A.K. asks from Minneapolis, MN on December 01, 2009
Biting Toddler - Osseo,MN
My toddler bites all the time. It started when we had our second daughter eight months ago. She does it more often when she has teething symptoms or yeast infections from antibiotics from having ear infections. We are not giving her attention when she does it. She is directed to time out and we give attention to the "victim." However, I am concerned about how to get her to stop!
I bit her back. Not that hard. It was a last straw. It didn't work. The next time she bit someone, she came up to me giving me her arm like she was prepared for the consequence.
We are worried about the other parents reactions to our not scolding and giving her negative attention. We don't want her getting attention, but I am starting to think this will just have to be something she grows out of eventually. Any suggestions?
We are about to move and have some big changes. I am scared it is going to get worse before better!
So What Happened?™
SoM I'd love to say I hadn't already tried the board books, redirection, and scolding. I'm a teacher and am familiar with positive reinforcement and punishment. She has tubes for her ears. I don't really see it as terrible that I tried biting back and had her repeat to me no biting.
I think that consequences are a learned result and she is not yet two. She is higly verbal and communicates very well. I have a feeling it is a result of the attention it affords her after at daycare. We are more interested in what people have seen working at attention removal and time out techniques.
Please don't lecture about biting back because some people get too sensitive! It was a strategy. And one that didn't make her think twice anyway.
Okay...so I thank the parents that responded so nicely about knowing how it feels that we get pushed to the point of wanting to try anything. I say I do pretty well considering my whole family keeps telling me I don't respond well enough. I have been told that biting her "will do the trick." I don't really think so, and I am glad I tried it. Now I am on some sort of advocacy of parental brainstorming--biting back included. Ugh. No.
I appreciate the candidness of those who responded about not needing to care what other parents think. Our most important cause is taking care of our children, not what other mommies do or say. I will still cringe when I drop her off at daycare at the fitness center that I might get a call while soaking in the whirlpool..."your daughter has BITTEN somone."
E.M. answers from Des Moines on December 02, 2009
my son went through a few biting stages he is 21 months old now and does very well to control himself. We continued to tell him no, and if i could tell he was about to bite i would say "gentle kisses" and he would calm himself enough to give an "open mouth" kiss without clamping down. my son also got a few time outs for more serious offenses. i told him that no one wants to play with him when he hits or bites. so far this method has worked out. Don't take peoples criticisms to heart on here. people only know what works for them and thats all they can tell you. everyone feels strongly when it come to the safety of children. though at this point i dont agree with biting ones child i cannot say that i dont do things in certain situations that other people may not agree with. I hope you can get the biting under control for all "victims" sake
S.B. answers from Minneapolis on December 02, 2009
I feel for you - one of my six was a biter, too :) Biting back rarely works, I think because we are never going to bite hard and so it doesn't seem like a punishment to the child (my daughter thought it was funny the one time I tried it). We ended up basically going to "total forces" - mostly because she was going to get kicked out of daycare for it, and changing her daycare would have only made it worse. I got really mad. When she bit, I got down on eye level and "yelled" at her (not screaming out of control or anything, but loud and stern). I also did a bit of yucky on the tongue and sit in the corner for doing it. I also did a little reward chart for no biting at daycare and every morning I would tell her that if she didn't bite anyone that day, she would get a star (I am not a fan of reward charts to "praise" stopping behavior that they shouldn't be doing anyways, but I was at my wits end), but also told her that biting would be big trouble when she got home. It took about 3 months to completely eliminate the behavior, but it did help some right away (she didn't get kicked out of daycare). Consistency is the key - whatever you decide to use as "punishment," stick with it no matter what.
Good luck and remember, biting is generally a short lived phase anyways :)
J.L. answers from Davenport on December 02, 2009
Maybe give her a rubbery teething toy to put in her pocket. Tell her if she feels like biting something she may bite this. If it's out of frustration, teach her what to say, or a sign if she's not speaking much yet. It helped me to teach "help" with the sign to go along with the word, seemed to add emphasis (make a fist with right hand, place on top of left palm and raise them up, like the left is helping raise the right). The other was "stop, please" (chop the side of your right hand onto the center of your left palm, and then rub you chest with open palm for please)
K.T. answers from Minneapolis on December 02, 2009
My son went through a major biting phase, too [he learned it at daycare. Tons of toddlers bite]. It sounds like you do have a good approach and it may be that she will just grow out of it. On the other hand, you might need to step it up a bit too. You could try making the consequences greater: making the time-outs longer, taking toys away, or something else that is meaningful. You could also try rewards: giving her stickers for being gentle/not biting, or some other kind of reward. I think doing both of those at the same time would have the best results.
What worked for us was, every time he would bite I would say sternly "NO, We don't bite. You gave _____ an owie. That makes _____ sad and _____doesn't want to be around you when you gives owies. You need to be gentle" I know, a lot of explaining for a toddler. But I think it sunk it after 10 or 15 times. Toddlers can understand a lot more than you would think. I followed it by putting him in his crib, alone in his room [door closed] for a few minutes. When we were at someone else's house I would use the play pen, or strap him into his stroller/high chair. Anything to keep him in place and ensure he would be safe as well. He hated being alone. When I went to get him, I would tell him again "You bit _____ and gave him/her an owie. You need to say sorry and give him/her a hug" And I would make him give the person/child a hug and I would say "that's better. _____ likes it when you are gentle".
Whenever I punish my son for something, after the punishment, I make a point to flip MY attitude around, too, even when I am still frustrated and maybe even angry. I try to be positive and kind of "forget" what just happened. This way, there is no lingering, subtle punishment, and he can also clearly understand that it's the behavior I don't like. Not him. He can understand, Oh- Mommy is happy and playful and gives me positive attention except when I [insert bad behavior]. My son is not quite two now, and still bites occasionally- maybe once or twice a month, but now all I have to do is look shocked by it, and he will immediately rub the owie or give a hug [he still can't say sorry] and he doesn't do it again.
If it is attention she is seeking, maybe she really does need more one-on-one attention from you. I like the suggestion you got from someone else about having her carry around a toy she can bite. It also might be a good time to start talking to her about "feelings words" even if you don't think she will get it. My son also has one of those Baby Faces books that has pictures of babies that are "happy" "sad" "angry" "shy" etc. I think that could be a good tool to pull out when she bites, and point to the sad or angry ones and ask questions and explain a little. Anyway, don't worry about what the other parents think. You are the one who decides how to parent your child, no one else. Eventually she will develop the ability to use her words and express her needs and frustrations in other ways
J.L. answers from Minneapolis on December 02, 2009
You mentioned in your "so what happened" that she is in daycare. While I didn't have biters, several of my friends did...and they all said their biting problems were directly linked to another child at the daycare biting their child.
They all said the problem was put in check after calling their daycare provider on the carpet to police that behavior appropriately.
Unfortunately, some of us can't be with our littlest all day. So if this is where you're daughter caught the biting bug, you might have a challenge on this one, if you and your daycare provider cannot create some consistency in working with your daughter. I'd sit down with her/them and see what they are doing to discourage kids from this type of behavior. Try to make discipline and approach across the board if possible. Work out a plan that goes from daycare to home and vice-versa.
One friend had BIG problems with her daycare. Apparently her daycare provider was encouraging the kids to "fight it out" when they had disagreements. My friend's son was the sweetest kid, but after a short stint at this daycare learned all kinds of bad behaviors, biting included. She moved him out of the home daycare, and into a center by her home, and eventually her son "unlearned" the negative behavior.
C.O. answers from Minneapolis on December 01, 2009
I tried everything with my oldest and nothing worked UNTIL I made him bite himself. Hard. I don't think he ever bit anyone again. I suspect he didn't realize how much HIS teeth hurt other people until he felt it himself.
K.G. answers from Milwaukee on December 02, 2009
It is a phase that she will grow out of. I think you are handling it just the right way. And don't worry about other parents' reactions. You have to do what works for your family and what goes along with your family values. You can't please all the people all the time.
Good luck to you!
R.S. answers from Minneapolis on December 03, 2009
My son had the same thing when he was quite small. Ear infections and teething going on at the same time. Not sure if anyone told you this...but they go hand-in-hand unfortunately. And when you have a chidl that has both...its especially painful for that little one. Versus the child that only has the teething. So, I feel for the little one! Anyway, I knew my son's personality and knew it wasn't because he was trying to be mean...which is key to know. So, I quickly realized it was a reaction for him to bite something to counteract the pain he was feeling with his gums...and maybe incoming teeth and brewing ear infection. He used to bite down hard my on the shoulder all the time...and I remember it does hurt and it almost is scary as it does happen so fast! But can't blame the poor kids... They say if adults were to start teething they couldn't even handle the pain! Some people say to use cold to help quell the pain in the gums. There are those littel toys you can get especially made to freeze for this kind of use (or those that vibrate too). But cold did not work at all for my son...it seemed to actually make him more angry. HOWEVER, warmth did though! So, sometimes I'd make an especially warm bottle for him to nurse from and he knew enough to put the nipple against those gums to ease that pain pressure.
What also REALLY helped (and was easiest to have at all times) was that I got him a really soft blanket with silk on one side, and a really soft fuzzy other side. The silk was all around the edges as well. Target sells an off-brand of this blanket by Carters (Baby USA carries an even nicer, durable heavier weight brand too). And of course Carters sells the same thing too. So, when he'd do this to me... I'd quickly grab that blanket...which I always had handy. And I'd firmly say...BITE YOUR BLANKET. Which he did. And he loved it! I ended up buying a couple of these fairly inexpensive blankets to have on hand. So, one could always be in the wash at all times. And also kids do tend to get attached to their 'lovies'. So, I needed to make sure we had back-ups just in case we'd ever lose it. Its come in handy for many ways besides this... It obvious use soon was it was for his 'lovie'/comfort. Then, it also kept him warm as well on car rides, etc. And also it was useful a few times when he all of a sudden got the flu and almost threw up all over himself! It was a handy catch-all!
Of course I'm sure you know that Ibuprofen/Motrin for little ones will help take down some of that swelling and pain...and could be used from time to time. But you have to be careful how much and how often you dose out of this. At that small an age, its not good for their blood, etc.
Best of luck with that cutie pie! Sure hope your little one feels relief soon. I'm sure they want to enjoy their childhood too. :)
C.L. answers from Minneapolis on December 02, 2009
I disagree with the other poster, PLEASE don't bite her back. It just teaches her that biting is o.k. I had a biting toddler. He did grow out of it, although he turned to hitting. He grew out of that too, but he has remained a "spirited child." In both cases, I would firmly say "NO BITING" or "NO HITTING" and then distract him. With hitting I would also firmly grab his hand as I said, "NO HITTING." As he got older and could sit for a timeout we had a rule, "You hit, you sit." There are some really good board books for toddlers that you can read to her too: "Hands are not for Hitting," and I think the other one is "Teeth are not for Biting" or something like that. I may still have my copies if you want more information about them. Regarding the ear infections, my other son had chronic ear infections and ultimately got tubes because of the reactions he was having to the antibiotics. They were successful. However, in retrospect, I wish I had tried chiropractic first. He is 13, and it wasn't as common back then. Have you tried taking her to a pediatric chiropractor for the ear infections? Another resource to check out is Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's book, "Raising Your Spirited Child." Good luck.
J.L. answers from Minneapolis on December 02, 2009
Every child is different but I think every child knows when Mom and Dad are mad. I personally don't see anything wrong with scolding VERY firmly "no biting", move her away from the person she bit and let her see you are mad! Will she go to college biting for attention? Nope...but she sure is creating some chaos now isn't she. This too shall pass, but YOU are the boss. Set some strict boundaries.