Dear Dr. Bill,
How can I get my 1-year-old daughter to stop biting her twin sister?
When babies bite, it’s usually not out of anger, but out of curiosity. As parents, if we overreact, we can actually reinforce the biting behavior.
In other words, if we raise a huge fuss about the biting, the baby likes the attention he receives and will be more likely to repeat the behavior. There’s also a chance that your baby is biting because she is teething, and she finds it soothing to take a chomp out of her sister.
The best way to deal with any negative behavior, including biting, is to calmly and firmly tell your daughter “no!” and then remove her from the situation. You might also gently place a teething toy in her mouth, so she learns that she it’s okay to chew on that but not on her sister. Be consistent, and do this every time she bites. You should see the behavior decrease within a few days.
If she persists, use a short-time out as a consequence. If you have a Pak-N-Play portable playpen, immediately place your daughter there every time she bites her sister. Continue to calmly and firmly tell her “no,” and leave her in the playpen for about one minute.
She won’t like this one bit, so get ready for loud screams of protest. Don't lecture her or scold her, just ignore her. Hang in there, and require her to stay in the playpen until she's "served her sentence."
If you're consistent with your follow through and don't give in to the whining, screaming or temper tantrums, you should find that the biting behavior decreases fairly rapidly. If it doesn't, it's possible that she may have a more serious developmental problem, and you should consult your pediatrician.
Thanks for writing, Kate. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.