Stopping the Biting Baby

Annette Nay, Ph.D. Copyright 1999

Dear Annette,

I've been a Family Childcare Provider for over 20 years and have never had to deal with a child that bites. I have a nineteen month old in my care that has bitten a 2 year old several times. I'd welcome advice on how to stop this from happening before it gets out of control.


Day-care Giver


Dear Day-care Giver,

In most cases with children I would use Time Out, ut in your case the child is barely 1 1/2. I don't think Time Out work really well until age 3 or 4 because the child doesn't understand what is going on.

What needs to be done is do use negative reinforcement instantly after the biting so the child will pair the negative happening with the biting.

Of course you do not want to hurt the child so my choice would be to loudly speak the child's name and the words "No! Don't bite!" Then remove the child from the group to a play pen for five minutes.

Some parents use fear for a negative reinforcer. One such reinforcer may be an openhanded pop on the diaper padded bottom accompanied by the stern words..."No! Don't bite. This swat on the behind is not to hurt but to scare.

I have heard excellent results in parents biting the child back. Not hard enough to brake the skin, but to show the child that it does not feel good. This is a definite negative reinforcer, but one that only a parent should use on their child if they see fit to do so. This may be something that you may want to talk to the parent about. If the child is biting others at the Day Care then s/he is probably doing it away from the Day Care to others.

Remember... A behavior continues as long as it get the child what s/he wants. If the child did it to get a toy. Make sure that the toy is not given to the child.

If it is done to keep another child away who is using aggressive behavior like hurting the biter, or invading his/her space, or taking his/her toy, then negative reinforcement needs to be use for both the biter and the aggressor. The biter should not have to defend himself or herself. The aggressor behavior needs to be stopped as well as the biter. Keep a close eye out to see why the biter is biting so you can stop the problem at its source not just the outcome.

Best wishes,

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Annette Nay Homepage

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