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4.3 year old DS biting his brother

(22 Posts)
KKKKaty Wed 22-Jan-14 12:51:01

DS1 started biting when he was about 18 mths old. He bit us, and he bit other children at nursery. DS2 (now 2.6) started getting the brunt of it when he started crawling, and between the ages 1 and 2 he was bitten by DS1 pretty much every time we turned our backs. He stopped biting at nursery and biting us. For the past year DS1 has been a lot better - he can sometimes go a couple of days without biting, and we can leave the two of them to play (depending on DS1's mood) much more often. However, he still does it, and whatever we come up with as a consequence of biting does not work. We have done the usual naughty step (no effect), sending him to bed early (no effect), no sweeties (no effect), no swimming etc. (no effect). We resorted to a smacked bottom for a short time but it just made us feel very bad and had no effect. We are currently sending him to his room for half an hour/an hour every time he does it. The other day he was up there half the day, still bit him about four times that day. He has no particular favourite toys so confiscation does not work. We have had lots of success with reward charts to reward positive behaviour but find that they don't work with discouraging bad.

I had a look at the "Three Day Nanny" book the other day and she says that punishments/consequences have no effect unless the child is obviously upset by them. I have never found a consequence that has that effect. He gets a bit cross and bored in his room, but not upset, and gives no sign that he's not willing to "pay the price" for biting!!

There are no obviously triggers for biting - he bit him just now the second they got down from the lunch table. Just went over to him and bit him on the hand, and when I sent him upstairs he just trotted up there and I can now hear him singing to himself.

Any ideas, because it's getting silly now. Poor DS2 has bite marks on him the whole time.

KKKKaty Wed 22-Jan-14 13:16:25


Twobusyboys Wed 22-Jan-14 13:22:41

Hello. I am no expert on these things. But just wondered if you had tried rewards instead of punishment? Lots and lots of praise for when he plays nicely with no biting. Perhaps sticker chart with reward for a week of no biting?
Sounds awful for your ds2

nefelibata Wed 22-Jan-14 13:35:05

I know it's a bit unpopular these days but when my DS1 did this he immediately had to bite a bar of soap (thank my mum for this punishment, I remembered it from my own childhood) then rinse his mouth out straight away with water. Cue loots of tears and feeling a bit sick, followed by a chat about 'what are mouths for?' eg, eating and drinking not biting people/things. He only did it once. I felt awful but it was very effective. I realise it's not for everyone though.

CraftyBuddhist Wed 22-Jan-14 13:46:02

nef I like the sound of that.

Op this situation must be heartbreaking for you. sad.

I second positive reinforcements. And zero discussion of the issue. No talking about it in front of him. No discussion of it in earshot. As far a you are concerned he is a lovely joy who played very nicely there! Who picked his socks up very well! Phone a friend and tell them he has been very kind this morning when he passed the spoon.

Otherwise it seems like you are all in a rut. He is 'a biter'. Your little one is the 'victim'. Might he be playing up to the script?

The phrase I love is 'the beatings will continue til morale improves'. You must lead the way.

LaundryLegoLunch Wed 22-Jan-14 13:55:51

I really sympathise. My ds2 was a major biter and his elder brother bore the brunt of it. In retrospect I think it was often related to speech issues as he has a speech delay. Could there be any other issues going on that are causing frustration? So hearing, speech, socialising at nursery?

I did repeated firm telling off and it eventually faded away although even now (he's 6 in May) it still happens when he's very frustrated.

Twobusyboys Wed 22-Jan-14 13:57:22

I think craftybuddist phrased it very well. Love the phoning a friend to say how nice he was to pass the spoon! I trt and talk about my eldest like this he likes to try and live up to is good rep!

KKKKaty Wed 22-Jan-14 15:17:51

Thanks for your ideas. I will mull over the soap one! I do try and praise him whenever he's being good but will try and ramp that one up a bit more.

He's doing fine at nursery. Generally very good there, other than the odd blip of over-boisterousness, but then he is a boy, so that's pretty much to be expected I suppose.

I guess we just have to hope he grows out of it soon. DS2 has suddenly got much better at grassing him up, so hopefully that will help put him off!

murphy36 Wed 22-Jan-14 15:35:43

My brother did this to me when I was young, him maybe 7 and me 2.

My mum bit him, that stopped it dead.

MostWicked Wed 22-Jan-14 15:43:30

Get him a chew stick / chewelry so he has an alternative.

Soap & biting back are retribution, I am not a fan. What do you do if they don't work first time? This is an established behaviour, I don't believe there is any punishment, however harsh, that will put an immediate stop to it. He needs to learn what to do instead.

murphy36 Wed 22-Jan-14 16:02:09

It's not retribution, might genuinely not be able to comprehend the impact of actions like biting. But is quite young maybe that won't work.

MostWicked Wed 22-Jan-14 16:32:19

It is retribution. It teaches the child, if you bite, I will physically hurt you. It doesn't teach them anything helpful or useful. What does it teach them about how to respond if someone hurts them?

If he bites, I would remove him immediately and calmly from the situation, and give him 2 minutes time out, and I would remind him that he is only allowed to bite his chew stick, but don't get bogged down in any more discussion as the message will get lost.

KKKKaty Wed 22-Jan-14 16:45:07

Mostwicked - what do you suggest we teach him to do instead, please? We've tried to suggest that when the urge strikes him to bite he maybe bites himself instead, but no success.

AllDirections Wed 22-Jan-14 16:46:18

MostWicked Your suggestion sounds like what the OP has been doing already but it's not working!

KKKKaty Wed 22-Jan-14 16:48:16

Sorry, didn't see that last post, mostwicked. We have tried the time out thing. He sits there, then goes straight back to where he left off. He's been in time out/naughty corner/whatever hundreds of times for biting and still bites all the time so we've pretty much concluded that doesn't work. He's currently on his third time out in his bedroom today for biting. We don't (most of the time!) get all het up when he does it, just tell him to go upstairs and off he trots. He doesn't get long heart-felt, sole-searching talks about it, so no extra attention given.

MillyMollyMama Wed 22-Jan-14 17:40:44

I think there are children who do not understand the hurt they cause by their actions. They have no remorse or empathy for the child they hurt. I would, therefore, seek professional help because he clearly does not care about upsetting his sibling or being punished. It appears to be an acceptable part of his daily life. I think if he does not understand the consequences of what he has done, will he understand a reward system? Will it bother him if he does not gain any rewards? Will rewards break this cycle of biting? I suspect not but it is worth a go. He also has no attachment to toys. What does he care about? What would actually upset him if it was removed or did not happen, eg a treat, an outing? If there is nothing, I would definitely try and see a child psychologist. I would also keep the children separated and a very close eye on them when they are together. Also you do not want DS2 copying this behaviour so I would try and keep him safe.

KKKKaty Wed 22-Jan-14 18:52:16

MillyMollyMama. He's certainly not a psychopath, if that's what you're inferring! He gets upset at things in telly programmes e.g. animals in danger in Octonauts. He gets upset when toys get broken and have to be thrown away. He is very attached to his best teddy (although will not sleep without it and I'm not having a sleepless night, so that's not being taken away). He can be lovely with his little brother and does show caring behaviour. He just seems unable to curb the impulse to bite.

nefelibata Wed 22-Jan-14 19:34:30

I personally don't think that asking my DS to bite a bar of soap was a retribution thing, I didn't do that because I was furious and wanted to hurt my son in return for him hurting his DB. I did it because it was instant, memorable, and directly related to what he had done.

KKKKaty fwiw, doing that gave us a very obvious and memorable hook to simply and calmly remind him what we are, and aren't, supposed to put in our mouths. Like I said, it's not for everyone, but I think as a one off it worked brilliantly. My DS may not have remembered if I'd had a cross moment, but he sure as heck remembers that soap doesn't taste nice! If it hadn't worked I wouldn't have done it again IYSWIM. It's a one-stop wonder, it either does the trick or it doesn't.

enjolraslove Wed 22-Jan-14 19:48:53

What does he say if you ask him why he bit?

KKKKaty Wed 22-Jan-14 20:23:38

He says, I don't know, I don't remember, if it was completely unprovoked. If DS2 has been winding him up and DS1 looses his rag then he gives me an explanation of why he was cross with DS2. To which of course I say that however cross he gets with DS2 he is not to bite him, he's to come and tell me or even to tell DS2 to go away.

Might give the soap thing a whirl. It's not like we haven't tried everything else.

MostWicked Wed 22-Jan-14 22:03:13

I said that he needs an alternative. He bites because he doesn't have another way of dealing with that situation. That is why I recommended chew sticks or chewelry

He can wear it on a lanyard. Every time he bites or even looks like he might, direct him to it.

TheGreatHunt Wed 22-Jan-14 22:16:28

Sending him to his room shouldn't be a punishment. It's his room not a place of punishment.

I would put him in a corner (tell him why he's there) for 5 mins. Keep attention to a minimum. No toys no nothing. Then once the time is up, ask him why he was in timeout. Ask him how he thinks his brother feels being bitten. Then have him apologise.

Sending him to his room for an hour means he'd have forgotten why after some time and it's not a big deal anymore! Keeping it short and sweet means that he realises the link.

Also I would be vigilant. It's not fair on your youngest. You will know the triggers so avoid them as much as you can.

Also teach your ds how to play nicely, tell him how to ask for things, how to negotiate with his brother (eg suggest swapping if youngest takes oldest toys). You will have to tell him what to do over and over until he gets it.

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