by Michelle Borba
The following question was asked of Michelle Borba:
"I watch a 2-year-old little girl in my home daycare. Recently she has started biting herself. At first we didn't actually see her bite herself but recently the parents caught her in the act. Just this week she was found with three bite marks on her legs after waking up from her nap. Is this behavior normal? Will she outgrow it? Could it be a sign of a bigger problem? She's just now started saying some words so when you ask her why she did it she doesn't understand or answer."
Michelle responded with:
You're right to be concerned about a child biting herself like this. But let's look at possibilities.
A two-year-old unfortunately can't give us much insight -- so what we have to do is play detective.
Here are questions that may help you get to the bottom of this. I can't give you a straight answer because I can't observe the child. So you use your intuition after you answer these questions:
You're also right; Kids do not bite themselves to intentionally cause themselves pain. And those bite marks are painful. The problem also is she can't give you an answer. Hopefully you can go through the seven questions and see if by chance one of them gives you a clue as to why she's using this behavior. It is a learned behavior. How are people responding to it? Is there so much attention by given to it, she feels it's worth continuing? My book, No More Misbehavin, has a whole chapter on a makeover for biting if you need additional ideas.
I'd definitely do some big time talking with the parents and tell them your concerns in a genuine, concerned way. If it continues, I would ASAP tell them to seek out their pediatrician's advise who might be able to detect something else you're missing. Don't let this behavior continue.
Good for you for sharing your concerns and being proactive.