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Biting: when big sis bites little bro

Many of children go through a biting phase at some point.  An urbanMama emails her situation and asks whether anyone else has experiences to share:

My 3yo daughter just started biting her 15mo brother. (They are almost the same size so she used to just push him away but now there's only 4" and 4lbs separating the 2 of them.) It usually happens because she gets frustrated because he's in her face and instead of using her words, she chomps down hard. In the last 3 days, shes bitten him at least 4 times hard enough to leave teeth marks that I can still see 3 days later. How do I get her to stop?  She's never bitten anyone before and nothing has changed recently in our daily lives.

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Curious to see what other mamas have to say since I'm always looking for ways to get my older son to keep his hands off the younger one!

My advice, which has been fairly successful at our house... When things are calm (not right in the middle of the situation since no one is thinking rationally at that point), talk to her about why biting is not ok, and tell her what will happen if she bites again. (At our house, you get an automatic, no discussion time out for anything physical--hitting, pushing, scratching, etc.--3 minutes on the doormat). Talk about why someone might think it's ok to bite and then talk about what the better solution is--use words, come get mama, etc.

Then, when it happens again, in a very calm, matter of fact way, tell her that she needs to go to the time out spot (or do whatever you guys agreed would be the consequence). I find it works best when I dont yell (easier said than done sometimes!) and when I give him as little attention over it as possible. (Lots of times he does stuff to his brother to get my attention, so the stronger reaction he gets from me the more "successful" his mission, it feels like).

I've also heard about a book titled something along the lines of "Teeth are not for Biting", but I dont know how age appropriate it is. (For some reason I'm under the impression it's geared for the younger ones.) But you could try reading it with her and launching your big discussion from there.

I really like telling stories at bedtime that have the issues we are dealing with in them. Like your own custom-made fairy tale. I have a very willful daughter who bites her older brother (but never anyone else). My daughter does not respond well to time outs and stern reprimands (although I still do that as biting/hitting are just plain old not allowed). She responds much, much better to a more roundabout method. The stories are good because I'm not telling her she did something wrong all the time. I can say "remember the story about the girl who bit her brother..." I don't really know how much it has helped, but at least I'm addressing it and she's actually listening.

Woo-hoooey, biting is a fun one. One of my kids (now 6) bit for two years. TWO YEARS. Part of the problem was that he didn't have a sibling at the time, so all of his bites were in PUBLIC, to friends and strangers. The One Thing you can be glad of is that you can work on the issue at home! :)

Since it took us two years to stop the biting, I'm obviously no expert on parenting advice. We eventually started giving our son a small bite of taco sauce immediately after he bit. I have heard of using a mixture of vinegar/water as well. For us, nothing else worked. All the talk-talk-talking never worked so well with my 2-3 year old. Maybe this seems cruel but biting is a Big Deal in the Mommy Circles...
It is far more socially-unacceptable than hitting or pushing. Which means that--if your child bites a child other than the sibling - be prepared to immediately check on the hurt child, apologize OVER AND OVER AGAIN to the mother and child. And I'm not kidding. I learned all this the hard way.

TWO YEARS. Fun times. :)

I think Leah's advice is awesome!!!

I just went throuh a phase of my daughter hitting me. In fact, she looked me right in the eye, with a very angry, defiant look on her face, & punched me in my breast that she knows I just had a lumpectomy in. (no cancer, just to keep this about you!) She is very loving & careful at all other times. This was her way of acting out when she wasn't getting her way. Just like we're always trying different ways to teach her how to do what we want, so is she trying to teach us about what she wants!

The thing that worked for me was to tell her that I can't be around her if I can't trust that she's not going to hurt my body. So we had one day of no hugs, snuggles, sitting in my lap for books. It sucked, for both of us, but it worked. The following morning we had a big talk about how if she didn't hit, I would give her another chance, but if she ever did that again I would have to do it again. It's been a week with no hitting. I know it may be not possible to separate them at all times, but maybe if you only did it when it was something that your daughter likes then it would help.

Good luck!

Teeth are not for biting is a book my mother-in-law got at an abuse conference. It's a fun story about different ways we use our teeth but explains over and over that teeth are not for biting. I am pretty sure you can find it at the library there is also Hands are not for hitting and feet are not for kicking. I love this series.

My son has never been a consistent biter but when he does it I whip out the book and he gets a reminder of all the things teeth are for. Also at the end of these books are different ways to help over come biting.

soap. just touching the tongue is enough here. recidivism rate is every couple months, and then usually it's just the one word reminder if things lapse. it's all very calm and understood. my child responds more to tactile information; just talking about things doesn't have lasting effects at his age yet.

I was a full-time nanny for a very wise and wonderful mama. She was patient, she used time-outs, I was always in awe of her.
One day her four-year-old son started pinching her, hard, when he was angry. He did it twice in one day and it was clear that her reaction, a talking-to, all that usual stuff was not going to work. So this wise mama, who I learned so much from - truly... pinched him back. Just as hard, same place. He was shocked. It occurred to me that he didn't understand that what he was doing was painful. He never pinched her again.
I know this goes against every pacifist, AP, talk-it-out, never hurt piece of parenting that we try to accomplish... but sometimes I believe it is appropriate to do something shocking. It is the level of our reaction that tells the child the import of the crime. If the consequence is same-old same-old, whether that is a time-out, or a swat on the butt, or whatever, what's to differentiate between biting and yelling or stealing a cracker or throwing food or dumping water on the floor or any other relatively minor and painless infractions?
Sometimes I lament that mothers of today aren't allowed to even THINK about corporal punishment! Our moms had it SO MUCH EASIER!
:-) Good luck

Oh, Rhonda. It's okay to not be PC about pinching. No one would dare villify anyone for their discipline techniques. You just can't say ewwww....mini vans and soccer moms. That's the stuff that gets the blood boiling around here.

LOL! Thanks... I thought I might be treading on thin ice...
Although do you think I should remove my "Bush's Last Day 1/20/09" and "Hopemonger - Barack Obama" stickers before I drive my Dodge Caravan minivan to Illinois through Idaho, Wyoming, S. Dakota... ?

My 3 1/2 year old son is still biting....I am lost of what to do. It has been months since he has bitten anyone. Usually he bites one of the older kids if daycare, and usually provoked by an argument. But today he bit the baby (thank God he did not break the skin). WHAT SHOULD I DO? We have tried time outs, a bit of a hot pepper, and spankings. But obviously this all takes places hours after it has happened since my husband and i work ful time. Any helpful suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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