How to Discipline a Biting Child

By Dawna Theo

Children that bite are common; one out of 10 babies and toddlers will bite someone either out of experimentation, frustration or anger. Biting is upsetting to all people involved and can be very harmful to the person who is bit. Parents and caregivers need to discipline the biting child in a way that is affective and appropriate.

Discipline

Tell your baby or infant, "No" when they bite. When babies under the age of 10 months bite, it's probably due to experimentation or teething pain. They're testing out their new teeth or possibly feeling discomfort due to new teeth growing in. Biting down may make the teething pain better. You can tell the baby, "No" when he bites in a prompt and authoritative manner. Don't scream or yell, as the infant may get confused and start to cry, because he doesn't know what he did wrong. Give the child something else to bite or chew on, such as teething rings or toys.

When a toddler bites out of frustration, tell him loudly and firmly, while looking him in the eye, "No, we do not bite!" Separate the biter from you or whomever he bit. If you were holding him and he bit you, place him on the ground and walk away. If he bit a child, take care of the child that was bitten first, and then move the biter to another location to be alone. After several minutes, go back over to the biter, and explain why biting hurts and why it's bad. Teach the biter what to do or say the next time he's feeling frustrated.

As a caregiver or a parent, try to intervene or calm down a child that gets frustrated before she bites. Biting is normally a temporary phase that some children may go through. If biting continues, discipline the child longer in her time-out location away from everyone. Ignore the biter, and give attention to the other child by giving him a favorite toy or treat in front of the biter.

When a child bites because of anger or the need to feel power or control over another child, you must be swift and firm in your discipline. Disciplining as indicated in the above sections can still work. But, in addition to discipline, positively reinforce the child's good behavior when she is not biting. Give the child compliments for sharing and playing nicely throughout the day.

Never allow siblings or other children who witnessed the biting to laugh. This reinforces the bad behavior. Don't bite the child back, as this encourages biting and violence. Don't allow anyone to give love bites or nibbles to your baby; this encourages future biting.