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I have an adorable, sweet, funny 1-year-old who has developed a bad habit of biting. He usually only bites when he's frustrated, for example: another 1-year-old child I nanny for, cries unless he's eating, asleep, or being held. When he screams, for no reason, my child will sometimes bite him, to get him to stop screaming. I've tried saying "no bites," flicking him in his teeth, making a sad face, whenever he bites me, and giving him (short) time outs. I just got the following text from my boss.

Hi,
I thought we already discussed this but the bites on [her child] are unacceptable. I need to know what your plan is to prevent them.

Here's what I replied:

Hi,
I'm very sorry they bit each other today. I've been trying to discourage [my son] from biting. I talked to his pediatrician about it at his last appointment, and she suggested keeping cold pacifiers/teething toys in the fridge, to satisfy his need to bite, when his teeth hurt. I've tried saying "no bites," flicking him in his teeth, making a sad face whenever he bites me, and giving him (short) time outs. Bottom line, I think it's something that he'll eventually grow out of, but in the meantime, I will take one of them with me every time I answer the front door, go to the bathroom, and to the kitchen when I make lunch, or sweep the floor, etc... in this way, I'm hoping to eliminate opportunities for either one of them to get bitten, and increase one-on-one time with me, even if it's just for a short period. This will also lessen the biting, if it's due to frustration, or a need for my attention. Let me know if you have any other helpful suggestions, and I will do some research on the Internet tonight, before I go to sleep.

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Generally if a child is biting it's either because they're teething or they're upset. Given your comments I would guess that he is biting the other child because he is jealous.

  • Is he an only child?
  • Has he had much interaction with other children while in your care?

If your baby-sitting Stephanie's child is a relatively new thing, or if it happens more in the presence of other children this may be indicative of a jealousy problem, which is normal at around 12-18 months.

Your doctor's advice is good for teething, but you have to be proactive to correct a jealousy issue. Taking one child with you wherever you go may stop the biting short term but will not help the underlying issue. If you take Walt, you are enforcing the jealousy issue. If you take the other child you will only make Walt more jealous.

  • Split your time fairly. It's important not to show a bias toward your son (which is difficult because of course every parent is biased about their kids.)
  • Try not to "spoil" your child too much when you're not with other children. For example, if you spend every waking second loving on your son when you're not baby sitting it will be easy for Walt to identify the other child as being the reason for you not paying as much attention to him when you're baby sitting.
  • Be fair, but understand that fair is not always the same as equal. Treat each child as an individual. Every kid is unique.
  • Positive reinforcement. Reward them when they get along without biting. This is much more effective than punishment.
  • Very interesting. He is an only child for the next 8weeks (+\-), and so I've been giving him unlimited attention on the 3days a week, on which we're not working. I thought it would keep him from getting jealous, if he had me to himself, on days off. – Sarah Sands Jul 25 '17 at 2:39
  • @SarahSands - Be prepared; he may start biting the baby when the baby is a bit older. My baby used to crawl over to others to bite! I was absolutely incredulous. :-/ – anongoodnurse Jul 25 '17 at 14:08
  • My sister tried to strangle me. Biting would have been nice:) – user2497 Aug 4 '17 at 16:44
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I have watched biters & had one of my own be a biter. This is what has helped me most.

Firstly, for me the only biters I had were non-talkers. I think this is very normal from speaking to others, researching it myself. It really is a communication. It might be one we do not prefer, but it is a communication/expression.

It is more useful to stop biting on the whole if you can stop the child before the bite is landed. The more a child lands a bite successfully, the more ingrained it becomes as a way they go about life & getting through their own frustrations. So the key then becomes observation so you become better at predicting "bite-likely" situations so you can intervene before anyone is bitten. This isn't easy. I am aware, as in a day there is a lot of reasons to miss the signal, like cleaning up spills, grabbing something you need, picking up toys, etc. But you do the best you can do & watch everything.

I find a loud noise is a fast interception to a bite when you see one coming. So a loud "HEY" really quickly, a clap of hands, etc. It will often startle them into stopping what they are doing to look at you. Then you can intercede & tell them what else they can do. "When you are mad, you can stomp feet" or something you find an acceptable alternative that is non verbal & within his capacity, so he can feel able to express his frustration, anger, etc without doing something you don't want him doing.

You can at that time also offer things you can bite. My one who is a biter does want to bite, period. It helps her ease frustration. I have chewelry for her, it's actually meant to chew, for kids. She also can opt to bite on a stuffed animal, a blanket, a pillow, and she will sometimes choose to do so. That is fine. She also is allowed to scream into pillows & likes that too for now. It helps give her tools on acceptable ways to deal with her own feelings.

If a bite is landed, pay no attention to the biter initially at all. Always rush to the aid of the bitten child, lavish them with attention, make sure they are okay. Be a bit dramatic in the "OH MY GOODNESS YOU POOOOOOR THING!" and lay it on thick. Generally speaking, the biter doesn't want you to adore the person he/she was so irritated with, so that alone is a deterrent. When the bitten child is all better, you can then say, "We can bite (insert whatever you want him to have) when we feel like biting, but we don't bite people". Keep it simple. He is too young to retain anything longer than that.

Really though, this is handled on a core level like all aggression in young children. You just offer then other options, take care of the "victim" FIRST before addressing them & then offer the thing you want them to do. Just saying no, or punishing will never work because toddlers are not problem solvers. That bite is a release. If you do not offer him something else to do instead when he feels that way, it will take a lot longer to address it. If you merely say "don't do it" on whatever it is, that doesn't help them to sort out what you want from them. So when this age, all day I spend saying things like "Here, THIS is a better item to play with. How about we push the buttons on this toy? Let me trade you this, it's so much MORE fun than the remote. You want to climb? How about me make a pile of pillows you can climb then? Oh I see you are sooooo angry right now, how about me bite on THIS to let it out?" That sort of thing. I reduce "no" to absolute minimum (helps avoid frustration) and I offer great alternatives all day to try to keep them within the limits of what is safe, appropriate & good without constantly having them feel like every time they turn around they are being told they cannot do or have what they want.

I also think your response to the parent(s) was very thoughtful & professional. All children will run into being bitten eventually. It really is quite normal for age & I am not sure why people get so upset about that one thing in particular. To me I prefer my kids do not ever cause pain to other kids & likewise I prefer other kids not cause pain to mine. That said, it is bound to happen among toddlers in particular & all you can do is manage it, teach through it, and keep an eye. It sounds like you are doing that.

  • TL;DR. But a good answer. – user2497 Aug 4 '17 at 16:43
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If your child enjoys biting, it may because he has an itch in his gums. Try brushing his gums vigorously, and see if he enjoys this. It is a common problem; I myself used to bite for this reason.

While this is probably not a very popular suggestion, masks are not out of scope for this problem. https://www.ebay.com/itm/391691187182 They also prevent swallowing harmful items (like lego blocks) The linked mask is very popular among children. You could also choose a superhero mask, like black panther or spiderman.

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