Biting - Help - Gilroy,CA

Updated on July 20, 2010
M.R. asks from Gilroy, CA
10 answers

My son, now over 3 years old, has been biting for the last year. He does it at home, school & playdates (once). He bites when he is frusterated or mad. We've read books about not biting. We talk about it. He tells me he is going to use his words, but that doesn't help. He has been put in time outs, had his toys taken away, my MIL even put soap in his mouth (!) and nothing has helped. His pedi said time outs way from everything/everyone. I recently took all artificial colors out of this diet, then reduced the amount of wheat he consumes (now, it's barely any) and cut down his milk intake. I am at my wits end. What can I do? When will he grow out of it?

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So What Happened?

Thanks you for all the advice. 1. He's been bit three times by other children, so he know it hurts and doesn't like it. The time outs have been away from everyone and everything, in a corner where there is nothing. Hasn't worked. He KNOWS not to bite. In the am, before school, he said I'm not going to bite. I'm going to use my words. Pick him up in the afternoon, he bit. The child didn't want to play with him and told him to go away. Simple as that. The school does NOT allow biting. He gets a time out while they attend to the other child. They are working with me and I with them. Still, not working. Soap didn't work, not sure anything else will. He talked about it for weeks, that he didn't like it, but still bit. Oh, he has been hit in the mouth after he bites, but that doesn't help. We do say biting is not nice, but more than that we say biting is only for food, not for friends and he understands that. It's a heat of the moment thing and when I am there, I will catch him and tell him to use his words and which words to use or to call mom (or a teacher at school), but I don't supervise my children 24-7. They are in the other room or even in the tub (where I turned around for 3 seconds, that's all it took!). Parenting really sucks, to say the least.

More Answers



answers from Portland on

Hi Mom-

I work with a lot of parents how have biters through my parent coaching practice. Biting is a complex issue but here are the highlights.

Kids bite when they cannot express themselves properly. They are resulting to primal behaviors as an instinct. Telling your child to use thier words does not help, because AT that MOMENT they cannot think of words. Imagine you were just slapped in the face by a Nun, would you know what to say? This is what you're child feels, a lot of confusion, but cannot figure out what to do.

Another point, in 16 + years working with kids & families I have NEVER had time-outs work in the long run. You're goal when you "punish" is to teach good behavior & eliminate the bad, but time-outs do not do that at all.

Here is a quick what to do.

1) watch your child & anticipate a bite coming
2) run up & GIVE your child the words before he bites, "Tommy you need to tell Jimmy you were playing with that ball and you want it back."
3) praise for good decisions, like telling you when there is a problem

IF he bites-
1) remove him from the situatino
2) allow him to calm down & come to you when he is ready- this is how time outs really work, allowing you child to calm and come to you, not the structured system that turns into a 20 minute power struggle.
3) talk about the situation
4) give him the words he's missing- specifically feeling words- boys have a hard time with feeling words, and need help
5) try role playing to help him prepare for next time

Just telling your son to "be nice" or "don't bite" isn't helpful. Describe what "nice" is, give him an alternate behavior when he feels he needs to bite.

I hope this helps, it's a quick version of what I recommend to the parents I coach.

R. Magby

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

He wont out grow out of it. You will correct the behaviour, or he will always think it is okay to hurt people when he feels like it. Find a punishment that actually works and use it. You've been letting him get away with this awfull horrible behaviour for a year now? Expect it to take an extra long time to correct.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

My son (now 17) had the same problem and I managed to stop him by getting a eyedropper (one of those medicine ones that is a little bigger than your average) and putting a healthy dose of white vinegar in his mouth every time he bit someone. He DIDN'T like that one bit and he started to equate the taste/effects of the vinegar with the taste of human skin. That pretty much did it and he stopped. However, I used this method when he was 1 year old. For a three year old, the best way is probably to bite him back. Make sure you leave marks and that it is in a spot that he can look at repeatedly (like his forearm). Trying to reason with a three year old to modify such primal behavior is just not feasible. The biting is such an animal instinct that your response has to be equally animal and quick. Harsh but true.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

If he is biting due to being in situations that are genuinely beyond his abilities then it's good to get him out of there. But if he's just dealing with normal frustration then you do NOT need to run in and become his emotional micro-manager ... that will just prevent him from developing his own ability to manage his own emotions ... which is just what he's lacking!

So I agree with others that this is a punishment scenario so he can understand. He's a boy so its not surprising that you will need some form of physical discipline to help him. Pick a form that you are comfortable with and make it happen immediately after an incident, remember to stay calm yourself (hardest part, I know!), and explain to him what is happening if he's verbal enough.

Best wishes.



answers from Sacramento on

Jus curious, what happend a yr ago in his life when the biting began, Were there changes at home, a move , a new baby., started preschool? Also have you and Dad together sat down and asked him why he bites and let him know that itreally hurts people and makes them sad when he bites? If not do so today. Does the preschool allow his biting, what suggestions do they make to help him stop? I agree with your Ped. that he needs to be sent to another room and make him sit alone for about 5 minutes. Is your other discipline consistent with him? If not this may be part of the problem. What is most important to him? does he have a favorite toy, blanket, TV time or hting he likes to do? trip to the park, pool, playdate etc? I know he is young but I would still continue to take something away that means the most to him for a few days or cancel a fun activity he planned to do the days he bites. You need to be firm with this. Hope my ideas help Mom.


answers from Dallas on

I only dealt with the biting thing for a short phase, but boy did time-outs work!!! I'm usually a spanker, but being removed from the situation is just about the worst thing that a kid like mine can endure! Sorry you're having to go through it! I know, it sucks!!



answers from Sacramento on

My son bit me once... because I bit him back hard and it hurt him and then he knew how it felt! End of problem...



answers from Lansing on

Had the same problem with my oldest son (he is now 16). At my wits end I called my mother who said my little brother did the same thing. She told me to bite him back. Of course I was horrified!! One day in the car with the other three kids he bit his brother and drew blood. I had enough I bit him. It stopped! My inlaws were mortified..then they adopted 2 little girls and low and behold the oldest starting biting. They went through the whole nine yards too and finally bit her. It stopped. I know this won't be a popular answer just telling you what worked for us. Good Luck!



answers from San Francisco on

I didn't read all the responses, but several have said bite him back. Legally that might get you in trouble if you leave marks. Someone would be required to turn you into CPS if they see adult bite marks on your child. I agree that "timely punishment" is the best. He needs to be immediately removed from the situation and be placed in time out that is boring, ie sitting in a chair facing the wall for three minutes. If you are at someone's house/playdate, he needs to go home immediately. Remind him when you take him to school or playdates that the rule is no biting. If you know what the punishment will be, tell him before it happens. When he bites, you MUST follow through with your punishment. He has been doing this for a year, at some level it's working for him. This is going to take awhile for the behavior to go away. Good Luck!



answers from Redding on

It's not a popular answer, but my little sister was a serial biter. My mom tried all the usual things until one day, she bit a chunk out of my arm and my mom bit her back.
That was the end of my sister's biting.
I understand why kids begin biting, being frustrated, etc, but they don't understand that "biting hurts!" because it doesn't hurt THEM.
Sometimes as a last resort, them being bitten is the only way they figure it out. Especially if nothing else has worked.
The older they get, the harder they can bite and they really can hurt somebody.

I hope you get some good responses and find something that works.

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