2.5 YO eating/chewing inappropriate things - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 03-28-2012, 05:55 AM - Thread Starter
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For the past couple of weeks, DD (2.5 years) has been biting, chewing, and eating nonfood things.  Mail, magnets, plastic bags, hairbrush bristles, etc.  Yesterday, she took my library book and bit off some paper and began chewing it.  Like a dog.  When we try to get her to spit out whatever she's chewing on, she says, "No. I will NOT spit it out," and then covers her mouth with both of her hands.  If it's something more serious that she needs to spit out, we will try to pry her jaws open, but this makes her swallow it and happily say, "It's gone!"  It's impossible to "baby-proof" her because she's literally eating anything.


What do I do? Just a phase? I've tried talking to her about eating non-food, but she's also in a super defiant stage, so if I tell her to not eat paper, she says, "I WILL eat paper." Or, "plastic is GOOD to eat."

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#2 of 6 Old 03-29-2012, 12:39 PM
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Oh mama, I have SOOO been there with my DD!  Especially the defiance piece.  


The chewing behavior seems a little unusual, but I wouldn't think it's completely out of the ordinary for a 2 year old.  There' could be some physiological need she's trying to meet, or some kind of sensory feedback she's trying to get from it, but honestly, it sounds to me like it's more about testing limits and less about the chewing.  


When my DD does things like this (not chewing, thankfully, but other destructive or inappropriate behaviors), I see it as testing limits and try to establish very clear boundaries for her.  As you say, working with a strong-willed, defiant child can be hugely frustrating in this sense -- because admonishing her not to do something often has the OPPOSITE effect.  


I have found that when she gets very defiant, I get the best results by having there be immediate, concrete negative consequences for her behavior.  "We do not bite the cat.  I am taking away this toy until you can learn to keep your mouth away from the cat."  Then if she tries it again, "Now I am taking away THIS toy and putting it away until you learn not to bite the cat."  I've had trouble trying to identify negative consequences that are understandable for her at this age, but we've found a few that work.  Putting toys in "time out" for behavior unrelated to the toy isn't great, but I can hardly put the cat in time out, after all.  


ETA: the defiance often continues, of course -- so, I take away one toy, and she gets mad about it and yells, "I WILL bite the cat!"  So I take away another one.  And so on and so forth.  Sometimes half the toys are gone before she stops.  But the next time, it only takes half a dozen toys to get the message across.  And pretty soon, she's changed the behavior because she knows that biting the cat = losing toys.  


I also try to always have some privilege held out in the future that I can threaten to take away for bad behavior: something fairly ordinary that I know she enjoys like dessert after dinner, or the opportunity to watch a kids' video, or a trip to the playground.  And, of course, I try to keep the consequence as close to the behavior as possible -- i.e., if you fight me about putting on your shoes, we will not go to the playground.  


Maybe you could identify some foods that your DD really loves, and 'make a big deal about having them for a meal or dessert.  Then, when she starts chewing on something she shouldn't, you can say, "spit it out, or you will not have ice cream for dessert." Then follow through, of course.  If she gets upset, a simple explanation can suffice: "you can't have ice cream because you were eating plastic earlier.  I'm afraid your belly will be too sick from the yucky plastic to put any ice cream into it."  


I know it sounds like the worst kind of bribery, but cause/effect really does work to change defiant and destructive behavior.  The only other thing I've seen work in this situation is physically assaulting a strong-willed child to break their will -- not an option, not ever, not for me, not for anybody as far as I'm concerned.  

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#3 of 6 Old 04-09-2012, 11:56 AM
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Any chance she's missing out on some essential minerals or nutrients?  My DS occasionally starts to bite on inedible objects and I add a few drops of trace minerals to his water and within hours, he stops doing it.  I just picked up the trace minerals (Concentrace is the brand) at the health food store.  


Just a thought?

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#4 of 6 Old 04-10-2012, 04:34 PM
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18 month old DD does the same thing, but especially prefers things like soap, lotion, desatin, etc but wont hesitate to try out things like paper, plastic etc.  I've also wondered if this is normal, I haven't yet run into another parent with the same problem, so I still find myself wondering.  I also was wondering about maybe lacking something nutritionally, but I would think with her daily multi-vitamin that this wouldn't be the case, maybe I'm wrong.  But the one thing I have noticed, is that the more I tell her not to, the more she does it.  She just LOVES to see my reaction, and the more frustrated I get, the more appealing it all is.


I wonder if you were to ignore as much of it as possible, and when you can't ignore it (ie, plastic bag going in the mouth) maybe just say a one liner like, "we don't eat things that aren't food." take it away and that is that -to minimize the reaction?


I dunno, but please let us know if you find something that works! :)

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#5 of 6 Old 04-13-2012, 08:10 PM
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Originally Posted by abouttobe5 View Post

Any chance she's missing out on some essential minerals or nutrients?  My DS occasionally starts to bite on inedible objects and I add a few drops of trace minerals to his water and within hours, he stops doing it.  I just picked up the trace minerals (Concentrace is the brand) at the health food store.  


Just a thought?

Really? jaw2.gif My 3.5 y/o DS has been doing this since 2.5 y/o and it drives me CRAZY. He chews on blankets, zippers, cups, desitin/lotion bottles, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, toys... I have tried everything to get him to stop but he always seems to chew, and sometimes even says, "I have to!" I am definitely, definitely going to try this! Will report back.

sleepytime.gifjog.gifSleepy, running, wife to superhero.gif DH 08/09 -  Mama to jog.gif DS 8/08 & love.gif DD 1/11

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#6 of 6 Old 04-14-2012, 01:29 PM
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Try some humor or play - at least it might make YOU smile  :)


- go into a mock "panic" because she must be starving.  Run, with her, for some food.  Or make a quick "meal" out of safer toys.


- have one of her toys try to eat everything, the more ridiculous the better, and have a silly conversation with it.  Ask for her help, or have it be chewing on her things despite your protests


- make it into a Dr. game where she is rushed to the hospital and given medicine to spit it out or shaken upside down like the lion in "Pierre" (funny, not scary)


I don't know, whatever might make your kid laugh and focus more on the game than consuming something dangerous.  And avoid the power struggle.


good luck!

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