Friday, June 5, 2009


My son bit me for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I know he wasn't biting me to be mean or hurtful; he just figured out he could. However, I did tap his mouth and tell him no biting. I don't want this to become a problem, and luckily for now it hasn't happened since. But, I do know other families have struggled with this problem.

So if you have/had a biter, what did you?
Was there a specific punishment you found worked?
Was there another method that worked for you?

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Tannie Datwyler said...

This is an excellent question. Claire bites us sometimes, but I know she is only doing it in play, and that is due to the fact that we sometimes "bite" (play bite) her when we tickle her or play. We say something like, "I'm going to eat you," and then blow on or gnaw on her belly... make sense?

Biting isn't a huge issue for our daughter and when she does it we remind her to only pretend bite (which she does), and it doesn't worry me because she hasn't ever bitten to be mean. Plus, she's never tried to bite another kid (which can be a huge problem).

I don't have much advice for you - hopefully some others do. But one thing I know is this - if a child develops a biting habit then ALL biting has to be cut out of the home (i.e. - no more play biting or anything remotly connected with that). So for my personal situation this is very relevant. If my daughter starts biting in the future then I will have to be black and white about that issue.

If your son just bit you out of the blue then I am not sure what advice I can offer. Just be firm, but don't scare him. That's all I can say.....

Sorry, not very helpful.

Jared and Delia said...

Each child is different but consider the situation in which he bites. My oldest son used to bite or hit when he became overwhelmed or stressed (well most of the time...sometimes it was to delineate and test boundaries of what is okay and what is not). It was his way of telling me, "I have had enough." Though at the time I naively and unfortunately just thought he was misbehaving to be "bad" and tried to remedy it in ways that didn't work and I am not proud flicking his mouth and saying "no" or biting him to show him how it feels - I did this because of some advice I received from another mom of five who said it worked for her kids. Well not mine...I definitely can see how counteractive that is definitely don't do that...even if you feel like nothing else is working.

For my oldest I learned to read his cues and would try not to put him in a situation in which biting would be become an issue. After that it eventually went away. It, as with many things, was a phase. It debuted randomly at times as he got older but I could talk to him about it, have him apologize to the bite-ee and so forth.

If you have a particularly persistent biter, I wonder if hot sauce would work? We use it for bad words or for spitting, but we didn't start it until around age 3 so I don't know if 18 months would be too young? I know it sounds cruel, but all it is, is Tabasco that we dab lightly on one finger and wipe on his tongue.

He detests it and I believe it helps him realize that when he misuses his mouth there is an uncomfortable consequence.

Chris and Laura said...

My limited experience with biting comes mostly from my daughter being bit at day care. She tried to take a toy away from another girl (two years old), and the girl bit her hand. In response, my daughter (16 months at the time) promptly punched her in the face.

I was obviously not terribly excited about the situation (or my daughter's reaction), but I understood where both kids were coming from. I agree with Delia--most behavior like biting or hitting is usually a product of the situation, not just a child being bad.

That said, I think it can go too far. Knowing that your child is only biting because they figured out how and it's something new to do, it can seem cruel to "punish" them for it, but I think you need to be clear from the very beginning that biting is not acceptable. If you only laugh or don't react at all, they will learn that it's an ok thing to do, and eventually it will progress so far that it's really hard to stop. So, I think you were right, Megan, to gently let your son know that it wasn't ok, even though he wasn't being mean.

Also, something of a side note, I don't agree with biting your child back so they know what it feels like. (Don't worry, Delia, I know you weren't promoting that method!) It's quite an abstract thought to figure out that what you're doing to them is the same thing that they're doing to someone else--all it would look like to the child is that all of a sudden, Mom is hurting me. Not helpful. There are better, gentler ways to let them know that it's not ok. I liked Delia's suggestions.

I also agree with Tannie about play biting. We do the same thing when we're tickling our daughter. But, if she was biting people to be aggressive, I would definitely stop anything and everything that looked even remotely close to biting.

Good question, Megan!

On The Go Family said...

My daughter went through a biting stage around 2 1/2 - 3. A few things we found helpful were 1) give attention to the bite-ee and stress how the person feels as a result of the action rather than fussing at the biter or asking them why they did it and 2) remove the child from the situation immediately.

I think the second one is the most important. If we were at a play date and it happened, we left immediately -- no second tries. I was torn on doing this because I felt it was so rude, but I needed my daughter to know we had no tolerance for biting.

It happened once at our house during a play date and I had my daughter apologize, then took her to her room 'til the end of the play date (only about 10 minutes.) It happened once at a friend's house and after she said sorry, I buckled her into her car seat and we went home. Once I got her settled in at home, I called the mom to apologize and give further detail about our abrupt departure.

Thankfully we knew both children and their parents well and this didn't have any affect on our relationship. Both mothers and I agreed that if biting happened, we'd end the play date, no matter how long we had been there or how awkward it felt. It worked for us.

Roeckers said...

First of all. We love Charlie bit me youtube video!! Get pic of the clip!

As for advice I have none. I have been on both sides where my child has been bit and then where my child has bitten. I have never found the ultimate solution to stopping it.

I do appreciate the advice to pay attention to the situations when it happens and possibilities as to why to understand the reasoning behind it... I enjoyed your advice.

Ben and Shauna said...

We've been through this. Cole had a bad time with biting. I like Delia, tried the biting back thing, but it didn't work for me either, but had heard several people mention it. but for some reason, until another kid bit Cole's finger, and he was crying, and upset, I gave him a hug, and said, 'see, biting isn't nice, and it hurts huh?' He nodded, and said, 'mean' really, that's about all it took though, I had tried several things, but until she bit him, it finally sunk in.
I don't know how you do that though, to go get another kid to bite them for you. Haha! for me it was just one of those things that happened, and did the trick.