20 Month Old Biting

Updated on March 12, 2008
S.F. asks from Dayton, OH
21 answers

My 20 month old twin boys are currently going through the biting phase. I've tried most of the "nice" methods of dealing with this problem, pretending to cry when they bite me, removing them from the problem, distracting them, giving attn to the victim as oppossed to the biter, etc. Last week I put them in their cribs when they would bite. This worked for one as this descipline was not something he liked. He hasn't bit since. His brother on the other hand could have cared less. In fact he would bite and then go stand at his crib. I've also observed in an attempt to see if their is a pattern to his biting but he does it at all times of the day and no matter his mood. So it's not just when he's frustrated or upset. I've tried labeling his feelings and will continue this. However, with two I need a solution soon. Today I had to put him in his crib while I got lunch becuase he wouldn't stop biting his brother. In my working life I was a family and child counselor and focused on positive methods of reinforcement. However, I think my oldest is testing all limits of discipline and now I have to do something more aversive. With that said, I DO NOT want to bite back. However, I would like to try putting some aversive taste in his mouth such as lemon juice or pepper when he bites. I was wondering if anyone has done this and how you went about it and how did it work? I cannot have him continue to hurt his brother. His brother's back is full of bite marks and places where the skin is broken.

Thanks for any and all help.

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So What Happened?

I appreciate the responses. I think some people forgot that I said there were two which does change the dynamic of how you deal with things in order to keep everyone safe. I have a degree in child development/psychology and feel like I know just about everything that "Supernanny" does. I'm well aware that consistency and follow through are the two most important concepts in disciplining and instilling good behavior in children. I also agree that responding to biting with biting scares the child and teaches a negative lesson and there is less learning there. However, we as parents are all entitled to do what we feel is best for our child. Thanks so much for the responses. We have settled on using a lemon (I like the vinegar idea as well) and he has responded today by biting less. He certainly does not like the taste! Thanks for all your input.

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E.H.

answers from Columbus on

go here and read the articles on disciplining children. you're going to have to go to "harsher" methods.

http://www.nogreaterjoy.org/index.php?id=1

E.

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C.B.

answers from Indianapolis on

I've also heard of putting vinegar on their tongue. I had a friend who did that and she said it worked for her boys. Twins too. Good luck!

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L.G.

answers from Dayton on

This is just a suggestion: You bite him back. Bite him as hard as he bites others, maybe if he sees how it feels to really be bit and hurt, he might stop. I have 3 boys (11,10, and 8). My middle son did some biting, I bit him back and he stopped. I hope it works for you if you try it.

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J.M.

answers from Fort Wayne on

I don't have a solution, but one of my 17 month old twins is a biter and I am trying to solve that same issue. I just talked to someone the other day who said that she used a "yucky tasting something". I too was trying to figure that out. I was thinking of trying vinegar. I will be anxious to see what others say.

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R.T.

answers from Dayton on

Ok, I DO have advice for you. I had a daughter that was a biter and I used vinegar. I just stuck my finger in some vinegar and put it on her tounge...just for the bitter taste and said "NO BITE!" A couple times of this stopped the pattern immediately, and you don't have to have any guilt from giving your child anything that can harm them. Good luck!

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C.W.

answers from Cincinnati on

My children were NEVER biters. I think the reason was we play "bit" each other at an early age. When they were breast fed and bit me I would bit back but gently but hard enough they winced and understood at an early age not to bit.

I did babysit a child who bit everyone. He bit my son right on the eye. It was black and blue for days after. It brought blood big time. Theeth marks were still red with blood when mama got home. I bit him on the arm and brought blood but not near what he did to Mike. I told his mother if she had a problem with it to take her children to another sitter. She did not. I watched them for years and they still think of me a mama. Needless to day Ronnie never bit anyone else after I bit him. His mother did state that if she had known it was that easy she would have done it when the biting started.

I know you don't really want to bit your own child but believe me it will work. If it doesn't the first time your not biting hard enough. He needs to fully understand what and how his bitting effects others.

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E.W.

answers from Cincinnati on

S.,
I feel for you. Really I do. With that said, I bit back after trying other methods (hard enough to hurt but not enough to mark). That is what worked for my children. Have you tried time out in the corner? What about ignoring him while you talk about him to his sibling or reserve special crafts to do with his sibling while mentioning how it would be so nice if 20 month boy could be allowed to do this, too, but cannot because only big boys that do not bite can do this?
On the other hand, my first decided to speak back to me in various ways and I did put organic oatmeal bar soap in her mouth. I made her leave it in her mouth for 2 minutes at a time. (We left the bar sticking out of her mouth.) Then I stood there with her for the allotted time. Please be careful with what you choose and chack that the ingredients are safe.
I can guarantee that pepper would not work with my 2 year old because she likes spicy stuff. On the other hand, I know several parents that have used other soaps. Tea tree oil is also a nice alternative...tasted gross but is completely safe.

Please let us know what works...
E.
www.marykay.com/elissaward
[email protected]____.com

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C.B.

answers from Lafayette on

my friends daughter used to LOVE to bite my son..not any other kids, just him and she stated it repeatedly "i only bite austin mommy' as she was getting in trouble. she bought a bottle of the stuff you put on your fingernails to keep from biting them and when she went to bite my son again she gave her a quick swab of the brush..she stood over my trash-can spitting for about 15 minutes to get the taste out of her mouth, but it only took one more time with her getting a swab before she quit entirely. i think they sell the stuff at SALLY'S BEAUTY SUPPLY, you can check walgreens and places like that too. hope it gets better.

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H.A.

answers from Cincinnati on

I read where someone told you to bite him back. Don't do that!!! It only teaches him to bite. If you hit your child, they will hit someone else, it will become a pattern. They learn everything from us! Not that he learned biting from you, but they learn and need to be taught not to hurt others. This is normal part of child development! Alot of children bite out of anger, take control. Every time he bites, put him in time out for 2 minutes, even if you have to hold him there. It will take time, consistency and tough love. Don't put him in time out in his crib! Put him in a boring place. Then have a talk with him about it. Good Luck.

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J.D.

answers from Columbus on

My 19month old did biting for a little while and now its scratching. My poor older kids look like they have been attacked by a cat and we dont even have one. I dont have a solution for you because she still does it... however.... this little method we are using is at least cutting back on it and I am hoping eventually it will cut it out all together. When she has either bitten or scratched one of the kids I pick her up and take her over to kid she hurt. I get down on my hands and knees and I look her in the eye(sometimes she is pulling away from me so I just hold her arms) and I say very strictly "NO NO NO. WE DO NOT BITE/SCRATCH." I repeat this several times and then I point to wherever she hurt the other child and say it again. Then I tell her to say she is sorry. She will do it. She looks up and says "I soy". At first I didnt think it was helping, but after a few days I noticed it happening less and less. Now she may only do it once every couple of days.
The problem is that these kids are still so little that they dont actually understand that what they are doing is causing hurt to the other person. And since they can not reason yet, it is so hard to reason with them. I know from having the older ones, that this is a phase and it will pass, but it sure is hard to go through! I hope you can find something that will at least give you a little peace until he outgrows this. Good Luck

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D.Z.

answers from Indianapolis on

hi there- don't know if u r still open for ideas so... here goes
how about if he goes a day he gets a treat of some kind-not necessarily food and if he gets a week he gets another treat of a kind ...and then tell him if he goes until his next Birthday and Never bites again, ...he will have earned a very special treat and then when the birthday comes, you can reinforce that since he has overcome a hurtlful habit in himself, he has given himself a great gift-the power of self-control and that you are very proud of him for this and then tell him for conquering something in himself you are pleased and here is a gift to/in honor of his achievement-maybe 2 things one, something he wants at the time very much and one that is more special and will last and can be kept for him and he can look at when he likes-something he will have a lot of his life, a carved wooden box or something. Thanks- it was fun writing...i think our children come special to us with the exact thing that will test in us what we thought was perfected. Motherhood is full of insights!~and opportunities to make oursleves as good as we thought we actually were before we had children. i see so much of myself in my children-things i never quite saw in a way until i saw them in the children and knew it was me they were getting it from-this is your opportunity to truly "practice what you preach" to make real the advices you may have given before you were a mom -to take your own advices and to rework your advices now with new experience. also it struck me that maybe he liked the discipline of going to the crib for biting- not that i think you should or should not have continued that- just that i have seen with my children that children work in seemingly mysterious ways sometimes -and sometimes nothing seems to work for way tooo long and there seems to be no answer but for Patience- i swear i think half the 'issues' like that i have ever had with the children seem in the end to be nothing more than the universe testing my patience... all just circumstances to test me- how many months of this can she take with grace and understanding? where is her breaking point- and i do notNotnot think it is the children saying that- just kinda the universe.-my life. testing me.
:)

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A.H.

answers from Elkhart on

I have a friend who is a montesorri school teacher. She had a biter in her class and after trying several methods and speaking repeatedly with the parents, the solution that they came up with was that every time the little guy bit anyone, he then had to bite into a raw onion. He stopped within a week! Hope that your little guy stops just as quickly!

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N.R.

answers from Elkhart on

Try vinegar in his mouth. It worked for my 6 year old. (not that he does it now!)

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P.S.

answers from Cincinnati on

This advice may be old school. I've never had boys, so it may be different. I had 2 girls. When they bit me, I bit back gently just enough to let them know it hurt. When they cried, I reminded them that it's not nice to bite and that it hurts people's feelings. I only had to do it once or twice. Good luck!

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S.P.

answers from Indianapolis on

Your sentence "His brother's back is full of bite marks and places where the skin is broken" makes me wonder why you are letting this continue.
EVERY single time he does this he should be met with a loud NO! and removed to a designated spot (NOT the crib)and be made to sit there for 2 minutes and apologize to his brother.
The crib should NOT be used for punishment.
It is the place to sleep.
If this does not work after a week or 2 or 3, call Supernanny, because his brother is being tortured and you are letting it continue.
I would probably flick his cheek with my finger immediately if it were me.
One of my sons did this at about the same age, and believe me he only did it a handful of times at most.
Take control.

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D.I.

answers from South Bend on

You could try pepper. Also, as much as you do not want to do it you may have to bite him back and let him see how it feels. I could also suggest as harsh as it sounds tobassco sauce or like you said lemon. My kids went through the biting stage and if they bit me or their dad we would bite back not hard though and it broke them of that habit quickly.
D.
I am a 31 yr. old stay at home mom. I have been married going on 12 yrs. this Nov. and my husband and I have 3 boys. Their ages are 10 yrs., 7 yrs. and 4 yrs.

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M.L.

answers from Cleveland on

Hi S.,
My 2 year old boy went through the same biting phase at 18-24 months. I did try hot sauce as my mother suggested. That really made me feel bad, however it worked. I just put a drop on my finger and then on his tongue. I told him it hurts to bite. Just like you I didn't want to bite back and make a game out of it. Time out in bed did not work for my son. He would scream until it was over. That was frustating! I talked to a family friend who is a early childhood delovepment teacher in summit county. She suggested it was a show of power or force on his part. When he felt out of control or overstimulated. I've since learned she was 100% right on. My son didn't have to be mad, happy, sad etc. to bite. It could be anytime, almost an attention getter. He would bite the most when we would tickle or play hide & seek. He would get some overstimluated he would bite to show is control over the situation. Like, mom I'm done getting tickled! He is totally out grown this phase and is on to pointing is finger and saying "stop it" to everyone! Oh, what a learning experience for us moms!! Oh, the bitting stopped completely when a little girl at pre-school bit him over a toy!! Good luck, sounds like you are doing everything you can. Whatever works for you and your family, that's my advice! lol

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H.R.

answers from Indianapolis on

I have already went through it with my 3 year old. What worked for my 3 year old was exactly that, lemon juice. When he bit I would go to him immediately, or most of the time it was me being bit, so it would just be a gut reaction to say "NO BITE" and I would say it over and over until I was able to get the lemon juice in his mouth. My doctor said 1 full teaspoon. I used 1 tablespoon. I thought that if he puked it would be worth it if he didn't bite. I had to do that twice.... No more biting since. I think he was the same age as your sons.

I am going through the same with my 2 year old now. He dodn't mind lemon juice,hahaha. Doesn't really care about anything except getting attention. And you just cant ignore biting. I have tried a lot. It just depends on the child. Hope you find something that works for you. H.

Hope this helps. H.

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D.P.

answers from Cincinnati on

My daughter did it one time...She bit my mom on the shoulder and my mom bit her back...I was mad cause it made my daughter cry...But you know she never did it again...My mom just put enough pressure on her to make her cry and let my daughter know it wasnt nice to bit and to also let her know it hurt nana that she had bitn her.Hope this works....Good Luck

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S.S.

answers from Cleveland on

Hi S.,
I too am a mom of twins - 25 month old girls. I cannot believe that people will tell you to bite your own children - not too hard to break the skin but hard enough for them to feel it - how does anyone measure how hard to bite, especially on a little ones skin??? Also, to the mother who is wondering why you are letting one get by with biting the other and having bite marks all over his back - she doesn't have twins. At this age they will be each others best freids and worst enemies. Most kids don't have another child "just like them" interfering in their space 24/7. That's all I have to say about that.

But as far as giving you hope, they will grow out of this. My youngest of the two (by only 10 minutes) was the first biter, at about 20 months, and we put her in time-out and of course after time-out was over she had to kiss her sister where she bit, and say she is sorry. She has really stopped the biting, it rarely happens, but her sister did have bite marks and bruises all over her arms for a short period of time. It killed us to see the older daughter's arms bruised up, but we hadn't yet figured out how to stop the biting. I just wish I would have known about the lemon juice tactic.

Now, the older sister is starting to bite - and her younger sister is realizing what it feels like. But, I'm glad you posted this question, becuase on our next trip to the grocery store, we will be picking up some lemon juice.

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S.W.

answers from Cincinnati on

We had a son who loved lemon juice & pepper. Ironically, he started biting when other children rejected his hugs.

Eventually, he did stop biting. I don't remember if it took the nursery school teacher parking him in a chair and not allowing any contact with other children or someone biting him.

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