Help! My Daughter Bites(herself!)

Updated on July 10, 2008
J.P. asks from Greenville, PA
11 answers

My daughter is almost two (in Aug.)When she gets frustrated she bites herself! Hard, it leaves a mark! (always on her arm.)She does not/has not ever bitten any one else, just herself. She also bangs her head against the floor or a wall when she gets upset. She is a very sweet happy child. She seems to be very smart thus far. When she can't have her way she gets so angry! It usually doesn't last very long, it is over as quickly as it starts. She doesn't talk nearly as much as her sister did at this age, and she still does a lot of "baby babble" You don't always understand what she is trying to tell you. Hopefully this is just her frustration with not being understood. Has anyone else gone through this?

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So What Happened?

Thanks to those of you who responded. I guess I didn't do the best job explaning the situation. We already know she is not autistic. Thank you though, I know those were signs.( I thought of that too!) I am glad to hear that some of you had the same thing and your children out grew it. we really appreciate everyones concern, and info.! Thanks for taking the time to respond!

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answers from Rochester on

I have a 14 month old daughter that has just begun doing the same thing. She will cry and scream and bite her wrist. I've seen her also bang her head on the wall/floor and look right at me. It appears to be when she doesn't get her way or when I leave her with someone else. Though she walked very early, she really has just started talking. Some I do think is frustration, as well as her personality. I'm hoping it will get better as she learns to talk more. When she does this I try not to react or redirect her. sometimes it works...sometimes it doesn't.

A little about me:

We just moved here from Saranac Lake, NY. We have 6 year old and 14 month old daughters. My hubby and I have been married for 5 years.

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answers from Syracuse on

Hi, J.,

Lot's of kids have a hard time expressing such overwhelming emotions like frustration and anger when their language skills have not developed enough yet and it seems like this is why your little one is biting herself and bangs her head. These behaviors are not uncommon. Sometimes we see toddlers bite others when they are angry or frustrated. My 15 month old went through this for a short time with my husband and me and sometimes will still do this. We just learned to read his cues that he was becoming angry or frustrated and try to head it off at the pass by catching his cheeks in our hands and say "no biting" and then give him hugs and reassuring words like, "you are so mad" or "frustrated" or whatever he seemed to be feeling according to what we could gather from the situation. Then we would redirect him to something that he likes to do (stories, drumming, etc.). This does a few things for validates his feelings, lets him know we are there to help him when he is feeling overwhelmed, and gives him some words for what he is feeling in the moment he is feeling it. He is not talking yet but understands quite a bit of what we say so I imagine he is storing these words away for the day he can use them.

Just remember that all children develope in the same sequence but at their own pace. If you are worried at all about your child's language developent, talk with your ped. He or she can do a quick screening. My nephew (now 2) was a little delayed with his language due to chronic ear infections and once he had tubes inserted in his ears and received some speech-language therapy, he caught up in leaps and bounds.

I hope this is helpful....let us know how things work out.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

It's not unusual for children to become frustrated when they can't express themselves, and some children show self-injuring behaviors. But I would also seek out a pediatric neurologist to evaluate your precious girl. The combination of self-injury and delayed speech makes me want to rule- out an Autism Spectrum Disorder. If that's what the problem is, there are all sorts of early interventions available.

My pediatrician poo-pooed me when I went to him with concerns about my daughter, telling me she'd "grow out of" her behaviors. As it turned out she was later diagnosed by a pediatric neurologist at age 11 with Sensory Integration Disorder, which if we knew about it early in her life, would have made a tremendous difference in how we related to her.



answers from New York on

My daughter went through this as well until we sought professional help. It turned out to be pure frustration with something that was made worse by her frustration at not being able to express herself. She is an extremely smart girl but would get so caught up in the situation she would be unable to get her feelings out, would get all worked up, would then be further frustrated and would resort to the most primal behavior - biting. I started working with hand-drawn pictures of faces showing different emotions - happy, sad, mad, giggly, surprised, sleepy - you know.... And when she would get into this situation, I would have her point to the face that matched how she felt, then I would name the relevant emotion and keep saying it over and over. Once she learned the correct names for the relevant emotions, she could then name what she was feeling and could get some of the frustration out. At this point, the biting stopped and we could work a bit more with her, adding to her "feeling words" vocabulary. Sometimes they just can't put a name to this huge feeling that's welling up inside them, no matter now smart they are, and the only way to express how mad, frustrated or overwhelmed they are is physically.

Good luck!



answers from Binghamton on


Boy that takes me back. My daughter (now 3 1/2) used to bite herself all the time. She would bite her hand and she had a constant sore there...and if I recall correctly it was like the skin had calloused there. She would do it not just in anger, but excitement too, and I thought it would never stop. We never said anything to her about it and after doing it consistently for about a year she just stopped on her own. It's probably been about a year since she's done it. So hopefully your daughter will just stop on her own too.




answers from Syracuse on

I would call your local health dept or school district to get your daughter evaluated. My daughter was around 2 and her daycare was concerned about her speech and understanding and following direction.

I was in denial about her being "developmentally" disabled but my mother and husband convinced me that it was better to get her checked out by a professional rather than wait. We did have her evaluated and it was nice to hear that she had some strengths but also about her weaknesses. They sent home exercises so that we could work on them together.

This also maybe a phase she is going through. My daughter was constantly frustrated that we didn't understand her. She would throw huge temper tantrums but we utilized the "time out" or quiet time method. We let her know that we understood her frustration but she had to be calm and use her words. If at all possible when she starts to bite, gently hold her in your arms so that she can't get to her arms and ask her what she is upset about.

Good luck with whatever you decide is right for you and your little girl and remember..."this too shall pass."



answers from Rochester on

My son exhibited these same characteristic behaviors at two. He is mildly autistic (with all the bells and whistles). We got a diagnosis when he was 7. Head banging, self mutilation (which biting is an example of), poor communication abilities are all signs of an underlying issue. Take your child to a physician for referals to otolaryngologists (for hearing and speech issues), neurologists (for abnormal brain functions such as Tourette Syndrom and Autism), and/or psychiatrists. If your daughter is physically fine, then there may be behavioral issues that therapy can improve.

It may be as simple as unable to communicate verbally her feelings or it may be more serious. Just don't always assume it's normal or a phase. It took me 5 years to convince people my son wasn't within normal range for his behaviors. Once you have an answer, you can tackle the biting with ease knowing the WHY of it.



answers from Albany on

Hi! I think you must consult your dev-ped doctor or neuro-dev doctor about your daughter's behaviour to confirm or rule out Autism. I know it's difficult to accept in case your daughter really has Autism but it's better to deal with the situation as early as now. I have a son who has Autism so I know the feeling.

Self-injury and delayed speech are just a few of the signs. Consulting with your doctors, you may also be given tips on how to better handle your kid in these situations. They may also give a different diagnosis on your daughter's case but just to be sure, let them check your daughter or you may also do your own research on Autism Spectrum Disorder and related disorders. Early Intervention is important.



answers from New York on

My daughter used to do the same thing. But she stopped when she was around 2. I think she did it when she got upset and could not communicate her frustration. But once she found the right words she stopped.



answers from Albany on

Hi, J.. I agree with one of the mothers about having your daughter checked out and I disagree with one of the mothers about the relationship between the age and so forth. Believe it or not, biting and getting angry because she is not getting her way needs to be addressed. Having her checked out will give you a peace of mind knowing what to do with her but don't allow it. You need to tell her she will sit in time out or go in her room if she continues to yell, but the biting you can so in a calm and soothing tone, oh, we don't want to bite ourselves. "her name" needs to be gentle with herself and and gently rub her arm where she bit herself and same with her head if bangs her head. I know that my son was doing fine at 1 year of age talking and then I noticed alot of his words were garbled and unclear. As time went on shortly after being tested, he was getting frustrated and started yelling, throwing and hitting and withdrawing himself from other kids at church. When he was tested by one of the preschools (and he nor my other boys go to preschool, I am a stay at home mom) and they found that he needed speech therapy. They come to my home and do it with him and I like it. I can reinforce what he learns and do it with him other times during the day and other days. My husband can do the same once I told him what our son was learning or working on. Now his speech is wonderful and still receives the therapy and it's great knowing what was on his mind and so forth. Please have your daughter checked out and I will pray for you and your family and for God's wisdom.



answers from Syracuse on

Hi J..
I think it's totally common for your 2nd child to speak later than your first...afterall, they have a bigger sibling to do their dirty work - LOL!

My son didn't start talking til about 2 1/2, and now at almost 4 - he DOESN'T STOP!!)

As for the head banging - my 14 month old has been doing that...I have come to realize that it is when she's mad or frustrated about something.

If your child is just head-banging for the sake of doing it, then maybe I would consult your ped. If it is happening when she's mad or something, I think that's normal and expressive...not an indicator that something is wrong, or the child is autistic, which I'm sure you're bound to hear in other responses.

Obviously, if you're concerned, you should call your ped., but from what you're written, I sense all is well in your household.

Best wishes to you!

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