Stopping a 15-month old boy from biting!

I’m his Nanny. He has started biting…HARD! He bit into my sweatshirt-covered shoulder hard enough to leave a bruise and today he bit me in the face twice. Sometimes you can tell what he’s up to; sometimes he seems to be coming in for a kiss. His parents give him a smack…I refuse. I hold his arms firmly and make him look me in the eye, face to face and give him a stern enough “No Biting!” that he usually starts to cry. Then he hugs me and pats me on the shoulder. Then he bites again, later. What on earth can we do about this? It HAS to stop! Sometimes he really latches on and it hurts like hell; I’m afraid I’ll accidentally hurt him by jerking away really hard. Any suggestions? Please?

Bite him back.


Scare him, gently, a little bit.

When he bites you yell “OW!”. If you startle him it is ok; don’t yell at him but let him hear you loud and clear. Tell him it hurt you. Be a little sad or pouty - mimic with lots of exaggeration the emotion he feels when he gets an owie.

Then tell him what else he can do - give kisses, blow raspberries. Redirect the urge to use his mouth on you.

It won’t fix it the first time, but be consistent and it’ll sink in.

Remember you aren’t trying to actually frighten him or make him feel guilty. He is experimenting with cause and effect and you have a great opportunity to start teaching him empathy.

Also: Anger and aggressive behavior in children | BabyCenter

Don’t bite back!

Thanks, HR! I’ve basically been doing those things and making the faces/sounds he makes when he gets hurt. I think he’s been acting out lately because of a recent visit to the ER and a serious cold. He’s been doing the back-arching tantrum thing, hitting and biting; probably because he feels like crap and is a Crabby Patty! He’s usually an amazingly happy kid and is being quite the trouper, except for what I’ve mentioned. He’s my best little friend and the love of my life and I just want to help him get through this without feeling bad (his parents and I have way different styles/philosophies, but that’s a whole different story…)

Give him a little thump with the flick of your forefinger off of your thumb to his lip and say “No biting!”, immediately when he bites you. Lots of children bite in that in-between stage, both of my kids did. The thump is not as strong as a smack, but it gets their attention and its in the area where they are being offensive. The biting, I believe is a normal oral reaction…they have been very oral up until this stage.

Positive reinforcement. Praise him when he looks to be about to bite but does not (e.g., he comes in for a kiss and gives a kiss rather than a bite). Give him a treat he enjoys periodically in addition to the praise.

Nobody suggested pulling the kid’s teeth?
I am shocked, I tell you, SHOCKED!

Folks are much too permissive these days.
In my day if a kid bit me, I would pin him down and extract his incisors faster than you could say ‘holy crap that hurts!’ <insert old man waving cane and shouting ‘get off my lawn!’>


Don’t look at me that way! The teeth will grow back, dammit!
heh heh heh

No, seriously, the idea of some negative feedback (the slight pop on the lip seems a good idea) combined with the positive feedback of praising him when he doesn’t bite may well work.

Hazle, you sound like a wonderful nanny. Good luck.

Wash his mouth out with soap the next time he does that. He’ll get the message, probably on first time.

Duct tape.

If you called me a Crabby Patty I’d probably bite you too.

Had do deal with this with two of my kids. We tried the nice parent thing but needed to escalate once other people were getting hurt.

Wilbo523 has a good idea. I know it as a ‘flitz’ (spelling). It scares the kid more than anything.

Last resort was a shock and awe reaction. After another biting incident, I went over and grabbed the kid, carrying him to the bathroom. I explained that we have tried to get him to stop biting and he hadn’t. So I took out a bar of soap and told him to bite…hard.

Have not had repeat offenders.
The nanny/child relationship probably has some different dynamics. I reserve the right to ruin my own kids.

All I can say is, good luck. Some of the solutions mentioned here wouldn’t have fazed the Firebug in the least, given the things we already tried when he was going through his biting phase (which finally, at the age of 2.5 years, seems to have gone away). He woulda bit down on Greenback’s soap bar, swallowed some of the pieces, spit out others, and grinned at us.

I hate to say it, but the best thing is to simply be wary - to know where his mouth is when he’s close to you, and make sure he doesn’t get many opportunities to clamp it on to you.

And decide (in conjunction with his parents) what the appropriate punishment is, so you can consistently apply it. Stuff like that has to have some consequences, even if it’s no more than a time out.

You have to decide what the function of the behavior is. Behaviors have four functions: escape (getting away from something), attention, tangible (he wants something), or sensory (it feels good). Based on the short description you’ve given, it seems like he’s biting for attention. It sounds like you are actually reinforcing the behavior by saying, “No biting!” and making a big sad reaction, then accepting comfort from him. He could be biting you because he wants to see this whole chain of behavior occur.

I would suggest putting biting on extinction: in other words, if he bites you, completely ignore him. Move away or block him if he’s hurting you, but don’t otherwise react or talk to him. At the same time, frequently praise non-biting behavior (“Nice giving me a gentle kiss.” “I like how you’re keeping your mouth to yourself.”)

You might try putting him down. Set him on the floor, turn him away from you, and don’t pick him back up for a minute. If he wants to see a reaction you haven’t given it to him.

Have you talked to his parents about how they handle it? You’re all on the same team, and it would be nice if you could come up with a game plan together.

What about getting him one of these?

Where you can buy chloroform?

Beat the shit out of him.

Oh wait. MONTHS old. Sorry. :smiley:

Have you tried giving him a chew toy?

I’m a big fan of the “Do it back and use it as a lesson to show that it hurts and you don’t like it”, although 15 months might be a little too young to understand.

Oh, I LOVE the idea of the non-reaction plus praise for kissing and gentleness. I’ll start working on this tomorrow. Unfortunately, his parents and I do not share many child-raising philosophies! Dad is really rough with him and lets him hit, but then he gets in trouble for hitting women (Jr., not the Dad!) They spank or slap. I will not, unless it’s a matter of swatting his hand away from something dangerous. They expect him to understand that some cabinets he can get into and some he can’t. And so on… Anyway, thanks for all of the tips!