I’ve Got A Biter!

Dear Mamas,

My two year old daughter has recently begun to bite … me! I was so shocked the first time she did it that I just jumped up and started to laugh. I was pretty floored. I know I shouldn’t have laughed but what is the right approach to turn it around? I don’t want her to make this a habit!

Thanks,

Marcia

Hey Marcia,
I can understand your concern! Luckily, it sounds like this is a new behavior that hasn’t spread outside the household so it should be pretty easy to turn around if you get right on it. Here’s what you do: next time she attempts to take a bite out of you, IMMEDIATELY get in her face and give her a very stern look. Lock eyes with her and in a very serious, angry tone of voice say, “NO! We do not bite. That hurts Mommy!” Do not yell, or spank, or do anything that could be construed as physically threatening but get your point across.

If she actually bites you before you can stop it, follow the same routine but add, “That really hurt Mommy. I don’t like that!” and put ice on it while muttering “ouuwwwww”. If she wants to give the bite a kiss, by all means let her and definitely accept a sincere apology. But do not give her a lot of attention in the minutes following “the attack.” You don’t want to reward the behavior with attention – good or bad — but don’t drag it out either. A 5 minute freeze-out is plenty long for a two-year-old.

After things calm down, explain that when she is mad or upset she has to use her words to talk about it. Help her understand that you are not upset with her because she was angry but because she bit you. Let her know loud and clear that she may not use her body to hurt people and next time, she will get a time out.

Then make sure you stick to the plan and don’t waffle or change the way you react from one time to the next. If you are consistent, she will get the message. And the first time she says she’s mad (versus lets you know with a bite), tell her how proud you are that she was able to use her words and not her body to express her feelings.

Good luck!!

 

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.


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