2 Year Old Biting Consistently

Updated on October 09, 2009
A.P. asks from Bangor, ME
13 answers

What can I do to my daughter to get her to stop biting people? She will bite her brothers and everyone else that she comes in contact with. I just don't know what to do with her!!!

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answers from Boston on

How are her communication skills? Is she biting out of anger and frustration from not being understood or for another reason. The reason behind the biting would determine how I would go about handling it.

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answers from Boston on

Firmly tell her "No biting, biting hurts!", remove her from the situation, make sure the person whom she has bitten is OK, and be sure she sees that you are giving the attention to the victim, not her. Don't give her undue attention for this unacceptable behaviour, and that goes for all undesirable behaviours, because that will only teach her that its a way to get attention. Also evaluate the motivation behind the biting. Is she doing it just for attention? Is she doing it out of frustration? Do her teeth hurt (teething)?
Whatever you do, DO NOT BITE HER BACK. If she hit someone, would you hit her back? Of course not, and biting her back gives the same message: Biting is OK and an acceptable way to deal with your problems.
Dr. Sears' Discipline Book is great for all kinds of discipline and behaviour issues. Its like my discipline bible, I always have it on hand.



answers from Boston on

Hear's an article I found helpful when my son was a biter.

Biting In The Toddler Years
by Linda Passmark, Ph.D.

Biting is very common among groups of young children, for all types of reasons. But whatever the reason for biting, most parents find it shocking and disturbing, and they want it to stop – quickly! Understanding why the young child bites is the first step in preventing biting as well as teaching the child alternatives to biting.
Most common reasons and solutions for biting

The Experimental Biter: It is not uncommon for an infant or toddler to explore their world, including people, by biting. Infants and toddlers place many items in their mouths to learn more about them. Teach the child that some things can be bitten, like toys and food, and some things cannot be bitten, like people and animals. Another example of the Experimental Biter is the toddler who wants to learn about cause and effect. This child is wondering, 'What will happen when I bite my friend or Mommy?' Provide this child with many other opportunities to learn about cause and effect, with toys and activities.

The Teething Biter: Infants and toddlers experience a lot of discomfort when they're teething. A natural response is to apply pressure to their gums by biting on things. It is not unusual for a teething child to bear down on a person's shoulder or breast to relieve some of their teething pain. Provide appropriate items for the child to teeth on, like frozen bagels, teething biscuits, or teething rings.

The Social Biter: Many times an infant or toddler bites when they are trying to interact with another child. These young children have not yet developed the social skills to indicate 'Hi, I want to play with you.' So sometimes they approach a friend with a bite to say hello. Watch young children very closely to assist them in positive interactions with their friends.

The Frustrated Biter: Young children are often confronted with situations that are frustrating, like when a friend takes their toy or when daddy is unable to respond to their needs as quickly as they would like. These toddlers lack the social and emotional skills to cope with their feelings in an acceptable way. They also lack the language skills to communicate their feelings. At these times, it is not unusual for a toddler to attempt to deal with the frustration by biting whoever is nearby. Notice when a child is struggling with frustration and be ready to intervene. It is also important to provide words for the child, to help him learn how to express his feelings, like "That's mine!" or "No! Don't push me!"

The Threatened Biter: When some young children feel a sense of danger they respond by biting as a self-defense. For some children biting is a way to try to gain a sense of control over their lives, especially when they are feeling overwhelmed by their environment or events in their lives. Provide the toddler with nurturing support, to help him understand that he and his possessions are safe.

The Imitative Biter: Imitation is one of the many ways young children learn. So it is not unusual for a child to observe a friend bite, then try it out for herself. Offer the child many examples of loving, kind behavior. Never bite a child to demonstrate how it feels to be bitten.

The Attention-Seeking Biter: Children love attention, especially from adults. When parents give lots of attention for negative behavior, such as biting, children learn that biting is a good way to get attention. Provide lots of positive attention for young children each day. It is also important to minimize the negative attention to behaviors such as biting.

The Power Biter: Toddlers have a strong need for independence and control. Very often the response children get from biting helps to satisfy this need. Provide many opportunities for the toddler to make simple choices throughout the day. This will help the toddler feel the sense of control they need. It is also important to reinforce all the toddler's attempts at positive social behavior each day.

As with almost all potentially harmful situations involving children, prevention is the key. Adults must be active observers of children to prevent biting. in those times when close supervision doesn't work, the adult must intervene as quickly and as calmly as possible.

When intervening before the potential bite has occurred…….

Talk for the child by offering words like, "I see that you wanted that toy!"
Demonstrate patience and understanding for the frustration the child is experiencing.
Offer solutions like, "We have another red truck right over here. Let's go get it."
Demonstrate alternate ways of interacting and say something like, "She likes it when you rub her arm." Try to stay focused on the positive behavior you want to see, without reminding the child of the negative behavior.
When your child bites……

Comfort the child who was bitten.
Cleanse the wound with mild soap and water. Provide an ice pack to reduce pain and swelling.
Provide comfort for the wounded child by saying something like, "That really hurt! You don't like it when your friend bites your arm!"
Calmly approach the child who bit. Many times these children feel overwhelmed and afraid after they bite. They need comfort, too.
Comfort the child who bit by saying something like, "You seem sad that your friend's arm is hurt from the bite."
Help the child who bit to understand the hurt their friend is feeling by offering to let her talk with her friend. Say something like, "Would you like to see Sally now? You can tell her that you hope she feels better soon." Older toddlers can learn a lot from being allowed to comfort their friend after a bite has occurred. The child who bit may want to see the injury. That's okay if the injured child wants to show it. But do not force either child to have this interaction, unless both are willing.
Reinforce the rule that we don't hurt people. Help both children understand that your job is to keep everyone safe. Say, "I know you are angry. But I can't let you bite people."
When the environment is calm again, remind the children what they can do to assert themselves, like say "No! That's mine!" or "Back away!" or if they are preverbal, teach them to 'growl like a tiger' to express themselves. The goal is to teach assertiveness and communication skills to both the child who bites and the child who gets bitten.
Never hit or bite a child who has bitten. That will teach the child that violence is OK.

Young children need lots of practice to learn the fine art of interacting with their friends in a positive way. They need positive guidance and support from parents. When children gain maturity and experience, and become preschoolers (3+ years old), they will likely have developed more appropriate ways of interacting.

Reprinted with permission of the author.
Source: National Association for the Education of Young Children

"Biting in the Toddler Years" is issued by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Copies have been deposited with the Publications Clearinghouse of the Oklahoma Department of Libraries



answers from Hartford on

I am glad to hear that my 2 year old isn't the only one who does this! The only thing that made an impact with her was me giving her a LONG (5 min) time out. She is 2 so she generally gets a 2 min time out. So the 5 min -- buckled into the high chair without me talking to her seems like FOREVER. It took about 5 times of this kind of time out before it started to make a difference.

Good Luck!!!



answers from Boston on

I take biting very seriously. I have 4 children. It is very dangerous for children to bite. I would "immediately" give a quick slap their mouth and say "bad". Not to hurt them with force, but enough to shock them with a little sting to the mouth. They "did" get the message that it was bad to bite, and stopped doing it.
Let it go after that and continue to give them positive attention for their positive behavior.
I am also a mom that does not hit my children for bad behavior. This was the exception.
Good Luck,



answers from Boston on

Biting her back does NOT teach her that biting is ok. It teaches her that biting hurts. I bit my daughter back when she was little, she never bit anyone again.




answers from Des Moines on

If she bites in the same spot normaly i would put like lemon juice there or somthing else that tastes gross and let her bite that and see what she thinks



answers from Boston on

I agree - bite her back. Do it immediately after she has bitten someone else and say "See how it feels? It hurts" and make her apologize. Then make sure you give her hugs and love after so she's reassured you're not biting her for the same reason she's biting others.

I did this with my son and he stopped biting after that.



answers from Boston on

my kids used to do that to...then one day i bite them back and they never did it again.



answers from Saginaw on

Lemon juice tastes good to most kids --they have under-developed sour taste buds and only taste the sweet.

The only way I know of to stop a biting child is to be on hand at all times to stop her getting physical that way. Biters tend to be pre-verbal kids who have a lot to say and only physical ways to say it. Staying really close to them whenever others are around makes it possible to grab the child's chin and hold her face away from other people's body parts... it also means she is closely enough supervised to avoid getting a label as a 'biter'.

It's a good idea to consider her, for a while until she learns to talk better, a 'mom's child' who is always where mom is, no matter what mom is doing. She is in no position to monitor herself and she is not safe to leave unattended with other children --who are also not equipped to monitor or prevent her behaviour.



answers from Boston on

One of my sons hit and pushed for no reason around that age, and I also had no idea how to stop the behavior. I eventually learned (as another respondant mentioned) that hitting, pushing, and biting at this age is often a sign of frustration at not being able to communicate, and my son indeed did not really start talking until 2 1/2. When his speech finally came (in a bit of a verbal watefall), the pushing and hitting stopped, just like that. Previously, nothing -- time outs, stern words, explanations -- had done the trick. I never figured out how to stop the behavior, but it helped me to understand where it was probably coming from and to know that it wasn't likely to last too long.

Speech itself might or might not be the issue, of course, but there could still be something she's having trouble expressing.



answers from Barnstable on

You have gotten quite a bit of advice and I'm going to share some that was given to me when my son was a biter. A preschool teacher suggested that I bite him. I refused. So she suggested I put his hand into his mouth when he bites so he will bite himself. They assured me that he wouldn't bite himself hard enough to do any damage because he'd realize quickly that biting hurts and would stop. So armed with that advice and assurances I gently moved his hand into his mouth the next time he tried gnawing off my leg. As it turned out, however, my son had a sensory intergration disorder (that we didn't know about) which altered the way he perceived sensations. He actually liked the feel of the bite and it took me years to get him to stop biting his own hand and wrist. All his shirts looked like a puppy had chewed up the sleeves. So listen and read the advice people give you and then carefully choose which advice you follow. Good luck.


answers from Boston on

I absolutely disagree with the posts about biting back! You are trying to teach her that it is NOT okay to bite when she is angry or frustrated, so your response to your own anger and frustration is to bite her?? It teaches her that big people can bite little people, but she can't? Kids at 2 do not have empathy for anyone else, they only know when they themselves get hurt. Imagine a classroom of 15 kids in preschool, and they are all biting each other, and the teacher has to sort out who started it and who was "just" doing it in response? It would be chaos!

If the message is "biting is not acceptable", then there has to be an immediate consequence for her. She must be removed immediately from the situation and put somewhere alone - her room, a time out chair, whatever. Then the kid who got bitten gets your attention. Do not make her apologize because she doesn't get that either - kids at this age aren't really sorry, and they actually wind up learning that they can do whatever they want as long as they say "sorry" afterwards. Don't apologize on her behalf either - just give the other kid all the attention, "I know that hurts, doesn't it?" or I sure don't like it when someone bites me" and so on. So, no matter where you are or how inconvenient it is, you leave where you are. If you are far from home, put her in the car seat and strap her in, but don't go anywhere. (If you have to drive 10 minutes to get her home, she may forget why she had to leave.) The boredom is the immediate payoff for her behavior. You can try taking her back in after 5 minutes, but if it happens again, she leaves again. If you are at home, she goes to her room with no toys or attention from you. She will learn quickly that biting means no toys and no fun and no attention. Use the same words over and over, whatever you choose. "No biting." "Biting is wrong" or "I don't like biting." It's the consistency that is essential.

I agree that it is helpful to find out why she is biting, if you can - boredom, anger, lack of verbal skills. But first you have to stop the behavior. If she loses a toy or the TV immediately, or loses the social connection in a play group, she'll learn.

Be firm and this will pass soon. Good luck.

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