If you child bites do you bite them back?

biting child back

If you child bites do you bite them back?

How is this still a thing, it sounds like advice my grandma would give. “If she’s biting, bite her back.”

But what does biting a child for biting teach them? For one, that it’s not only okay to bite, it’s also okay to bite in return. How confusing when on the playground those rules don’t apply. That children are taught if you are hurt by another child it’s still not okay to hurt them back.

I think also as a child carer if at work I bit a child as discipline I would lose my job and probably be charged with assault. Could you imagine? It would make headlines. It would fill Newsfeeds with outraged. It would be utterly disgusting if a carer was to bite a child.

So why is it when a mother (or father) says that her toddler has been biting her often the advice pops up that the way to handle the situation is to bite back. Why would the experience for the child be any different if they are being bitten by the parent they love and trust as oppose to a teacher or carer?

Then the other question I’d raise is how hard would one need to bite their baby to be effective? Because my baby bites so hard she leaves a bruise and can break skin (see picture). Now if I was to bite her back, simply to demonstrate that teeth hurt, and if I responded with equal force then I’d leave a bruised and bloody mark on my beautiful babies skin.

But I’m sure that people saying you should bite your baby aren’t suggesting I bite her so hard that it leaves a mark? Right? Surely?!? Surely nobody is suggesting any adult bite a baby so hard that they cause harm? It doesn’t take much to leave a mark on a baby or toddlers precious skin so really you couldn’t bite them with any force. No I haven’t tested this but I can imagine. Will that even get the point across? Aside from a demonstration that biting doesn’t hurt or cause harm. I suspect that’s going to achieve nothing.

So then finally you’ve taught your baby or toddler what precisely? That biting is a reasonable form of communication for when we have no words to communicate what it is that we are experiencing. How about as an adult being the bigger person? If you are feeling frustrated that you cannot find a way to explain to your baby or toddler that biting isn’t acceptable, what about extending some empathy to your child because now you understand what it feel like to not be able to communicate in words and that they are only biting because they have no better way to express themselves.

Sorry I have no answers, my baby is biting me frequently too, and its painful and frustrating. I don’t think I can MAKE her stop, but I’m trying to distract her, redirect her and also starting to learn how to anticipate getting bitten so I can dodge! And we are slowly getting some improvement over time – I’m hoping its simply a phase she will outgrow.

Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner. Rachel is obsessed prams, car seats, carriers and all things baby. She has worked in the baby industry for several years, for both suppliers and also in a retail setting and has developed a passion for connecting parents with the right products to make their lives easier. When Rachel isn't playing with prams she's enjoys crocheting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.


  1. Couldn’t agree with you more Rachel! My daughter (now 4) was only an occasional biter. It wasn’t a massive problem by any means and thankfully it was always me that she bit and not the other kids in the playground or at daycare. I was given the same advice – bite her back, but for the rationale (or lack of rationale) you stated, I could never see the point either. A firm ‘no’ was usually enough. Occasionally if she was going in for a second mouthful I would put her down, say ‘no’ and walk away for a few moments. She learnt pretty quickly that biting caused a boring reaction rather than a lot of attention and moved on to the next normal baby/ toddler boundary pushing exercise. Mister 1 has only nipped me a couple of times during feeding – but meaty chomps are a little harder when you’ve only got two bottom teeth – speak to me again in a few months 😉

  2. could always try exagerating your reaction for her benifit. act how she woukd if she was bitten. not nessesarily just a loud ” ow” and ” no” but i personally would have a try of crying loudly and looking acting scared. maybe evwm a bit of a face down on the floor wobbly. really over do it with body language because thats how shes commumicating with you. maybe shell understand, maybe not but hopefully shell get that her unwanted action resulted in your unwanted action. and hey, speaking as someone who us around yoing kids all day, even if it achieves nothing sometimes it just feels good to behave like a toddler does for a not of relief.

  3. Biting back is just sooo silly. We’re the adults and as much as it can hurt and get us angry, we need to stop taking our children’s immaturity personally. They are children for goodness sakes! There are better, more effective and more mature ways of dealing with these undesirable behaviours. Mostly biting is caused by not being able to communicate. Or by being completely helpless. So help them communicate in less hurtful ways!

Related Articles