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Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Gentle Discipline › What do you do when your 4-year old severely BITES a baby on her FACE for no reason?!
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What do you do when your 4-year old severely BITES a baby on her FACE for no reason?!

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 
My DD has always had issues with younger ones- I would catch her squeezing them, pushing them, etc for no reason. She never did this to her little brother though, and has never had any issue with older kids or kids her own age, and never had an issue at preschool.

Well today I had a friend over and my DD bit her 14-month old's face so bad it immediately turned black and blue I was horrified. I had no idea what to do. She knew she did something wrong because she was sitting in the corner with her head down. I quietly brought her upstairs to her bed, and talked to her about how it was very bad to bite a baby, how much she hurt her, etc. At firat she was upset and crying, but then DD basically just got pissy, and said "I thought you were a good mommy, but now you are being a bad mommy!"

She stayed up there for about 15 minutes, then came down and was being cranky and annoying, clearly seeking attention, but refusing to apologize and showing no remorse. she eventually came out of it and started being nice, but said that she didn't feel bad about biting the baby.

WHAT DO YOU DO IN THIS SITUATION?!?!?! My husband is so desperate to spank her, but I know that will not help matters. She *generally* does not have behavior issues like this, but does seem to like to pick on babies. Which is great since I am due with one in 3 weeks :/
post #2 of 46
I like Barbara Coloroso's advice when your child gets physically violent, "if you hit/shove/bite... you sit". And, considering it was a playdate I would end the playdate immediately. Then I would have a long talk with DD, and we would figure out what went wrong, how to prevent it next time, and what we should do to make the little girl feel better.
post #3 of 46
I'd expect her not only to apologize, but to make amends. Give the baby something she likes or do something nice for the baby. My child would probably be put down for a nap right away too - if a child's impulse control is that poor and judgement is that poor I generally blame lack of sleep. 4yo is WAY too old to be biting people randomly, IMO. I am someone who does believe in forced apology, so YMMV.

HOWEVER, if this is something that didn't 100% surprise you, but only like 50% surprised you (which it seems may be the case) then I'll admit I think YOU should also be making amends and doing something nice for this toddler and the family. It is completely unacceptable for a kid to do that, and if you had any idea that she would do something like that she should not have been allowed to have the opportunity. I actually think that even if you didn't know your child could do such a thing you'd want to make it up to the family somehow.

Sorry, I know I sound harsh. I just imagine the little toddler being bit in the face and how I'd feel if it were my kid. 4 is not 3 or 2 - and if your child behaves at a 3 or 2 or 1 year old level then you should provide that level of supervision.

Tjej
post #4 of 46
Honestly, I would look into counseling for her. If this is a long running problem of her hurting smaller children, there is a larger issue. I don't know what that issue might be. A four year old is CERTAINLY old enough to have the self-restraint not to bite a baby/toddler on the cheek. There was a 2yo at our playgroup who hit babies, and that was pretty awful but at 2 they really have no self-restraint or understanding of empathy. At 4 that is not an excuse.

I also agree that spanking won't work. It may not even be a job for the sort of discipline you can do: I obviously think that there should be some sort of repercussions, but it does sound like this is a larger issue. So I would seek some professional input on where she is getting these feelings about hurting younger children.

As for repercussions, I'm thinking the logical consequence for being mean to younger children is that she doesn't get taken places where younger children might be. The playground, the museum, the petting zoo, story hour, etc. Whatever it is that you guys do for fun. And certainly no more playdates with friends who have younger siblings. She can have all these privileges back when she's ready to be nice to other children.

That poor baby Have you apologized to the family, too? That would probably be the polite thing to do.
post #5 of 46
I agree with lach. And OP, I know you will soon have 3 LO's but it will have to be you and your DH's responsibility to be 100% on top of your 4 year old if she is around any younger kids.
post #6 of 46
My gut reaction to your subject line is: FREAK OUT.

Although I am a fan of handling things calmly most times, this is one time that I would personally allow my horror and upset to come through. I'm not saying I would say anything mean but I would want my child to know how completely and utterly unacceptable that is. Now that the moment's passed though, it's passed. I agree that making amends is the logical next step.

I think from now on she needs to be shadowed around younger kids. And I agree with Lach too...it may be that your daughter is an outlier for normal but I think you might need to have her evaluated.
post #7 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildJenn View Post
My gut reaction to your subject line is: FREAK OUT.

Although I am a fan of handling things calmly most times, this is one time that I would personally allow my horror and upset to come through. I'm not saying I would say anything mean but I would want my child to know how completely and utterly unacceptable that is. Now that the moment's passed though, it's passed. I agree that making amends is the logical next step.
post #8 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildJenn View Post
Although I am a fan of handling things calmly most times, this is one time that I would personally allow my horror and upset to come through. I'm not saying I would say anything mean but I would want my child to know how completely and utterly unacceptable that is.



Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildJenn View Post
I think from now on she needs to be shadowed around younger kids.
So true it nearly goes without saying. DC needs 100% supervision around young kids and I would feel obligated to tell the caregivers of kids that DC is around.

Sorry you're going through this, mama!! That must have been such a hard day. Hugs to you.
post #9 of 46
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies. I spoke with the mom of this baby several times about this, both right after the incident, and then later that evening through facebook- we are friends. She knew I was horrified, and I admitted to her that I just did not know what to do in this situation. Although she obviously wasn't happy about her baby getting hurt, she understood, and things are totally fine.

Yes, I will not leave my DD unattended with younger kids for sure. The other few times I have seen her do things to younger babies have been right in front of me- it was mostly like grabbing their hands and squeezing them too hard, or just pushing them down, which are obviously unacceptable, but I never in a MILLION years thought she would do something like this. She is normally such a sweet girl, and I know she gets very upset when her brother gets hurt- he recently burned his hand on the stove, and she started crying because she was so upset, and she held the ice pack on it for him and "mothered" him for an hour. So it isn't that she doesn't show compassion or empathy. I think she is just asserting herself as the "big kid" or something. I don't know. I am friends with someone who specializes in redirecting children's behavior, so maybe I will ask her what she thinks. Ugh, what a crappy situation.
post #10 of 46
I don't think it is unheard of for 4 year olds to occasionally bully smaller children, which at this age means toddlers. But if you know she has this trigger she should be supervised.

I have a crystal clear memory of deliberately hurting a newborn baby when I was four. I had a new baby sister at home and knew better than to hurt her. But when I saw another newborn baby I thought he was boring and wanted to make him do something interesting. I waited for his mother to leave the room and then pinched him as hard as I could. When he started to scream his mother ran into the room and asked what happened. I lied sweetly and said I didn't know. And now I am the moderator of the GD forum, so yes this can be normal and a child can certainly outgrow it
post #11 of 46
My 5yo went through a very physically-aggressive phase when she was younger. It actually led to the breakup of one of my friendships, when dd (then almost 3) got really violent with my friend's 7 yo when the 7 yo was visiting my older dd.

My friend just very strongly felt that I needed to be spanking my dd, and that the ways in which I was dealing with the behavior were inadequate.

I honestly can't say that I figured out the "right" way to handle it, but dd's behavior has gradually improved with maturity. We did learn that she is sensory-seeking.

A couple of years ago we were at the playground, I can't rememember dd2's exact age, but she was running around with some other kids playing tag or something. And some teenagers had brought a baby who wasn't crawling yet, and just laid the baby on a ledge of the playground equipment while they were sitting a few feet away talking.

And I saw dd running past the spot where I knew the baby had been laid, and then I saw the baby falling to the ground just as dd went by. And I ran to dd (the teen girl had gone to scoop up the baby) and asked her if she'd pushed the baby off the ledge, and she said yes.

I definitely went through a long period of wanting to just hole up in the house with my child, I was so scared of what she might do next.

I honestly don't have answers, since as I've said it's not like I "solved" the problem, I just kind of avoided situations with other kids with my youngest until she was more able to control her impulses. I just wanted to reassure you that it seems like "forever" when we're in the midst of these stages but it does get better.
post #12 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildJenn View Post
My gut reaction to your subject line is: FREAK OUT.

Although I am a fan of handling things calmly most times, this is one time that I would personally allow my horror and upset to come through. I'm not saying I would say anything mean but I would want my child to know how completely and utterly unacceptable that is. Now that the moment's passed though, it's passed. I agree that making amends is the logical next step.

I think from now on she needs to be shadowed around younger kids. And I agree with Lach too...it may be that your daughter is an outlier for normal but I think you might need to have her evaluated.
Yup. My thoughts exactly. It's all good to be calm, but sometimes you gotta raise the momma lion and show your true feelings. that is SO SO SO SO not o.k!
post #13 of 46
I would probably scream, "YOU MAY NEVER, EVER, EVER HURT A BABY!!!" and then sit her in a chair for a ridiculously long time.

Beyond that, if it happened more than once, she would have to stay within my reach when other kids were over for a while.
post #14 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Amila View Post
Yes, I will not leave my DD unattended with younger kids for sure. The other few times I have seen her do things to younger babies have been right in front of me- it was mostly like grabbing their hands and squeezing them too hard, or just pushing them down, which are obviously unacceptable, but I never in a MILLION years thought she would do something like this. She is normally such a sweet girl...
If she only does this when you are around, is it possible that she thinks you are paying too much attention to the babies and wants your attention? Could she be thinking these babies are taking "her" mommies attention from her and lashing out? Could you try giving her more attention when you are with younger kids so she knows she's not losing mommy's attention to the babies?
post #15 of 46
Reading this thread reminded me of a little girl we knew. She was around four years old and it seemed that when she had an opportunity she would hurt younger children especially babies. Things like pinching, twisting, pushing. etc. At the time, parents came to know that they needed to be with their younger child if she was around. Now she is seven and is a delight. She is now very gentle and caring with younger ones.
post #16 of 46
I think counselling could help, not because it's completely abnormal, but because a counselor might be able to figure out what's going through her mind as far as this goes.

I think spanking would just reinforce this behavior. Bigger people have a right to be physically aggressive with younger people. That's the opposite of the message she needs to learn. If you weren't on a GD forum, I'd wonder if spanking were the trigger of this, because it sometimes does trigger kids to become aggressive to those smaller than them.

Until she gets past it, shadow her, like the PPs said, and be prepared to leave playdates if she's having trouble any particular day.

You could also look at her diet as a possible trigger.
post #17 of 46
She didn't do it for no reason. You are due in 3 weeks. What are you doing to get ready for the new addition? You likely can't do many of the things you did even a month ago in terms of babying her. People are very likely talking non-stop about the coming baby and asking her incessantly about becoming a big sister.

As a preventative measure, I'd start pouring on the attention now and get your husband on the same page. These are your very last few days with her all alone. I wish you and her much sweet enjoyment of that time.

You may want to tell your husband that introducing spanking at the same time you introduce a new sibling is likely to be a disaster.
post #18 of 46
*hugs* I'm sure you were shocked by this. Remember, our kids are amazing little ppl and their actions aren't always our fault.
post #19 of 46


I'm not exactly going through this, but my 4yo got a baby sister 4 months ago and i have seen some pretty ugly things since. For example she has only once physically hurt her sister (accidental headbutt when trying to lift her from the bouncer, though she knew not to) but she often says cruel things. Fortunately of course DD2 doesn't understand, but it's hard to hear your kid shouting "i hope you die in your SLEEP!" at your baby! I basically shower attention on the baby and ignore DD1 when she says these things. She did once deliberately throw a hard toy at the baby's head (missed thank goodness, but very narrowly) and i immediately screamed at the top of my lungs "YOU DO NOT HURT THE BABY! GET OUT! GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!" but mainly that was because as gentle as i am in FACT, i really wanted to hit her in that moment. My mama-bear came out and i had to stay away from her for 5 or so minutes to cool off. She's never done anything like it since.

Try to remember she is not you, you are not her. She's herself and making her own choices. Often those choices might be unwise and you have to guide her to better choices, but that doesn't make the poor choices your fault.
post #20 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildJenn View Post
My gut reaction to your subject line is: FREAK OUT.

Although I am a fan of handling things calmly most times, this is one time that I would personally allow my horror and upset to come through. I'm not saying I would say anything mean but I would want my child to know how completely and utterly unacceptable that is. Now that the moment's passed though, it's passed. I agree that making amends is the logical next step.

I think from now on she needs to be shadowed around younger kids. And I agree with Lach too...it may be that your daughter is an outlier for normal but I think you might need to have her evaluated.
Omygosh! I would have freaked out too.

I feel for you, because I have no idea how I would have handled that. (other than to freak out) That poor mommy of the baby. I would have cried if I were her.

Four is just too old to bite such a small child. I think I would be taking this very, very seriously, and call that mom to let her know that you are taking this seriously. Even if you don't know what to do yet, please just tell her that you are doing research and you will be dealing with this.

I would not allow your daughter to be around other small children any more until you feel like you have a handle on this. This could become a very serious problem for your family. (Imagine if it had broken the skin.. there would have been medical bills that you would have to pay)
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Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Gentle Discipline › What do you do when your 4-year old severely BITES a baby on her FACE for no reason?!