What do you do about biting? My 2 year old son started biting to deal with frustration and a lack of communication skills. It stopped for awhile and now he is biting again - two kids in his preschool class this week!! HELP!

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Cheryl - posted on 12/16/2008

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My son bit when he was young. Instead of biting him myself.. Of course its going to hurt I am a big mommy,.. I had him bite himself. It showed him that even though he is little it still hurts. He never bit again.

Kim - posted on 12/16/2008

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My daughter bit me once, about the age of 2, and I just popped her mouth with my fingers and explpained to her that it hurts and we just don't do that to people, and she has never done it again.

Jenny - posted on 12/16/2008

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Okay, a quick update...I am looking into the speech therapy now with the hope that it will help the communication issue and, in turn, resolve the biting. I'll keep you posted and let you know how it goes. We got another note home today from Harry's preschool stating that Harry bit a child on the arm. That's 3 days in a row! We may not have to worry about taking him out of school - he might just get the boot! (sigh...)

Anyway...thanks so much ladies for your help - especially Tracy - I appreciate your insight and the information. Thanks also, Tricia, for your replies. :)

Angela - posted on 12/13/2008

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I agree with a lot of the moms here. I was walking in a pharmacy with my son in a cart and he leaned over and bit me for no reason. I yelped. He even drew blood. I bit him back. Not hard, but hard enough that he got the message that it hurt. He never bit me again.

Tricia - posted on 12/13/2008

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Oops! I forgot.. When I took my son to the doctor too they said he was fine. However it bothered me because I knew he understood things but was not talking to be able to relate to anything. That's another big reason I have him in speech. My husband said he never talked until he was 3 but now the schools are so strict on things that when my son turns 3 in July I will have to have a meeting with the school here so they are aware of his situation and they are prepared when he starts school at the age of 5. Let me know if there is any other way I can help!!

Tricia - posted on 12/13/2008

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Jenny,

In ND there is a program called Infant Development which helps with kids that are lacking in some areas. They worked with my son and even gave me tips on different things to do with my son to try to get him to progess in those areas. After months of working him and seeing no progess they recommended that he see a speech therapist. They did and evaluation on him and at that time he was at a 6-9 month level according to them and he was 1 1/2. My heart sank and I felt totally hopeless. Now that he is in speech though he has come a LONG way and we are grateful for it. Feel free to add me as a friend and maybe we can chat about it. What state are you in? I can maybe find out if there is a program in your state to help with that. If you'd like to know more I'll be more than happy to help in any way I can. My son is in both speech in OT and my daughter who is 1 1/2 is in speech, ot and pt. So I know EXACTLY how you feel. If you'd like to chat over the phone that would be fine with me also. (sometimes my brain moves faster than my fingers when I'm trying to type all that I have to say!! LOL)

Tracy - posted on 12/13/2008

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Jenny, given the information you've shared i would DEFINITELY ask for a speech recommendation. I think you may have a misconception about speech therapy. it is much more than letter pronunciation, and there are many different types of delays.

i believe the last statistics i've seen were that one in every four boys have a speech delay of some level. So please don't feel there is anything wrong, that he will never be socialized or that you as a parent are in any way at fault. he will be FINE, and you are clearly a good mom. From my experience (10 years as a preschool teacher with 1- 3 year olds, and a graduate student in child development) The biting and aggression issue almost ALWAYS resolves itself once a child has the ability to communicate with words.

Think of it this way: i want a toy you have, and i can't tell you that i want it. I bite you and you let go of it, i get the toy... BITING IS EFFECTIVE... Communication is the missing piece here. Without another way to say what he wants (that toy, or telling another child to back off) aggression is what will work - every time. Except that the other kids will not want to play with him after a while, and this could create a cycle of isolation - anger - aggression if not addressed.

From 0 - 3 yrs old any type of therapy falls under Early intervention and is FREE to your child, - usually through your school district (STAY ON TOP OF THEM... THEY LOVE TO WAIT TIL the child turns 3) and in many cases they will come to the daycare center or preschool, or your home if that's possible. Two places to start.... your pediatrician, and your local school district.

The transformations I've seen in a child's ability to communicate AND their improved social behavior once they are getting help is remarkable! I mean a noticeable difference in just a few weeks. Re: your pediatrician - yes boys sometimes talk later ( and are more often delayed) and yes, younger children talk later in many cases because the older ones talk for him. there are things you can do to promote his verbal skills that are easy enough.... but that does not address the aggression... the aggression is an issue of not having the ability to communicate and therefore is a problem. whether or not he'll eventually speak on his own. the evaluations are FREE, and can't hurt.... why not at least take advantage of them.

I would ask your pediatrician again, showing him the checklist ( many peds do not stay on top of the developmental aspects and only focus on the physical side) and let him know about the aggressive behavior. like i said, it's a FREE evaluation. Good luck and hang in there... feel free to ask me anything.

Jenny - posted on 12/13/2008

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Ladies, thank you so much for your responses. You don't know how comforting it is to hear that other people go through this same thing. I also appreciate the advice from those of you who have been around the block and eventually saw the light at the end of the biting tunnel!!

On a sad note, we had a terrible morning with the biter (our son, Harry). We took the kids to do a little Christmas shopping and give them a chance to run around in the kids play area at our local mall. Watching my son play in a group of strange kids was a bit scary. He was fine until another child got too close and invaded Harry's space - pushing him away from the toy he was climbing on. Harry's reaction was to try to hit and then bite, and I was immediately rushing over to pull him away before an altercation could occur. As we were walking out of the play area, I heard another parent say, "Who tried to bite you??" and my heart sank. It is almost shocking to see your child behave that way - especially when you see a different side of him at home. My mind begins to race with horrid thoughts - is my child ever going to fit in socially?? How long am I going to have to watch my child during playdates, just waiting until for the moment when I have to intervene? It's frustrating - and new to me. My girls were socially adept and got along easily with new kids. Is this a boy thing? Or just a personality issue?

Tracy - my husband and I looked over the basic communication guidelines and found that Harry (our son) is lacking in some of these areas. I've listed them here and I'd love for you to tell me your thoughts. I'm not convinced we're ready for speech therapy just yet, but I could be wrong. Do you feel speech therapy will also help with the aggression associated with biting?

Uses 50 + words: I don't think Harry has more than a couple dozen words, and he always leaves off the endings. Truck, for example, is "Tra," and juice is "Joo," things like that.

Says two word phrases on a constant basis (i.e. mommy shoe): He says "bye, bye," and "Uh-oh," but I can't think of any others.

Refers to him/herself by name: He has never said his name.

Occasionally, will use three word phrases (i.e. daddy go outside): He does say "Where'd he go?" and "Gonna get you!" sometimes.

Follows two step commands that are related (i.e. pick up the paper and put it in the garbage): He will help pick up toys when asked.

Understands new vocabulary words on a daily basis: Not sure - but I think he is learning if not repeating.

Can identify an object from a group of five (i.e. show me where the car is): He can do this - we use books a lot to identify objects.

Engages in pretend play (i.e. pretends to feed baby): He pretends to talk on the phone, pushes his cars on the floor and makes engine noises, etc.

Starting to ask questions by rising intonation (i.e. daddy go?): He does ask where things are with intonation and using his hands.

Uses words more than gestures to communicate: It's about even right now.

Tricia, I'm curious as to how you put a two year old in speech therapy - or get an evaluation. I know when kids are in public schools, it's something that you can request, but I doubt a private preschool can help. Did you go to your pediatrician? I have already talked to our pediatrician who thinks Harry is just fine. He attributes Harry's lack of talking to two things: he's a boy and he's the youngest child. He also says that because Harry understands us when we talk to him, that his communication will eventually improve. What was your experience? Good luck with the potty training - I haven't even THOUGHT about that yet! Harry is definitely NOT ready. We had both our girls potty trained by two and half, but I'm thinking Harry will be closer to three.

Tricia - posted on 12/13/2008

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Jenny,

I understand your frustration w/the lack of communication with your 2 yr old. I'm going thru the same thing with my son however he is in speech now and is doing very well. The first time he met with the speech therapist he had NO words and he had just turned 2. Now it's 6 months later and he talks and talks and talks. He is at times hard to understand but does get his point across to what he wants. We are also in the potty training process as well which is going pretty good. I would definately recommend a speech evaluation for him. I started a few sign language signs with him however he wouldn't try to say the words he would just sign and his speech therapist says that she sees that alot, the kids will sign but not even try to say the words. My son also watches learning shows on tv that I feel he has learned to talk as well as other learning things. He loves Blues Clues and the other shows that are on Noggin. I feel that Noggin is a very good learning station for kids. If you have any other questions about speech let me know I will be happy to help.

Tracy - posted on 12/13/2008

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There's a series of books that we read at our school, although it's a bit of a stretch for 2 yr olds. they are "Hands are not for hitting", 'Teeth are not for biting" and another one that i can't think of... as far as the "thinking time" method vs the more solitary "time out" many schools do not use traditional time outs because doing so in a group setting can be humiliating to the child and that is to be avoided. Different schools have different methods. My previous school used a "cool down" time. the child was placed at the table with play dough, crayons whatever... to do alone. when he had "cooled down" enough to rejoin the group, he could. I'm not a huge fan of time outs because they are typically over-used and become ineffective. Regarding the communication skills... being in group settings always helps to model behaviors ( both good and bad) his babbling may be attempts to talk and he doesn't understand why others don't know what he's trying to say. I would ABSOLUTELY ask for a speech evaluation ASAP. Here are some basic guidelines for speech development for a 2 year old.... Good Luck!

Uses 50 + words

Says two word phrases on a constant basis (i.e. mommy shoe)

Refers to him/herself by name

Occasionally, will use three word phrases (i.e. daddy go outside)

Follows two step commands that are related (i.e. pick up the paper and put it in the garbage)

Understands new vocabulary words on a daily basis

Can identify an object from a group of five (i.e. show me where the car is)

Engages in pretend play (i.e. pretends to feed baby)

Starting to ask questions by rising intonation (i.e. daddy go?)

Uses words more than gestures to communicate

Viktorija - posted on 12/12/2008

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Jenny, I wish you good luck with the biting. Not all children bite a lot, it depends how easy they get frustrated. The main thing is that you deal with this at home, and put an end to it at home. Once he stops doing at home, he will stop doing it at preschool. And definitely find the most common cause of frustration. If you solve that, biting will probably disappear with few conversations.
Tracy's advice is an excellent one! Make sure he starts to understand his teeth are meant for something else than biting. :)
If you have time and will, I recommend a book Little Angels (BBC), and TV series. It's a goldmine for this kind of situations!

Susanna - posted on 12/12/2008

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Biting is normal, especially in boys at this age because of frustration, aggression, and their inability to speak and communicate effectively. You do need to handle the behavior in a very matter-of-fact way. I suggest you grab him firmly but gently by both arms and say a firm "NO" every time he does it, and give him a few minutes time out, otherwise it can become a habit as he enters school age years. If you nip it in the bud now, it should stop being a problem soon, as he will certainly develop language and coping skills to communicate successfully.

Jenny - posted on 12/12/2008

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Tracy - thanks so much for your advice. I completely agree with your approach, and it is one I am trying. Typically, my son's biting stems from a confrontation with another child - a toy is taken away or, as was the case today, he was pushed down by another child and got angry. He has tried to bite me as well, but only when I am correcting him or making him do something he doesn't want to do - like taking him out of a play situation when it's time to go home. He seems to get very excited and then suddenly bites. At the preschool, kids are put in what they call "thinking time," which is similar to a time-out except that one of the teachers will sit with the child and talk to them. This I don't really understand because whenever I use time-out, I leave my kids to sit alone for a few minutes before going back to talk about whatever it was that put them there. Isn't the idea of time-out to be separated from the group and to have a little cool down time? The teachers tell me that when my son goes to "thinking time," he just cries and then tries to push them away when they talk to him. I'm not surprised - he's upset for being there and not really ready to have a heart to heart chat. They mean well, don't get me wrong, and they are exceedingly patient. However, my son does seem to be lacking in communication skills - even for a 2 year old. He babbles a lot, but only has a handful of words so far, although we are working on it and even learning some signs. His sisters talked early and never stopped, so this is new for me. It's also why telling him to bite something else - like a blanket or an onion - won't make sense to him yet. His biting is clearly an instant reaction. So my dilemma with leaving the preschool is two-fold: the biting is one thing, but what about his communication skills? Is being in a class with other 2 years olds helping build his vocabulary or not? Thanks again for all your help...and for letting me VENT!!

Tracy - posted on 12/11/2008

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The school should have procedures in place to deal with biters. it is a normal (and difficult) part of toddler development. yes of course the mother of the bitten child is upset. But as a teacher with a class of eight 2-3 yr olds and as a parent of two (one a reformed biter) I can guarantee that you feel worse! 1) ask the school how THEY handle things when it happens, 2) does your son still have communication issues? what were the circumstances of the bite? struggle over a toy? wrestling? unprompted? Talk to you child about this OFTEN, over and over again. use phrases like, "teeth are for food, we do not put our teeth on people, biting hurts, you hurt your friend" try to avoid "bad boy" type comments. he will not understand them after the fact. the ability to communicate is the BEST cure for biting.

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I have four children and they all went through that stage. If They bit me, I would pretend to cry (sometimes not pretending) and tell them they hurt me and that its not nice to hurt people. They all got it after they did it to me and they stopped.

User - posted on 12/11/2008

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I don't like the bitting back thing, I think it shows if you are bigger you can bite. Try having your little man bite an onion. You can also peel and onion and put it in a baggie and send it to school with him. It isn't toxic like soap, doesn't enflict pain back and it doesn't hurt anyone. Make sure he takes a good chomp.

I'm a home daycare provider and this is what one of my bitters moms did and I like it so much now I use it myself.

Ann - posted on 12/11/2008

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I went through this with my child too. The preschool may be able to help by supervising more closely and intervening before a "disagreement" escalates into biting.

Adrian - posted on 12/11/2008

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this may sound a little harsh or weird, but my youngest son bit someone at the daycare on two different occasions. I told him that is not the way to show anger and I actually bit him to let him know that it hurts and does not feel good and should not be done. He never bit anyone else again!

Shelley - posted on 12/11/2008

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i think you have 2 choices, Bit back , shiw him it hurts then tell him its not nice, or totally ignore it, do not react, do not say anything at all, as its a form of attention seeking (please dont take that the wrong way, at that age they want everyones attention ALL the time!), and any attention is good attention in a 2 year olds mind.

what ever you do good luck x

Courtney - posted on 12/11/2008

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i think 2 is to young for school thats why they have to be 3 to do anything here because by 3 they understand more and know the rules

Jody - posted on 12/11/2008

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God bless you! The biting thing is tough. I sure hope that your son learns quickly for your sake. Not only is it embarassing it is hard to keep disciplining them at such a young age. I had to get very tough, my son kept biting his older cousin and hard too. She would cry. I finally convinced her to bite him back. When she finnally did she didnt bite very hard so he thought nothing of it. But the second time she bit him hard and he was mortified. Hopefully you wont need to be this extreme but I hope this helps

Jenny - posted on 12/11/2008

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Thanks, ladies - I have done the "biting back" thing once. Maybe I need to try it again. In the meantime, what do I do about school? I have no control there, and I'm worried about him biting other kids. The mom of one of the kids he bit is upset and complaining to the staff. Should I take him out and wait until he's older?

Sue - posted on 12/11/2008

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I know alot of people don't believe in biting back, both my kids bit when they were young, I gave them a little bite, not too hard, but enough to feel it. It may seem barbaric but when all else fails, it works..Good Luck!!!

Courtney - posted on 12/11/2008

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my little girl did that the other day and she bit me so hard i started to bleed so my husband her dad grab her arm and bit her not hard but hard enough for her to understand it hurts and gave her a blanket and said if you get mad bite the now she just does it to whatever cloth is close to her when she gets mad you can try that but he didnt bite her hard i mean he didnt even leave teeth marks so it was soft but she got the point.

Ewa - posted on 12/11/2008

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its a certain age when kids start bitting, i still remember that with my son, just try explaining how it hurts etc, maybe show him :-) not too hard of course. It stopped with my son after some months. He did bite me as well and really hard a times!

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