How do you respond to biting? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 06-11-2010, 11:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My older DD (3.5) bit my younger DD (1.5) on the face today. Hard enough to leave a bite mark. I had run to the store when it happened, and DH had stepped out of the room to go to the bathroom. DD1 told DH that DD2 hit her head on the potty. When I got home, I knew exactly what had happened. DD2 had a perfect bite mark on her cheek, near her eye. I finally got DD1 to confess. She did 3 minutes in the thinking chair and we talked about why she had to sit there, had her explain why biting is wrong, etc. Is there something else I'm supposed to do here? Apparently, DD1 says DD2 bit her back... this is not something I want to get started here... Background is that DD1 bit two classmates earlier this year. We had a long talk about it, and kind of repeated said talk for a few days, and the behavior ceased. I'm not sure if it bothers me more that she bit DD2 or that she lied so extensively about it.

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#2 of 17 Old 06-12-2010, 11:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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No help at all? She bit her sister again today and tonight she bit me She bit me right before bath time, so instead of getting a mommy bath in the big bathtub like we had talked about, she went straight to bed. I sat with her and talked with her about how unacceptable biting is. And then she was sound asleep like 2 minutes later. I know she was overly tired, but I don't really understand the biting. Can someone please give me some suggestions?

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#3 of 17 Old 06-13-2010, 12:12 AM
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Not much advice, but I do know DD used to push and throw things when she was feeling stressed at that age. I would not leave the 1.5 year old alone with her sister at all.
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#4 of 17 Old 06-13-2010, 05:31 AM
 
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Injuring their sibling has been the situation in which we use time out. Generally I will put DS on the stairs while I comfort DD. Then I go and talk (very briefly) about why he can't bite DD and give him words to use instead. I think rehearsing the words and reminding him to come and get me if there is a problem is probably the most important part.

Another thing to think about is is your LO getting any new teeth or looking like she might be getting a cold or something. Both those seem to increase the likelihood of DS biting
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#5 of 17 Old 06-13-2010, 09:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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No, she's 3.5 - she's had all of her teeth for a while now. No colds around here. She does have some sensory issues (we are working on getting with an OT - waiting for the school district now) and they involve her mouth a lot. She chews her fingernails really badly, licks inappropriate things, still puts everything in her mouth. We try to use the thinking chair sparingly also - usually for major offenses like hurting her sister or not telling the truth. When she bit me last night it was totally out of anger. She had blatantly lied to me and would not get in the thinking chair, so when I picked her up to put her there, she bit my arm. I told her that was not ok, and we would not tolerate biting in the house. She'd already had one talking to about biting earlier in the day, so I carried her straight up to bed, put her in her PJs, tucked her in, sat there and talked to her about how biting hurts and it is not ok and that she needs to use her words (she is very, very articulate). She was obviously very tired. She fell asleep at 6:40 and slept until 7:30. Her normal bedtime is 7:30 and normal wakeup time is around 7.

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#6 of 17 Old 06-13-2010, 01:33 PM
 
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My DD was using biting as an attention getter. She bit a LOT around 3yo, possibly new-sibling related. I started really downplaying my reactions. I established the consequences and started administering them without talking to her. I would simply take the baby away or ignore the teeth in my arm (yes, I did!) She would say "Mommy, I bited you" so I knew I was on the right track. I know ignoring isn't a very Unconditional Parenting strategy but I had a newborn and biting is soooo unacceptable that I just went for the quick fix.
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#7 of 17 Old 06-13-2010, 05:01 PM
 
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We use time out for biting.

Midwife (CPM, LDM) and homeschooling mama to:
14yo ds   11yo dd  9yo ds and 7yo ds and 2yo ds  
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#8 of 17 Old 06-13-2010, 10:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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She bit her sister again tonight. Sigh. I just don't know what to do. The thinking chair (time out) doesn't seem to be a deterrant for her at all. I know she is off kilter because we are leaving tomorrow for vacation for 6 weeks, but I hate that her little sister gets the brunt of it.

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#9 of 17 Old 06-14-2010, 02:19 AM
 
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Ah, I can empathize but don't have any advice. My DD (2 1/2) bit a friend for the first time and I have been sick about it every since. New molars were coming in, so I privately blamed her behavior on that, but I don't think that's the real issue. Sigh.
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#10 of 17 Old 06-14-2010, 03:57 AM
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Originally Posted by MommytoHHH View Post
She bit her sister again tonight. Sigh. I just don't know what to do. The thinking chair (time out) doesn't seem to be a deterrant for her at all. I know she is off kilter because we are leaving tomorrow for vacation for 6 weeks, but I hate that her little sister gets the brunt of it.
I don't think time outs work well with preschoolers. Punishment often causes more bad behavior. Talking about a problem behavior has worked really well for us since DD was 3. It sounds like this worked for you with the biting earlier this year. I think the behavior is a normal response to stress at that age. They feel overwhelmed so they bite/hit/push/throw stuff. It may sound weird, but painting and playing in water helps my DD with stress. At 3.5 lying is often really wishing that something else happened. Also 3.5 can be a really emotional time for some LOs. You may have to just make sure your 1.5 year old isn't alone with her sister and supervise them closely until you can predict your older DDs behavior better. I've read that younger siblings become more annoying to their older siblings once they are really mobile, so that could be part of what's going on. 3.5 year olds also seem to need more attention than they did at 3.

If it's any consolation 4 been an easier year for our DD. We had a couple months of trying out bossiness and then some whininess, but on the whole much more impulse control and much better reactions to anger and stress.
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#11 of 17 Old 06-15-2010, 01:34 AM
 
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We have had a rash of bites recently too. DD is nearly 3.5, DS just turned 2. DD has bitten on and off (DS, DP and me) but hadn't in a while. This recent bunch of bites started with DS biting, or trying to bite, DP and me, but he's so clumsy about it we don't have a hard time avoiding him. Then a few days ago I was in the bathroom and heard "I BITE you" (DS) and then his loud wail - he'd made the really bad decision to nip DD and got a pretty bad retribution bite that left a bruise. At least she didn't break skin.

Time outs seem to work sort of OK for DD, but not always. I find in general if I use it as a short interruption, and then talk with her when we're out of the scene of the crime and we've cooled off, that can be effective. But for this, it wasn't. She bit him again the next day, with much less provocation. I was there, but doing dishes.

I decided yesterday that I just wasn't going to leave them with access to each other if I was in any way distracted. That's relatively easy to do in our house because there's a gate I can close right in the middle. They can both be in sight. Still, kind of a pain. I explained to them why I was doing it and today they went along with it without protest, we'll see about tomorrow.

And we'll see if this holds, but DS has not attempted to bite anyone since DD bit him back. I thought that wasn't supposed to work.
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#12 of 17 Old 06-15-2010, 01:19 PM
 
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I know it doesn't sound practical, but I would try to keep them apart unless you or another responsible adult is one-on-one to intercept any bites or blows. Try a high chair or carry the baby in a sling or on your back when you are busy. Try to keep the older one actively engaged. Playdough is great!!! Mashing, squeezing can help release tensions/frustrations and it keeps my 20 month old occupied for a pretty long while, though we may have some significant cleanup afterwards.

I think keeping them apart except under close supervision is the only way to protect your child. Hopefully, the older child will outgrow/settle down from this aggression.

I would also make sure the older child gets individual attention and positive reinforcement for good behavior.

You might also encourage her in modeling gentle behavior with baby dolls, etc.

Blessings!
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#13 of 17 Old 06-18-2010, 10:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Keeping them apart doesn't seem to work well. They want to play together. I do wear DD2 some of the time, but she is 31lbs now, and very stubborn - so she will often tell me "No, down now!" because she doesn't want to be on my back anymore. There's no way she would stay in a high chair while her sister was running around. We actually put the high chair away because she kept climbing out of it. Both girls have booster seats in the kitchen. I would say they get art and water time every single day, especially in the summer. DD2 has been walking since 9 months, so I think DD2 is pretty used to her being mobile by now. She's been getting into DD1's things for a loooong time : They often want to be doing the same thing. If DD1 is doing something and I think DD2 is bored and I offer for her to color, then DD1 wants to be right there with DD2 coloring.

I feel wary of dropping the time out because DD1 gets so out of control. I don't isolate her from us, and I don't really see it as a punishment personally. It's more of a "hey, you need to calm down and take a check on how you're acting" type of thing. I always talk to her about why she's there at the beginning and the end, and of course, it's never longer than 3 minutes.

Both girls get some individual time. DD1 actually gets more than DD2, IMO. DD1 does not nap, so when DD2 naps, DD1 gets alone time with mommy. Sometimes we watch a movie or do a craft, or sometimes I have her help me with picking up or cooking. We try really hard to use a lot of positive reinforcement. She is usually very good with her baby dolls. I guess the issue is that it's hard to get frustrated with a baby doll. It's very easy to get frustrated with mommy or little sister.

We are on vacation now for about 5 weeks, and I have been trying to be more lax with the girls because they both seem a little confused by the change in venue. DD1 bit DD2 at the hotel we stayed at on the way down (while they were in the tub). DD1 bit me in the pool yesterday when I put DD2 on the float instead of her. They were taking turns and DD1 had just had her turn. I am trying to work on helping her to express how she feels with words. She is very, very articulate, so I'm hoping that I can help her to learn to say things like "Mommy, I'm feeling very frustrated/angry/etc. because..." and then I can help her with whatever is going on.

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#14 of 17 Old 06-22-2010, 05:44 PM
 
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Originally Posted by nina_yyc View Post
My DD was using biting as an attention getter. She bit a LOT around 3yo, possibly new-sibling related. I started really downplaying my reactions. I established the consequences and started administering them without talking to her. I would simply take the baby away or ignore the teeth in my arm (yes, I did!) She would say "Mommy, I bited you" so I knew I was on the right track. I know ignoring isn't a very Unconditional Parenting strategy but I had a newborn and biting is soooo unacceptable that I just went for the quick fix.
MommytoHHH,

Have you tried the suggestion above - calmly ignoring and removing the sibling, if needed? That seems like it would be worth a try. It could be that the attention you give to your dd in talking about biting after the incident is, at some level, making the situation more powerful for her.

The other suggestions I got from a friend are - be a hovering parent during this phase to redirect when you see that it is about to happen and, make sure that when the kids play together they are well fed (that probably relates more to kids who bite at playdates than sibling situations).

Also, I gather from what I've read that biting is really common at this age. Hang in there, mama!

-Cindy
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#15 of 17 Old 06-22-2010, 06:36 PM
 
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My 2 1/2 yr old DD is doing a combo of biting and hitting right now. It's always when she's really frustrated and angry and is trying to express herself. She is also very articulate but neither action is premeditated, and often the look on her face while she's hitting tells us that she has realized slightly too late that she shouldn't be doing this.

I don't always keep my temper, especially when she slaps me really hard on the face when I'm not expecting it, but I have found that the calmer I am and the less I react when it happens the less it happens. When she gets a good reaction out of me, it escalates for the next few times she's mad about something.

We don't do time outs. I usually separate myself from her until I am calm, but that's really hard to do when we're on the subway or I've got her in the baby carrier! In those cases I hold her hands so that she can't keep hitting me, and talk to her quietly. If she's hitting me in those situations it usually means she's overtired and usually is already crying. If we're on the subway I sit her on my lap facing away from me, holding her hands and giving her big hugs.

I have also found that not physically moving her to get her to go somewhere really helps. Often she hits when it's time to do something and she doesn't want to do it, so we pick her up to carry her there. It's really hard to wait 15 minutes for her to be convinced with just words that it's time for bath/dinner/going to school etc, but I take deep breaths and sips of tea and eventually we get places without biting and hitting. I think that maybe she feels that biting and hitting is the only way she can physically control her environment. It is so easy to pick her up and move her when she won't move, but I hate doing it - I feel like it's really disrespectful of her personal space. And when I get into her space when she's mad, she gets into mine.

Good luck MommytoHHH! I only have the one DD so I'm the one that gets the brunt of it. I currently have a mouth sized yellow bruise on my arm with a big lump under it! I don't know if I'd be able to deal any better if she was doing it to a sibling.

Someone said to me last week that the way AP parents deal with anything like this is by just waiting it out - because what else can we do? I think they are right.

Heidi, mama to DD Abigail (Sept 2007), wife to amazing DH Gavin, BFing, Babywearing, Bed Sharing, loving every minute!

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#16 of 17 Old 06-22-2010, 07:17 PM
 
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Some kids like the way it feels to sink their teeth into something. There are mouth toys for sensory integration that may help. I don't "talk to" the biter about it after the first talk. That's just lecturing and it didn't work the first time, so why do it again. It might be better to give all the attention to the child sporting the bite marks. You don't want to get into a power struggle trying to get the biter into a punishment chair. I would set up a reward system instead: make it clear that a certain privilege (like a toy for a limited amout of time, or a desert, it must be something the child REALLY wants) would only be delivered for good behavior at a certain time every night. Then stick to it--no exceptions.
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#17 of 17 Old 06-22-2010, 07:52 PM
 
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I respond to it by first comforting the one that was bitten. Then discussing what happened to make someone so mad as to bite and strategize as to what they could do differently next time (bite a toy, ask for help, tell how they're feeling...). Usually they're both in the wrong in the situation as several people have mentioned, so going back to the original feelings can help.

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