Thursday, August 23, 2012

My child is a biter

You know those little slips the preschools and daycare centers send home?  The papers that say your child had a good day, or got a scraped knee.  Some parents get slips saying their child has been bitten by another child.  I imagine you are upset and sad.  I know I would be.

I am the parent on the other side of those slips.  The one whose child is doing the biting, and I'm upset, sad and frustrated too.  For both of our kids.

We have been dealing with Claire's biting for around eight months now, but really, it seems like forever.

Claire bites for a variety of reasons.  When she is really frustrated and mad, it's easy to see a bite coming.  While it's still not okay, I understand these bites.  She has something to say and she doesn't have the words to communicate effectively.  Sometimes she bites out of jealousy.  Bridget is particularly vulnerable while she's nursing.  Sometimes I have no idea why she bites.  She'll be playing with or kissing on Bridget, and somehow they turn into bites.

Some of the issues at daycare are toy issues (which I think are standard toddler squabbles) and others are space issues.  Claire doesn't like to be crowded, and will put her hands up, push at the others kids and say no.  Unfortunately, a lot of the kids in the day care room right now are 18 months and younger.  Even though Claire is communicating with them, they aren't listening.  And when they don't listen, she bites.  We are changing daycare centers in a little over a week and I'm praying the change will help.  Claire will be one of the youngest kids there, and I hope that the older kids will be more receptive when she does communicate with them.

Something needs to change because when Claire bites, she bites HARD.  She's broken the skin before, and bruises are common.  Right now Bridget has a scrape down the bridge of her nose, a full set of teeth marks on her thigh and I have a bruise on my shoulder.  This needs to stop, but I'm really at a loss as to what to try next.

We've tried so many things already.  Time out.  Extra chewing on her chewy tube.  Vibrating teethers. Telling her how much biting hurts.  Ignoring small bites and redirecting.  Books about biting.  Praise for correct behavior when there is no sign of biting.

I refuse to bite her back.  She already has some self-harming behaviors.  Head banging is the behavior of choice right now, but she will bite herself.  And even if she wasn't self-harming, I still have issues with biting a child.

I'm frustrated.  I can't leave the girls alone for even a second because Claire will hurt Bridget.  I know that kids are forgiving when they are young, but there will come a time when Claire's friends won't forgive her for biting them, and this needs to stop long before then.  I just don't know what else to try.


  1. (((hugs))) I'm so sorry. Have you tried an electronic communication device for her, like an iPad or equivalent tablet? Samantha used to bite out of communication frustration when she was about 2, also breaking the skin. She never did it to other children, but she did it to me many times. It lessened and disappeared as her ability to communicate increased. Jealousy of Bridget, I imagine, will dissipate with time, too. Good luck with the new daycare!! I wish I had better advice. :-(

  2. I'm so sorry! It sounds like you're doing all the right things. I hope the daycare change makes a difference.

  3. Uh, Im so sorry, and I wish I has a brilliant answer. But I was also thinking some kind of communication device that she could use. Does she go to a pre school yet? Sometimes teachers have good ideas on how to stop it!

  4. I wish I had some helpful advice for you...biting sucks! Sutter has just started to bite out of frustration / lack of communication but thankfully it's only been aimed at me and I can usually see it coming and stop him with "we don't bite we only give kisses". I hope that changing schools helps and that being around kids closer to her age will help with some of the communication struggles at school.

  5. my 11 year old was a biter when she was young...the kicker....I owned the day care! YIKES!
    its a hard habit to break but im with you I dont hink bitting back is the answer either

  6. LC has gone in and out of biting phases...frustrations with being non-verbal, teething pain, and...more often than not...just to see what reaction she gets from the victim. It's charming, I know.

    In our situation, LC definitely tends to prey on the smaller and more defenseless (when she can FIND them) so maybe lowering Claire to the bottom of the totem pole WILL be a help.

    Since LC's bites also had an attention-seeking element to them, I would/will usually grab her bottom lip and pinch it (NOT to the point that it hurts. But to the point that she is getting immediate sensory input and paying attention directly to her mouth). Then I'll say, "No biting. Go AWAY, biter." and set her in a play pen or behind a child gate so she can see my back turned to her and see me comforting her victim...always, ALWAYS the Biggs. That's been the only real consequence I've seen her emotionally react to.

    Keep me posted if you find a cure!!! I know how frustrating it can be...especially when it goes beyond siblings. Actually, I think mortifying is the word.

  7. This is such a tough situation...the only way I hav helped parents with a biter in my to be extra vigilant with the child...almost a one on one and know the worked most of the time...but I am not sure there is a quick fix...and poor you! You hav to do other things also...I am hoping the new change of daycare will help! Smiles n hugs

  8. I'm sorry, I know it is frustrating and embarrassing. My son was a biter when he was in pre-K and Kindergarten. I don't have any words of wisdom really. It does eventually go away, once they are better able to express themselves and mature, but while he was going through it I would cover my face when I'd come in to pick him up for fear of seeing the other parent! I knew how it felt because my daughter was bitten a couple of times! Ack! Hang in there. This is a really crappy stage.

  9. I'm so sorry. I really don't have any good advice for you just hang in there and things will eventually change. William was a bitter for a little and you feel so bad but know that you are doing everything you can and things will get better. TIly does the head banging thing also. Hang in there.

  10. Wish I had some advice for you, but sadly we are going through the exact same thing here! When Russell is frustrated he will bite, and bite hard...He also pulls hair and refuses to let go. If no one is around to take his anger out on he will hit himself. It makes me sad and I am also unsure of what to do to help correct his behavior. I guess good luck to us both! Let me know if you find something that works with Claire.


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