouldn't run over and check if he is okay, or make a fuss, you should just oopsiedaisy or something? Just asking?

    2. Hey Meg, it's not really about the bitten child at all, but rather about the biter. Normally when a child falls, we wouldn't make a big deal about it. But in this case it has proven time and again that taking the focus away from the biter works in the long run.

  4. That is so hard! I hope that the change helps.
    Our girls tried biting a couple of times. After it started getting out of control I decided to bite them back. Sometimes they just don't know how much pain they are causing others and having Mommy (or even the child that was bitten) bite them back gives them some idea. It worked – they don't even chance it anymore.
    I hope that you get to the bottom of it or that the phase just dies out – good luck!

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I'm Caley a thirty-something wife & mummy from Durban, South Africa. Ellie Love Blog is all about me, my family and our beautiful life.


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