twitter facebook stumble upon rss

My Daughter Is a Biter ... and I'm Glad!

sign up for the momlogic newsletter Tweet This

Jennifer Ginsberg: My 3-year-old daughter, Kiana, is a petite, wispy, blonde angel who has earned the nickname "Tinkerbell" for her gentle spirit and delicate manner.


She doesn't grab toys in toddler group, and she has never hit another child. She patiently waits her turn for the swing at the park, and she loves to curl up in my arms and coo, "I'm the baby of the family." But if her brother dares to piss her off, she'll bite the living sh*t out of him. And there is a part of me that's glad she knows how to defend herself.

Let me explain: I know how socially unacceptable it is to have a child who has been stigmatized as a biter. I have seen toddlers expelled from playgroups and shunned by Gymboree for committing this very crime. The other day, I was at a party and I mentioned that my daughter was a biter. You would've thought I'd screamed "Al Qaeda!" from the audible gasps and looks of horror on the faces of the other partygoers. I'll admit it: Her teeth are weapons of mass destruction.

But she pulls out the heavy arsenal just occasionally. She is a targeted attacker. In fact, the only victim of her biting is her older brother, Shane.

It goes something like this: Kiana is minding her own business and playing with something super-exciting -- such as a string she found on the floor, or one of my earplugs. Shane suddenly decides he must have that coveted item and attempts to swipe it from her. She firmly says, "No, Shanie, I don't want to share!" and she holds on to the item for dear life. This continues back and forth, and despite my attempts to redirect the conflict and stop his bullying, as soon as I walk away to make dinner or do some laundry, it covertly persists.

At which point, he more forcefully tries to wrestle the object from her -- and being bigger and stronger, he snags it. Then, like a wild, rabid animal, Kiana bares her fangs and clenches down on a piece of his flesh. His leg, his arm, even his cheek once -- anything juicy will do. At which point, Shane bursts into tears, drops the object and comes running to me, visibly scared and shaken. He looks at me with pain and terror in his eyes and cries, "Kiki bit me!" as he shows me the wound, red and raw with visible teeth-mark punctures.

For some unknown reason, it never occurs to him that he, being bigger and stronger, could easily defend himself -- or even bite her back. Her bites are a brilliant combination of physical and psychological terrorism, as they inflict both paralyzing pain and deep fear in her victim. After such an attack, her 5-year-old brother regresses to a helpless infant and is unable to form a rational thought.

Her teeth have the power to set boundaries; they are her last resort for defending her space and property. She uses them mindfully and selectively. After multiple attempts at "using her words" (i.e. negotiating with the terrorist), biting is the only way she gets her brother to leave her the hell alone.

While I'm not thrilled with the idea of my diminutive daughter committing an act of violence, I am happy that when push comes to shove, she can defend herself. She knows biting is wrong -- she has never bitten a person aside from her brother -- and she certainly knows how to use her words. But in the face of incessant sibling taunting, Kiana fights terror with terror.

"Use your words" is a lovely platitude, but I have come to learn that it's an ideal that doesn't always pertain to the real world.

next: FREE Photo Books? We're In!
15 comments so far | Post a comment now
Lisa R. May 23, 2010, 6:56 AM

I had to read this article because I knew it was going to be stupid. Any mom who finds joy in the fact that her kid is a biter because that means the child can “defend herself” has a screw loose. This woman seems to take pride in shocking people, stating a fact that goes against what is “acceptable” behavior, being the rogue mom. It sounds to me like she isn’t dealing at all with her children fighting. She wants a 5yo & a 3yo to work it out amongst themselves as if they possess the tools necessary to come to the table & discuss the issue to conclusion. She allows her 3yo to bite her 5yo because it’s her only method of defense. And when the 5yo is physically injured and also upset, Mom’s attitude seems to be “well, too bad, you asked for it.” Even worse, she seems to be thinking, “Bite her back.” The reason her daughter bites is because she can do so without getting into trouble, and the reason she only bits her brother is because she is getting the message from Mom that it’s acceptable to do so if that’s the only thing that works. Good luck parenting that teenage girl! This is lazy parenting at it’s worst.

Crystal W May 23, 2010, 7:20 AM

Really ..really , really. This article should be on Mom Illogic not here. Lazy parent, who has one of those girls who end up on Girls Gone Wild before she’s 17. I hope the poor boy has had his tetanus shots. Just because the child is smaller doesn’t mean it’s okay to bite. Teaching your child it’s okay to inflict pain on another is just plain wrong. good luck with those two ..and yeah they will be “those” kids (if they aren’t already).

Anonymous May 23, 2010, 9:05 AM

A good way to teach the “victim” to become the “bully”. You really need to rethink how you handle this.

Black Iris May 23, 2010, 2:16 PM

My daughter suggest that biting is useful if you’re being kidnapped, otherwise you shouldn’t do it. I think your daughter needs to learn to control herself. She seems to have done a good job of convincing you that she is the innocent one and her brother is the big mean one. I wonder if you were the younger child in your family? Anyhow, I think a better solution here would be to tell her she can’t bite, but be available to stop her brother from taking her things. Then she won’t need to bite him and she can grow up feeling good about herself.

veronica May 23, 2010, 3:11 PM

Perhaps these armchair moralists with their perfect children should get out from the safety of their computer screens and be honest.

Is the author of this piece the only mom who has the courage to tell the truth?

Fi May 23, 2010, 4:09 PM

This is the best article I’ve ever read on momlogic. Seriously, it had me almost p*ssing myself at the concept of teeth as a weapon of terror.

Anonymous May 23, 2010, 5:29 PM

Veronica said,
“Perhaps these armchair moralists with their perfect children should get out from the safety of their computer screens and be honest.

Is the author of this piece the only mom who has the courage to tell the truth?”

Well I say, did ya ever think maybe lots of these posters are being honest. There are plenty of us parents that actually have good judgement and have kids that don’t bite because we know how to parent. Honestly!!!

Kelly May 23, 2010, 5:52 PM

I could care less about how you discipline your kid as long as she doesn’t bite mine. I do have to warn you though, there will come a day when your daughter doesn’t like what you are doing and she is going to go right ahead and sink those little pearly whites into you. I’ve seen it.

Secret Mommy May 23, 2010, 6:42 PM

I’m all for letting kids solve their own problems amongst each other, I even blogged about it recently. But I would not let my older child bully the older one so repeatedly that the younger felt this type of physical, aggressive behavior was acceptable. I agree with the commentors who think the mother should be handling this differently. Every single time these kids get into this kind of battle it needs to be dealt with. At least until the violence is handled. Then I’d probably leave them alone again and see what happens.

Tara May 23, 2010, 7:12 PM

Am I the only one thinking about her son in all this? What kind of message of favoritism is she showing? Even her words make me wonder about how she talks about her son, and why she doesn’t address his bullying antics. My kids are not allowed to fight…period. I don’t care who started it, I’m not raising animals in my house.

Chrissy May 23, 2010, 8:11 PM

I agree with everything Lisa R wrote.
And I don’t think anya 3 yo can be “mindfully and selectively” about their actions, in this case biting.
Good luck with pre-school.

Stacie May 24, 2010, 9:29 AM

While I don’t think that the mom is crazy for being glad that her little girl can defend herself, I agree with Tara. What has the mom done to teach Shane that he’s not to be taking things from his sister?

kpaige May 25, 2010, 9:34 PM

The image she has painted of her children show how she feels about them. I agree with Black Iris. She starts off by saying her daughter is an angel and describes her as this perfect child. The only way she describes her son is as a big, nasty, brute praying on a whispy haired angel. Tell your little princess to share and take turns. Jeeze. I feel bad for Shane!

Jaws' big sister June 5, 2010, 2:43 PM

When my sister, Jaws,and I were little our mother would shut us up in one of our bedrooms to settle our own problems. She constantly told us that if there wasn’t blood involved she didn’t want to hear screaming. This author was roaringly funny, and yes I am proud of her daughter for standing her ground. Bite that little SOB if that’s your only way to get your point across. I would hope any of my kids would do the same and I would be there to back them 100%.

Emily July 20, 2010, 4:34 PM

The Overparenting Society of America is out in full force in these comments.

I’m fairly young, still in college and surrounded by newlyweds from my graduating class. They’re just now beginning their little families, but I still remember them as children.

I remember you, sheltered 12 year old girl who used to sneak around to see your boyfriend. I see you working at the Hooters to buy yourself more accessories to your eventual rebellion. I see you, gifted little prodigy, on the evening news, trafficking heroin.

My mother was largely a ‘hands-off’ parent with the four of us, and I’m happy to say that we’re well adjusted and happy. We can deal with conflict, and have long ago learned that violence isn’t fun. I haven’t bitten my brother in 17 years, even though we still disagree.

Parenting isn’t something you can just draw up a template for, you actually have to be mildly involved with your children. If my mother had flown off the handle without stopping to hear what had transpired every time I defended myself with mild violence, a lot of unfair situations would have stayed unfair.

Back to top >>