How to Stop Toddler Biting

Are you struggling with your toddler’s biting behavior? I’m Dr. Mary Barbera, and in my latest podcast episode, I delve deep into this urgent issue with insights from my experience as both a behavior analyst and registered nurse. 

I explain why toddler biting—whether it’s playful or aggressive—isn’t just a normal part of toddlerhood; it’s a serious behavior that demands prompt and effective intervention. In the episode, I introduce my 4-step Barbera Method™, a systematic approach that helps you understand and tackle biting by assessing the entire context of each incident. 

I discuss strategies for managing immediate reactions to toddler biting and explore the importance of considering underlying issues such as pain or stress. Tune in to learn practical strategies that can help prevent more restrictive consequences and turn around this challenging behavior for good.


  • Why biting is serious and needs to be stopped.
  • Consequences of toddler biting
  • Assessing when the toddler bites
  • How to stop biting after it happens
  • How to prevent biting now and in the future
  • How NOT to respond to toddler biting

Implications of Toddler Biting

Biting is a Serious Behavior

I know you likely already know that you are dealing with a serious behavior but in this episode I will also highlight more reasons why you will want to take this information seriously and act now. 

Having a toddler who is biting can result in the expulsion from preschool or daycare settings.

Also, human bites can lead to infections more serious than animal bites due to the different bacteria present in human mouths. 

But, I don’t want to stress you out, there are steps you can take NOW to start turning the biting around using my positive strategies. And, even though we are discussing toddler biting, these strategies can apply to 1 year olds, 3 year olds, and even 10 year olds so keep reading regardless of age.

how to stop toddler biting. Biting is dangerous and can leave marks
A bite can be painful and serious. It should not just be brushed off as the Terrible Twos.


Understanding Toddler Biting

Why do toddlers bite?

Biting can occur for many reasons. Through this podcast episode, I will discuss how you can use easy assessments to find out why your toddler is biting but in general, some reasons toddlers may bite include; 

  • Attention: Toddlers might bite to gain attention. Biting hurts, and we often want to have a big reaction or give the behavior a lot of attention to stop it, but in reality this is likely one of the reasons why it is still happening. 
  • Strong emotions: Biting can be a response to strong emotions such as frustration, anger, or even happiness. I refer to “happy bites,” which occur during moments of overexcitement, differentiating them from bites due to anger or frustration. But, regardless of whether the bite is for happiness, or anger, the behavior is very serious and needs to be stopped. 
  • Improved language may help biting: Enhancing language skills may reduce biting, as toddlers can express their needs verbally instead of physically. If you are struggling with speech delays in addition to biting, then my online courses can provide a step-by-step approach to support both language and problem behaviors. 
  • Pain: I did a podcast with Dr. Timothy Vollmer who highlighted the research around, the fact that many animals bite down when they are stressed or in pain. If you are noticing sudden biting, or a toddler biting themselves, then it will be important to explore potential underlying issues.

How to Stop Biting

Determine Why Your Toddler is Biting

So, now we have discussed some general reasons why a toddler may bite others or themselves, but now, let’s use some assessments to determine specifically why YOUR toddler is biting and how to stop it. 

I have developed a 4-step approach called the Barbera Method™, and we are going to use this approach to assess why the biting is happening, make a plan, intervene and evaluate. 

  • Assessments to complete:
    • Barbera Early Childhood Assessment™ is an easy to complete, 10-minute assessment that will give you a full picture of where the child is at and will give you a score in problem behaviors, language, and self-care skills. This can help us to determine where we could focus to support a child who is biting. 
  • When it is happening: Observing and noting the specific circumstances and times when biting occurs can help identify triggers. I suggest looking at both the context and timing to understand and prevent future incidents. So, if we notice that the child bites anytime we pick them up to go to bed, this can give us insight on how to stop it. 
  • Happy bites vs. aggressive bites: Identifying whether the bite was playful or aggressive helps tailor the response. This distinction as crucial for setting preventative strategies.
  • A sign of pain?: As discussed earlier, if you want a toddler to stop biting themselves, you likely want to look into if they are having pain. Looking for tooth pain, and ear pain is often a good place to start. Visiting your doctor and dentist as part of the assessment process to determine why your toddler is biting is a good idea. 
Why does a toddler bite? It may be due to pain. Stop toddler biting
Make sure to make a doctors appointment if you are concerned your toddler may be biting due to pain or discomfort.

What to do when a Toddler Bites

  • Responding calmly and firmly: It is important to respond in a calm yet firm manner immediately following a bite to communicate that biting is unacceptable. I talk in this episode about how we don’t want to give a lot of attention to the behavior but a firm “No Biting” and moving away from the child sends a clear message that you do not like that behavior. 
  • Comforting both the child and the victim: Biting hurts! We want to ensure both the child and the victim of the bite are safe. We want to help the child to calm after the bite while keeping attention low so we don’t reinforce their behavior. 
  • Offering alternatives to biting: One way to stop biting is to offer alternatives, prompting the behavior you want to see and reinforcing this behavior at a more neutral time is key. Remember, we want to give a lot of attention to any behavior that isn’t biting! . Teaching toddlers alternative ways to express their emotions, such as using words or engaging in different activities is important. 
  • Redirecting: Changing the toddler’s focus or activity can prevent further biting. If you notice your toddler bites when you carry them or when you play a high arousal game, you may want to redirect them as soon as you notice their body language change towards the bite. Changing games, or positions in how you carry them can help when a toddler bites. 

What not to do

In general, we want to limit attention and harmful consequences. We don’t want to make the child feel like a bad kid. Some resources recommend not calling or labeling a child a biter as this may make the situation worse! 
  • Providing attention: Avoid giving excessive attention to the biting behavior, as it can unintentionally reinforce it. Instead we want to be focusing our attention on positive behaviors. Remember, if a toddler bites when they had no attention and you begin offering a lot of attention and discussion after a bite, it can actually make toddler biting worse! 
  • Disciplinary discussions: I know you want to understand why your toddler bit, and to let them know how you feel and what your expectations are but long discussions about biting just brings more attention and can increase the biting. A simple, clear message of no biting is enough as long as you are reinforcing their positive behaviors. 
  • Shaming or consequences after the behavior: Delayed consequences or shaming can be ineffective. Immediate, consistent responses are best for effective learning. This means, that punishing a toddler after daycare, or a child after school, long after the bite has happened will not be effective. 

Preventing Toddler Biting Now and In the Future

  • Being consistent in responses: Consistency is key in teaching toddlers expected behaviors. It is important to be consistent in how you reply to biting behaviors and that everyone in the toddlers life is on the same page. If you have a child with a speech delay, or autism, communication with the whole team, therapists and placements is even more important to prevent biting. 
  • Providing positive reinforcement and attention for non-biting behavior: Reinforce alternative behaviors that you are prompting such as asking for help when frustrated or using words instead of biting. 
  • Planning ahead when holding the child: Knowing when your child bites is very important. If you have a child with a delay who may bite when they want something, we want to ensure to plan for the things they want, have them available and prompt the appropriate behavior. If a toddler is biting when you carry them, plan ahead to carry them in such a way that the biting won’t happen .
  • Finding and encouraging replacement behaviors: Identifying and encouraging behaviors that can replace biting is proactive. There is great importance in teaching alternative expressions of emotions to reduce biting incidents. Being close by toddlers in order to prompt and reinforce positive behavior is also important. 
Stopped toddler biting. Kids playing together with no biting.
Remember, you can tackle biting and help stop your toddler biting!