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  • Biting

    I've got a questions about biting in young toddlers. My dd in only 14 months old and recently she's started biting when she's frustrated. Primarily me (the odd time time daddy and grandma) and i've always delt with it by saying "no biting, biting hurts", or "i understand your frustrated but you can't bite mommy it hurts me", etc. I try to make sure that she never gets overtired because this brings out the biting the most. However this means ensuring that we are always at home for naps (as she does not nap well outside the home), and as much as i love my home i do need to get out every now and then. So today we went to the city. Primarily walmart i tried to watch her to see signs that she was getting tired. as soon as i spotted those signs i plopped her up in a wrap and started trying to find a quiet area of the store. But she became more frustrated with me (I assume it was because there is soo much to see but she is soo tired she doesn't know what to do). So i started pacing up and down the isles trying to avoid people and humming to her. she became even more frustrated. I tried signing (as she signs) sleep and saying, night night, time for a nap. Rubbing the back of her head and gently trying to carress her head down onto my chest. She became even more frustrated and started biting me. I said my usual speal and she turned her anger inwards and bit herself. she bit herself so hard that's she's brused the area and broke some blood vessles. other spots the teeth mark stayed there for about and hour or so. I attempted to offer her other safe alternatives to bite, a doll, her pacifier. She ignored them all and continued to bite my hands. i've never seen her so upset and so aggressive to herself. I"m very concerned about this behaviour as it seems to be slowly escalating lately. Is this normal for 14 months? Does anyone have some literature on this i can read? did you have this happen and how did you deal with it???

  • #2
    Sometimes we all have those days (kids included). I think a lot of kids this age get a 'thing' that might be hard for a parent to deal with...head banging, running away, screaming etc. Be persistent (as you are) and do your best, sometimes it will not be enough! These times will happen!
    What to do When Your Toddler Bites
    by Patty Wipfler

    You also might consider teething making it worse. Give yourself a break, no parenting method or practice solves every incident, every time. Each day is a wild card!


    • #3
      My second daughter bit when she about that age, too. It wasn't really because she was frustrated...I actually think she found it funny. So, not the same situation obviously, but it still hurts! I just tried to be patient while telling her over and over that it hurts and not to do that. Eventually, I knew she'd grow out of it. Finally, at some point, she bit me on the belly and it hurt so bad and surprised me so much that I kind of screamed. It really scared her and I told her calmly that it hurt me and not to do it. She stopped after that. I wouldn't recommend making your child cry (oh I felt so bad, even though that totally wasn't my intention) but perhaps showing your child that it really hurts -- exaggerate your facial expressions perhaps. Breastfeeding mothers, when faced with a biting baby, immediately pull the child off the nipple (gently) to indicate that it hurt. So, perhaps something gentle but that still makes it obvious that it hurt!

      Another thing I do with my children, even at ages when they don't quite understand, is that I ask for a kiss to make it better. Eventually, it seems they begin to correlate me asking for a kiss with that it hurt.

      Just as naomi said, I say, "Hang in there." This age is just like that...


      • #4
        I've been trying to follow much of the advice given in the two links that you've suggested. however the biting is increasing. Earlier today she was not following anything i was asking her to do while playing. I asked her not to climb on the back of the sofa, and that if she needed to climb she could climb on some of the stacked pillows is set out for her to tumble around on. When i pulled her off the back of the couch she bit me. I said "no biting, biting hurts". she made like she was going to hug me. than bit the underside of my breast! I told her "no biting, biting hurts, mama's going to go in the other room" and calmly walked to the other room. She followed me 10 secs later and went up to the cat to pull her fur out. I said "abby that hurts the kitty, how about you play with the fluffy ducky" to wich she turned around and bit me in the neck!! She's been doing this for several days now. i'm trying to be patent, but it's getting frustrating.
        I'm getting suggestions like: you might have to bite her back (which i don't but i have taken her own fist and placed it against her teeth and said out they hurt), you might have to put pepper in her mouth, you might have to tap her bottom. None of which i agree with.
        How are some of the creative ways you have delt with biting in your toddler?


        • #5
          Oh that sounds so frustrating. My 21m old is now throwing things AT us with pretty good aim. Hard things like wooden blocks and dishes! We also just leave the room and remind him all the things like you do "Please don't throw, it hurts Mommy."
          The suggestions you are getting=
          you might have to bite her back (which i don't but i have taken her own fist and placed it against her teeth and said out they hurt), you might have to put pepper in her mouth, you might have to tap her bottom
          Have no reason to work and every reason to avoid. I think you know that but are feeling desperate at the behavior. I know no one likes to be bitten!

          Go outside or another room to play in
          Go to another room (take the cat)
          Maybe she is board...give her an old magazine to rip up or some other random thing.
          Distraction Distraction Distraction!
          Sing a song to her "Put food in my mouth...and that is all blah Blah" Sillier the better
          ANYTHING to get her to stop thinking how fun mommy gets when she coils away from my powerful chompers.
          More physical play, climbing, running etc


          • #6
            I have been trying many of your suggestions. Unfortuantly my lo is continuing to bite. Even worse than just biting me she has started to bite eveyone. Even some of her playmates It seems that whenever she becomes frustrated or angry she immediatly resorts to biting now. I have attemted to give her words for her feelings/emotions but she doesn't seem to use them until after she's bit. I have also started "crying" when she bites me and saying "oww you hurt mommy". Sometimes she starts to cry and she is always asked to kiss the boo boo she gave better, She is really good at that. When she bit her friend she became very distressed at her friends crying. WHile i was holding her friends and comforting her my dd wanted up. i stated to my dd that i couldn't hold her because she hurt her friend and i was trying to comfort her (as her friend had become afraid of my dd and was getting more upset everytime i went near her). Once i had the friend calmed down i asked my dd to kiss her friends boo boo better and give her a hug and say sorry.

            I'm unsure of how to deal with this problem of biting other people. Some mom's have said i should give her time outs. however i'm not sure my dd will understand why she's being put into the "time out chair" at this age.
            What have you guys done when your toddler is biting playmates and other family?? WHat did you find helpful?


            • #7

              My 13 month old daughter will bite out of frustration, or sometimes just because she's overly excited. Her biting habits unfortunately, came from us. Since she was little, we've always played a game we call "eat the baby", where we take her arm (or leg) and gently "chew" up making eating noises. I explained to my husband the dangers of this game, but the strange thing is that I'M the one who plays with her, and he's the one she bites.

              Like everything else though, I believe in teaching rather than punishing, though that does have it's place. She understands that this game is a game that only we play with her. She is not allowed to play with us, unless she is gentle... and so with me, she has learned how to be gentle. And if it's not "eat the mommy", it's "kiss the mommy"... She learned how to "bite" (ie "eat") using an open mouth, in a repetitive kiss type motion.

              When she is angry though, she (like most other kids) will still occasionally bite my husband on the neck (I'm still not sure why she doesn't do this with me). Our (my) solution to this is either stick our finger into her cheek (so she ends up biting her own cheek), or pushing her face into his neck (so she can't breathe). This is done QUICKLY, and when she lets go I put her down and tell her "No biting, thank you!" in a very stern voice. Being disconnected with us (being put put on the floor) seems to work better than my husbands method, which is to say (in an angry voice) "OOWWWW! NO BITING!".

              As for biting others, at her age, I fully believe in using time outs. Not for punishment, but so they learn how to calm themselves down, and control their emotions during times when they feel out of control. And by time out I don't mean sitting in a corner... Just being pulled away from the situation and allowed to cool off before being allowed to go back.

              But overall, sensitivity (over anger) towards best negative behavior (in my experience) has always been the best way to deal with situations like this, but it must always be followed with gentle discipline and an understanding as to why the behavior happened in the first place.


              • #8
                Rather than time-outs, API advocates time-ins, a chance for parent and child to re-connect and work on the relationship. Positive Discipline is founded on the principle that behavior is not an act to be punished or rewarded, but an opportunity for learning and connecting. Punishments and rewards break the parent-child relationship. Forcing a disconnect in a disciplinary technique sends the message "I only love you when you do what I want", rather than an unconditional response which would be "I love you no matter what you do and want to help you make positive choices."

                For more info on Positive Discipline, read here. Attached At the Heart goes into more in-depth detail.


                • #9
                  That's a great link. I never thought what I do as time in, instead of time out. I never leave her side, and I never get angry, but rather I guide her through it to teach that her way of dealing with her emotions is inappropriate for the situation and help her find a better way.

                  I spent a couple minutes just now on your disconnect comment, and the only time I've done that is when she bit me, and I've only ever done it twice during the same biting episode (I was going to say once, but I had to think about it for a second). I've also never turned my back on her when I did put her down, and I almost immediately picked her back up again (and repeated the process if she bit me again). If she wants to bite, then I don't want to carry her... But I'll put her down and sit with her at her level for a few seconds before allowing her back in my arms. That was the only time she ever bit me, so I can't say if that technique really worked or not.

                  That's an interesting way of phrasing it though (and I'm not saying I necessarily agree with it), because I don't believe I have EVER sent my daughter the message that I only love her when she "does what I want". Intentionally or not. Perhaps it's how the put done is done? I know parents who will put their kids down and walk away if they ever bit. Or put them in their crib as punishment. And I FIRMLY disagree with punishing a young child for something he/she doesn't understand is wrong. Positive discipline is something I've always practiced.

                  It's interesting to think about though! Thanks for the link. The tools are pretty bang on accurate as to how I parent both my own child and the older kids I used to nanny for (for 16 years). I bookmarked it anyway though.

                  PaxMamma: I'm curious though, what your suggestion of positive discipline would be for a child who hits or bits (both yourself and/or others). How would you handle that? Perhaps you could teach me (us) a more appropriate way.


                  • #10
                    your question is extremely general, i don't believe in a one-size-fits-all solution. what i would do would depend on the age of the child and the circumstances at that particular moment. but no matter what the behavior, when my children misbehave, i TRY (not perfect) to think, what is the need that my child is trying to meet here? are they hungry, tired, emotionally empty, disappointed, etc., then i try to meet that need.
                    as for hitting and biting, in many, many cases, it is developmental. so, i would first make sure all their needs are met and then move on to distracting, redirecting, problem-solving, whatever tools are called for at the time. sometimes, when my oldest hits my youngest, i may say "ooh, i see that your love tank is empty, let's fill it up" and then i'd squeeze, hug, kiss, tickle, until he is laughing and feeling better about himself. this would be considered a "playful parenting" approach.

                    again, this is pretty general. if you have specifics, i could maybe clarify.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by PaxMamma View Post
                      but no matter what the behavior, when my children misbehave, i TRY (not perfect) to think, what is the need that my child is trying to meet here? are they hungry, tired, emotionally empty, disappointed, etc., then i try to meet that need.
                      as for hitting and biting, in many, many cases, it is developmental. so, i would first make sure all their needs are met and then move on to distracting, redirecting, problem-solving, whatever tools are called for at the time. .
                      Thanks for your reply! While I strongly agree with the first part of what you said (getting to the source, tierd, hungry, etc), I don't believe in distracting or redirecting a negative behavior such as biting, which is why I like the put down method. But put down, doesn't mean "leave them alone". It simply stops the behavior dead in it's tracks and gives the child a second to wonder what just happened, and gives me a second to assess what might be wrong. Whatever the situation (or need for "discipline), I set my child down, then get to her level, then address her needs. I guess you could look at it as my way of distracting her, or maybe even redirecting her mood ("hey mom, why'd you put me down?"). It's just to give her that split second to think, and then we can get to the root of the problem and deal with it in a loving and gentle manner. My husband is pretty good at AP, but he still has a lot of learning to do (little experience). He's just such a gentle soul, that he doesn't always know how to react, so I have to sometimes remind him that she doesn't understand certain reactions of his when she does something like bite.

                      I apologise for my original reply. Being an AP forum (and an AP mom), I assumed you all would understand where I was coming from. Obviously I need to think before I type here. Newbie mistakes... lol


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by sgmom View Post
                        I don't believe in distracting or redirecting a negative behavior such as biting, which is why I like the put down method.
                        I`m just wondering what you don`t like about distracting and redirecting.

                        (My keyboard seems to be stuck on the French language setting so that`s why I can`t seem to get a proper apostrophe. )



                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Jessica View Post
                          I`m just wondering what you don`t like about distracting and redirecting.
                          Both are techniques I use for just about everything, except for behaviors (especially physical) that I believe need to be addressed and taught a better way to deal with the emotion (for lack of a better word) that caused the behavior in the first place. Are you hungry, tired, frustrated? Are you just trying to play with me and is it that you think biting is funny? I will help you with whatever it is that's making you want to bite me, but biting is not an appropriate way to deal with your problem. In this situation, I prefer to deal with the problem, instead of distract or redirect.

                          I use PaxMamma's playful parenting technique often, but I believe it needs to be used in an appropriate time, and not for such situations like biting. Biting is not okay (ever). But like PaxMamma said, it's a very general question. If she's biting out of anger, that's one thing. If it's during play, that's something else altogether.

                          That said, if she's ABOUT to bite me, I'll quickly redirect her with tickling or another method of play ("were you about to bite? I guess I didn't see that!"). But if she throws a tantrum because I took a toy away (she doesn't do this, but just to use it as an example) and bites me when I pick her up (ie anger/frustration), that needs to be addressed that it's not okay to act out in such a manner.

                          I never show anger or frustration when I put her down (with the exception of using a stern - never angry - voice that biting is not okay), and I never EVER ignore her. There's a difference between sending the message that something is not okay, and punishing a behavior that should be taught instead is not acceptable, and hopefully finding a better way to voice our needs.

                          I did a search for "time outs vs time ins" last night (I've never heard of time in), and as it turns out, time in is EXACTLY what I do. I guess using the words "being disconnected" in my original post was an obvious wrong choice of words, as I don't disconnect myself with her. I simply put her down, then get to get level and address the problem. The "disconnect" that I was referring to, is physical not emotional. I've also never ignored a request to be picked back up. I teach my kids that I love them no matter what, but certain actions or behaviors are not accepted by me. And the "consequence" (in this case, being put down) is ALWAYS VERY quickly followed up with LOTS AND LOTS of love. Kisses, I love you's, tickles, playtime, etc.

                          Edited to add: I just wanted to note that my daughter is somewhat high needs. She will play by herself quite nicely most of the time, but she has a VERY strong personality. She knows what she wants, when she wants it, how she wants it delivered... she has been this way since the day she was born. There are days where she'll happily play alone until my daycare kids get here, and there are other days (like today) when she wants constant attention. Some days I'll spend hours carrying her with my baby wrap. It's not uncommon to have her wrapped on my back and the 3 month old wrapped on my front (with the same wrap). So putting her down sends a strong message to her, but I would only use it in times where I need to really send a message that something is NOT okay. And biting, is certainly one of those things.

                          A friend of mine had (has) a biter, and her technique for dealing with this was to redirect his mood, or distract him with toys. 3 years later, he still bites (he used to just bite her, now he bites other kids), and she still redirect. Her problem though (I believe) is that she's never told him it wasn't okay to bite, and she never dealt with the reasons why he bites in the first place.

                          And I am very sorry for using the word disconnect. I had no idea time-ins were a thing! I've always just explained to friends that my version of time-out doesn't involve punishment. Who knew!
                          Last edited by sgmom; 10-21-2009, 12:36 PM.