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October 26, 2011


When the girls were smaller, maybe between 15 and 18 months old, we had some trouble with biting. The pediatrician assured us it was a normal part of most children’s development, and that the girls would outgrow it. And they did.

I was so thankful when that phase passed. How pitiful (and embarrassing!) it was to see a big red bite mark and nasty accompanying bruise on my girls’ tender little arms.

Unfortunately, my joy was short-lived. Within the past couple of months, Baby B has begun wielding her teeth once again, and Baby A has the battle scars to prove it.

Only this time, I don’t think B is simply testing her pearly whites. I didn’t realize this right away, but I’m pretty sure B considers biting a primary tool in her problem-solving set.

[Switching gears for a moment...stick with me here...]

My husband is an avid soccer fan. He’s played it all his life (one of those kids that kicked the ball before he could walk, I imagine). He’s also coached and refereed at various levels. I’ve heard him remark before about aggression on the field…that the referee doesn’t usually see the initial infraction; he’s much more likely to see – and card – the retaliatory effort.


Baby A is the more likely of our two girls to “set the tone” in the play room. She’s also more likely to decide which toy she wants to play with…and B is usually quite likely to concede to her sister.

B has her limits, though. It’s hard to always catch, but there comes a time when B has had enough. Not realizing / respecting that, A continues to push her agenda.

B’s solution? To bite her sister, of course.

Baby B gets disciplined for biting, but I’m learning that’s only part of the equation. I’d be upset, too, if someone grabbed a toy from my hand.

I’ve been trying to talk to the girls, to give them alternatives to dealing with situations outside of becoming physical. I remember reading a post from Reanbean a year or so ago, in which she was trying to instruct Buba to tell his sister, “No, I don’t like that!

I’ve offered two phrases, “No, Sissy, I don’t like that!” And if that doesn’t work, “Mommy, I need help!

I was so proud to hear B say yesterday, “No! I don’t like that!” to her sister…without baring her teeth.

Hubby would certainly profess that life is like a soccer game. At least in this instance, I’d have to agree.


Deanna said...

Kudos to you on being able to get down to the real issue! We haven't had much trouble with biting (knock on wood!), but my A is definitely like your B in that she sometimes reaches her limit of being the follower. A's method is usually to pitch a fit and hit something (the floor, the wall, she's not least it's not usually M!).

We are working on "using words" as well, and it's definitely making a difference. The joys of toddlerhood, right? : )

Brad Jenkins said...

We're dealing with the same thing here. Good thing it is getting cooler so we can put long sleeves on them to cover the war wounds!

They don't yet have all the words yours do, so we've seen/heard growls and screams. Sounds bad, but better than drawing blood.

Wiley said...

Also a soccer idea that it's only a foul if it's observed ;-)

Just Another Mom of Twins said...

I think that is a great way to handle this and I am so happy to have read it becuase Ave is now starting to bite (again) and while she isn't talking yet, I don't think it's ever too early to send the right message and provide better tools for problem solving.


Beth said...

Yes! My husband uses the same logic, but with football (American football that is.) He even reminds the kids, "The one who hits back always gets the foul!"

We struggled with our Drew hitting his sisters. In his case, he was a bit behind them with his verbal skills and the only boy. So here are three girls, who are much better able to express their thoughts and opinions, ganging up on him. Poor little man's only real advantage was that he is bigger. He couldn't out-speak them, but he could knock them down. We still had to give Drew time-outs for hitting, but we also made sure to talk to the girls about being kind and playing and sharing with everyone. Drew's speech has improved quite a bit and hopefully the girls are being nicer, but lately they have all been getting along better :-)

I'm sure this second round of biting will pass quickly. Then there will be another stage to deal with ;-)

championm2000 said...

This is an issue we are starting to face. Both babies have been bitten by other children while at daycare. I feel pretty helpless to protect them, and I hope the teachers are doing all they can to help the other children see that Emily and Drew "do not like that."

We have also had a couple of "light" bites from Em and Drew--almost like they are trying it out. I am going to remember this tip because hopefully we can nip it in the bud!

Marcia (123 blog) said...

K also bit C the other day.

The thing that BUGS me is he doesn't seem to care, he just loves his sister so much.

I came home either early this week or late last week to TWO bite marks on those gorgeous chubby arms.

Good on you for teaching language skills - I'm going to tell V to do the same

Rebecca @ Unexplained X2 said...

Your husband's theory holds true all the way through high school...I used to catch the retaliatory offense all the time when I taught.

Biting sends me over the edge, but it sounds like you may have caught this one. It's so hard to catch everything!

We're in a huge "using words" phase here in's driving me nuts...the screaming, pushing, hitting...use your darn words!

reanbean said...

I've been saying this to my friends for a while, but feel it to be more and more true these last 7 months, that so much of parenting is really coaching- giving our kids the words, tools, and strategies to do what they want to do and be what they want to be. So often, I'll find myself telling my kids, "Try these words." or "Let's think about what you could do next time." I love seeing them try to work things out for themselves. I want them to go to adults when they really need help, but at the same time, I don't want them to think that adults are the only ones with all the answers/solutions. Make any sense?

It's funny to me that you remember me coaching Buba to tell Tiny "I don't like that." The tables have definitely turned at our house.