Last Updated on April 18, 2020 by Kinacle.

Why Toddlers Bite Themselves (And What You Can Do About It)Seeing your child biting another child is stressful enough. But what if you saw your kid biting his or her own arm? And on top of this, he/she is undergoing one of the worst tantrums ever? This can be really stressful, especially if it happened on public.

But don’t worry – there’s always a way to handle your child’s self-biting problem. Before handling this, however, you need to know the root cause.

Below are some of the main reasons why toddlers bite and harm themselves.

A Display of Frustration

Since toddlers are still on their development phase, they don’t have a clear concept of time and reality. If they want something now, it must be given NOW. Most of the time, this will result into conflict and a terrible feeling of frustration. Your child won’t know how to handle it, and he/she will burst into tears. It’s also the clear spark of toddler self-harm. Due to internal frustration, your child will lash out against his/her little hands, arms, and even head.

A quick way of defusing this situation is to give something squishy to your child. This can be a plushie toy, a rubber stress ball, or a silly but safe object. Very likely, your child will direct his/her frustration to the object instead of doing self-harm. It’s important that you let the display of frustration pass smoothly. This will make the toddler realize that not everything can be given immediately.

A Test of Control

Self-harm is a childish strategy of gaining or regaining control. A toddler can be tricky, and he/she might bang his or her head against the wall to see if you’ll react. A common response among parents is to confront the child about the activity. For a while, the child might stop but he/she might do it again. Why? Because he/she won the control & attention game!

Proper observation is the key. Make sure that your child is not doing anything too harmful. After that, walk away from the situation. This might sting your heart a little, but it’s part of the process. Once the tantrum is over, you can always make up to your child.

Total Discomfort

More often than not, discomfort will lead to a bout of frustration – then self-harm. Discomfort is a variable state because there are many factors involved. You need to check if the room is too hot or too cold or if your child was hurt by an object. You also need to figure out if you child is feeling sick or agitated. Self-biting caused by discomfort requires your immediate action and you need to be sharp in finding small details.

Upon determining that your child is safe but the behavior continues on, this is the perfect time to become unshakeable. Resume to your previous task or distract your child with any fun activity.

Seeking Attention

Toddlers love getting attention. If attention is a piece of cookie, then they might hoard every single piece of it. Usually, a toddler will touch your hand whenever he/she wants something. If it doesn’t work, then he or she might culminate into self-biting or minor head-banging. At this rate, you can stop what you’re doing and appear tough as a Lego wall.

Start mouthing words of disapproval in an authoritative but careful way (i.e. NO). This will send the message that the child is behaving improperly and he/she can’t have your attention right away. After that, you can try distracting your child with a minor activity. But make sure that you return to what you’re doing before you talked to your child. This will put the ball of control right up your wheelhouse. Eventually, the toddler will realize that self-harm is futile at this point.

What You Should Do

If your child is prone to moderate self-harm actions, the best thing that you can do is stand your ground. Sometimes, you need to enforce an iron will so that your child will understand that he/she can’t always get everything. But before doing so, strive hard to determine what’s causing the self-harm mechanism. Is your child uncomfortable? Does he/she want a different cartoon? Or perhaps the lovely toddler just wants to play with his/her favorite toy? These questions are great starting points.

Using a personal parenting journal is also a nice move. Through this journal, you will know about the status of your child’s self-harming capacity. You can also jot down the common reasons that are keeping your child extra perky. Somehow, toddler temper management is a logic game. As a parent, you must know how this game unfolds by understanding all connected details.

Also, don’t forget to discuss the situation with your partner. All doting parents in any household must be totally aware of a child’s self-harm mannerism. If you’re keeping a journal, it will be easier to discuss and explain the situation.


Self-harm is one of the coping and control mechanisms of a toddler. It’s a phase that must be handled with a calm demeanor and a sense of straightforwardness. If the stress feels too much, step back and remember that your child is just experiencing any of the main reasons discussed. But you must also keep vigilant – understand when the self-harm process is really harmful enough. And if the situation doesn’t improve, do not hesitate to contact a professional.

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