This bites (literally)

Well folks, it finally happened to me. My perfect angel ahead-of-the-curve baby girl is morphing into a Real Child. With behavior that needs to be corrected.

Specifically? Biting. HELP US.

It began last week as Syd played with her cousin RW, who is 5 months older. Like most toddlers, RW is not accustomed to sharing his toys in his own home. He has a 4-month-old baby sister and a dog … and still has the unchallenged rule of his own household. My daughter enjoys the same rule over her own home and when she saw all the new! exciting! toys! at her cousin's house she very naturally helped herself and was shocked to find that taking something away from her cousin to play with was Not Nice. When we came to visit the kids at first played happily! Excitedly! Days one, two and three were magical. There were only a few "fussy" incidents between the little ones and they all ended amicably.

Until. UNTIL.

My SIL and I stood at the counter in the kitchen chatting when we heard a commotion in the den not two feet away. When we looked up RW's face was twisted in pain and he had a firm grip on Syd's face. Both had hands clenched on the same toy. We went into full-on mama mode and when we pulled them apart I saw it: A huge, red bite mark on RW's forearm. You guys, there was a PERFECT INDENT of each and every tooth on his poor arm.

First of all? MY POOR NEPHEW.


Third? WHAT DO WE DO!?!?!

Syd was instantly in the longest time-out she's ever had. I took her downstairs to the guest room and plopped her in her empty pack-n-play. John was off hiking somewhere and I was so beside myself (she'd already not 15 mins earlier stolen a PARING KNIFE out of drawer in her aunt's kitchen and taken off RUNNING DOWN THE HALLWAY WITH IT) that I called him and DEMANDED he come home NOW. I sat on the couch in near tears waiting for him to get home. We disciplined in our usual way, and by the time we were done practically had Syd chanting the phrase "NO BITING!" for the rest of the day. We hoped that this would be the first and last time it happened.

We asked the grandparents that night what they thought about it. My MIL told us that my husband at three years old was still a major biter. She got so desperate that she finally followed Dr. Dobson's advice … and bit him back. HARD. They both cried, but it worked. He never bit again. We took to the bookstore and the internets. How to discipline a two-year-old biter? Do you bite back? (According to most books? No.) 

The basic strategy we agreed on was to pay more attention to the victim than the offender. One book said "don't give your child intense attention when she bites. This will encourage her to continue the action for attention. Pay attention to the victim and make it clear to your child that you are unhappy with what they have done." So we did it.

And the next day? She bit her cousin lightly ON THE FACE. We mooned over him and ignored her when it happened. We still admonished her (in low, calm tones) and she served a time-out. She made her apologies to her cousin and they played nicely the rest of the day under our watchful eyes.

And the next day? She bit him again on the arm. And then? SHE BIT HER FATHER (on the finger). And then? At church back home? She bit her friend on the hand.

Yesterday she bit John again on the hand. HARD. She has yet to bite me. I'm guessing it's only a matter of time.

I have heard it told that if you bite three times you get your butt tossed out of preschool. I have heard it told that I was a biter when I was an, er, ankle-biter. (SORRY MOM.) We've also noticed that she's getting her two-year molars on the top. We pray regularly that as soon as they come in she'll quit. But. WHAT IF THEY TAKE MONTHS TO FINALLY CUT?

Kill me. Just … yeah.

My thoughts are: GREAT. JUST IN TIME FOR A NEW BABY. And also? How do we nip this in the bud quickly? Any recommendations? Because this is a turn of events I was (STUPIDLY) NOT planning on. Please. HELP US.


12 thoughts on “This bites (literally)

  1. sally says:

    What finally worked with my er angelic biter was the neighborhood kid that bit her back. Pray someone her size has the same behavior, and she learns her lesson through natural consequences. Under no circumstances do you bite her back. She needs to see appropriate behavior modeled by her parents not what you are telling her not to do.
    When I asked the pediatrician what to do he said,”some kids are biters, some are kickers, some are hitters.” He was NO help.

  2. Courtney says:

    Oh this post is right up my alley! Chase was a biter (I mean I was getting called 2-3 times a week) until about 20 months when a friend bit the TAR out of him. I was actually there when it happened and immediately talked to Chase about why we don’t bite our friends because it hurts and yadda yadda yadda. And yup, that was all it took. A good friend of mine had the same issue with her two kids and she bit them back and it worked for her. I was THISCLOSE to doing the biting thing myself, but that day at daycare solved that problem for me. You gotta do what you think is best!!! And for what it’s worth, Chase bit Tyler on the arm when he first came home from the hospital. You deal, you get over it, you move on! It won’t be the last time a sibling bites/hits/punches the other!

  3. Christina says:

    My son (19 months)was biting me all the time and I started grabbing his arm when he was coming at me and made him bite himself. At first he laughed and thought it was funny but it didn’t last long. HE still tried every once in a while but has never bit another kid. *knock on wood*

  4. Maggie says:

    The other day Molly sunk her teeth into Jack’s arms and yes, there was an indentation for every tooth. I, uh, flew off the handle. It was rather spectacular, if I do say so myself. Not my proudest moment, that’s for sure, but she hasn’t done it again!

  5. Erica says:

    OMG! I can’t believe that bite them back thing is Dr. Dobson. My mom has been telling me to do that but now at least I know where she got the idea. I wonder – did my mom ever bite me?
    My daughter has been biting me lately and I think I am the only lucky recipient. Always in the same place on my arm. Hurts. But I like Christina’s idea of having them bite their own arm – I may just try that.

  6. rian says:

    Dobson knows what he is talking about. I was a biter and I didn’t stop until my mom bit me. I know it sounds mean and is prolly hard to do as a mom, but just remember you are doing what is best for your kid. Good luck.

  7. Dr. Maureen says:

    Nora bites me constantly, so I am here to empathize. I have no solutions. Nora is only 13 months, so even if I could get her to stop (which I so far can’t) I doubt my solution would help you.

  8. Rachel says:

    I don’t have a biter, but I just read “Making the Terrible Two’s Terrific” by John Rosemond. It’s got pretty good guidance in it.

    In regards to biting he says pay attention, most of the time you should be able to tell right before a bite occurs. If the child bites, or tries to bite, face the child, tell them “NO” then take the child (facing away from you so you don’t get bit again) to her room and set her on the floor, and walk away, leaving the door open. He says eventually the child will give up because they don’t get a reward for doing it.

    He also says sometimes biting the child back works, but often it makes the problem worse because it turns biting into a game.

    Good luck!

  9. Jen says:

    I wish I had some magic advice, but I’ve got nothing! I’ll just say that I am now DREADING this phase in my lovely girl.

  10. Sara says:

    I’ve got nothing either, just wanted to say I hope you find something that works, then tell us so we can avoid it šŸ™‚

  11. anonymous says:

    Every biter in my family growing up was bit back by their mother (including myself), it fixes the problem. It’s not cruel, kids that young don’t understand all the words we say when they’re in trouble for biting, if they know it hurts they won’t do it.

    Now I am the mother of a 2 1/2 year old who gets bit at least once a week at daycare by one specific kid. Not only do they not toss the kid out, but they don’t do anything about it.

  12. Carrie says:

    I agree that the biting back technique works. It’s what my mom did to me (a biter) when I was little, however we created a variation of this for my son, who unfortunately was “the biter” at his preschool. (For all those parents who think nothing is being done to “the biter” trust me, my son spent tons of time in the Directors office, I was mortified humiliated and had so many parent/teacher conferences about it you wouldn’t believe it. You would probably be surprised what is going on behind the scenes). Anyway, I digress. Here’s what we did. We had him bite himself. Yes, we did. If he bit a child (or anyone) in addition to going to immediate time out he had to bite himself on the arm. He did it. Hard. And after a couple times the problem stopped.

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