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How did you deal with a biting child?

My DD(5) has been starting to bite DS(3). She has only done it a few times. the first was about 2 months ago. She went a few weeks without doing it again. Then it has been about every 2 weeks. We have been putting her in time out and telling her to tell Daddy or me if her brother is doing something she doesn't like. It works for a while then she bite again. She starts kindergarten in the fall, and we are worried that it will happen there even though she claims she won't in school.
Have you gone through this and what worked to stop it?


Asked by nova.mommy at 6:44 PM on May. 29, 2011 in School-Age Kids (5-8)

Level 15 (1,975 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (19)
  • I agree with you that biting back is not the best response. Actually, it sounds like you have a pretty good handle on why it is happening. It also is pretty manageable (rather than very frequent or constant) which implies that it is most likely to happen when she is overwhelmed or stressed in some way that causes her to revert some, or "freeze up" so that she doesn't default to her normal responses when frustrated. So instead of employing the coping strategies & responses she normally uses in situations with her little brother, she has bitten.
    We all revert under stress (this is true for parents, too.) I would recommend that you approach the situation by supporting her & offering understanding which will help her to "get" what is happening then, too. So acknowledge what went wrong & that you see why it happened (she's provoked in some way & very frustrated with her little brother's interested "interference," or maybe

    Answer by girlwithC at 9:38 AM on May. 30, 2011

  • at that age its not curiousity like it is with a toddler, its behavioral.....I did it when I was little to my sister, my Mum bite me back, needless to say I didnt do it again.

    Answer by Princess_s21 at 6:49 PM on May. 29, 2011

  • she's afraid--which is a significant stressor that diminishes her flexibility AND cognition in the moment, like temporarily locking up or jamming her brain--that she can't control & protect/preserve something that really matters to her. Whatever you see is the trigger in the situation.) Let her know that when you feel like biting (it is the same for hitting, pushing, grabbing) it just means you need help, so ask for help instead!
    Basically, do what you have been doing, which is to acknowledge that biting can't be the solution because it's a violation that hurts people, but that it is happening for essentially good reasons (it's happening because she cares about her activity or project & wants to defend it against interference, and because she's uncertain in the moment how to set & defend her personal limits peacefully & effectively) that you understand & regard with respect. The message of it just means you need help

    Answer by girlwithC at 9:58 AM on May. 30, 2011

  • simultaneously communicates your understanding of HER & a reminder of what to do WHEN she's "locked up" or overwhelmed. The message suggests the approach that you want; first it comes as your response/reminder & eventually it's something she internalizes & actually remembers herself, precisely because the behavior has been handled in that way that supports this eventual cooperation. (This response supports the development of her personal & social responsibility because you appeal to her & also provide helpful information for her to employ, so you equip her at the same time.)
    This kind of response protects & values your son's safety & limits, but also communicates (to him, as well as to her) that your daughter's personal limits are important in the family, too. Your response is about how to safeguard one's own integrity without causing injury to others, rather than simply emphasizing social responsibility (don't hurt others) at

    Answer by girlwithC at 10:16 AM on May. 30, 2011

  • (cont) the expense of personal responsibility, or the need to protect one's own integrity.
    You know your child best, but generally it's not a matter of a kid truly not caring about what she's done (in the moment), so much as maybe feeling defensive about WHY (feeling like she had a "good reason" or the brother's behavior provoked it) she did it, and if that issue is not in question at all, then she doesn't have to defend/justify herself and is free to connect to what she did, how he feels, and why it's problematic. Responding sensitively with understanding plus guidance (what TO do) lets her know that you're aware that she feels bad about the way the conflict developed, and just needs better skills at those times.
    The first step is to investigate (or confirm for yourself) what happened, then you proceed.

    My daughter (age 7) can get overwhelmed when she is really invested in some construction (such as a pillow castle) or art

    Answer by girlwithC at 10:24 AM on May. 30, 2011

  • Oh yeah, one last thing:
    "Ask for help" can mean the obvious, calling for a parent's assistance in a situation. But there are other ways to "ask for help," such as having ways to appeal to the sibling when she wants to play in peace. With my young twins, if they are in a struggle & one defaults to biting or pushing, I do remind them that "when you feel like biting, you just need help," and I also let them know that asking for help can mean SAYING something instead of "acting it out." (Biting is a strategy of communicating "let go of that" or "leave me alone." So I model saying those things, so that saying "Stop!" to your twin toddler instead of clobbering him is a way of "asking for help." They are defaulting to this more & more, coming up with their own communications to express the problem & make a request.)
    With my daughter, I can remind her that w/ young children, it's best to focus on what you DO want rather than

    Answer by girlwithC at 10:42 AM on May. 30, 2011

  • relating to them in terms of "Don't!" or "Stop that!" So she knows to make requests & to appeal, focusing on what she wants. (This is a way of "asking for help" that doesn't involve calling for adult intercession.) The thing is, she has witnessed me modeling a style of interaction & a general approach that inspires cooperation and so she is pretty skilled & has a lot of facility with her brothers in general. So if she's getting jammed up & is vulnerable to yelling or (less commonly) hitting, it means that they just aren't responding or she's too stressed, so she really does need adult support.
    As always, kids who are well-rested, not hungry & have their needs for attention well-met are going to be less edgy with each other in general, so being proactive helps. Maybe take the biting (or squawking that may precede it) as a signal that they need your hands-on presence more right then--or as a sign that you missed an earlier cue.

    Answer by girlwithC at 10:56 AM on May. 30, 2011

  • Give her a lil taste of her own medicine!nibble her fingers and she if she likes it!hey it worked for my kitten!!!

    Answer by Caramel824 at 7:06 PM on May. 29, 2011

  • I agree w/ above, she's a little too old to be biting in my opinion. This can be problematic for Kindergarten. We never had biters but of course I've heard of parents who bit their child back. Probably not the best solution but effective. Good luck. I hope some Moms have some answers.

    Answer by jeanclaudia at 7:08 PM on May. 29, 2011

  • Bite her back

    Answer by angelrach86 at 8:14 PM on May. 29, 2011