Scarred For Life: One Twin’s True Tale of Growing Up With a Biter

Little Sadie is a biter. Yes, it’s true. Adorable Sadie of the itty bitty butt and teeny tiny thighs still manages to assert herself by doling out quick and quite painful bites when you least expect it. Her main victim is Matilda who now has bruises up and down her arms that are simply begging someone to call CPS on me. This had been going on for months and months already but Jon and I kept making excuses for her: she’s frustrated from her lack of ability to communicate, she was bitten by Matilda when she was really little, she hates sharing, Mattie’s arm is delicious…and on and on. But last week things came to a head: Mattie was minding her own business (post tantrum) lying on the floor sucking on a taggy blanket when Sadie hopped up from across the room, sauntered over to Mattie, bent down as if to kiss her and chomped down on her arm -hard. I ran over to comfort Matilda but had a dilemma on my hands: do I punish Sadie first or comfort Mattie first?

I’d already escalated my discipline techniques from “No discipline whatsoever because, hey, she’s just a baby” to a sharp “No!” to a sharper “Stop!” and finally to a time out which involves scooping Sadie up and dumping her unceremoniously in her crib. The problem is, Sadie has no concept that she’s being punished. She doesn’t see her crib as being the crate of torture that Mattie does and is perfectly content to hang out, smoke a cigarette and read a little Pet the Baby Animals until I give up on waiting for her to cry and go get her.

Up until that last biting incident, most of the attacks had seemed somewhat provoked. A toy taken away, string cheese pilfered, Mattie just being in the wrong place at the wrong time etc. but this one was different. This was premeditated biting! What kind of a sociopath crosses the room, chomps their sister like she’s a leg of El Pollo Loco and then skips off whistling Twinkle Twinkle Little Star? Sadie, that’s who.

I decided to call in the big guns; my early intervention team. If there’s any bonus to having a delayed child it’s access to services you normal wouldn’t have. Yesterday, a child development specialist came over with Sadie’s case manager to work on Sadie’s play skillz. Cause Sadie’s got mad skillz y’all. This double therapist session was after a long day of PT (physical therapy), speech and OT (occupational therapy)so I wrongly assumed that Sadie would be in frustrated, tired, lashing out form. But nooooooo. Just like a pint-sized Ted Bundy, Sadie charmed the shit out of all our guests by saying hello to everyone in sight, pretending to roll calls with her Diego cell phone, giggling maniacally and repeatedly clapping her hands over her head yelling “hooray!”

Luckily, nobody can keep that up for an entire hour and eventually even Sadie broke down and pinched a few folks. It was decided that although biting, pushing and pinching are typical twin behaviors, Sadie does have the added frustration of lagging language, competition with not only her twin but an older sibling and the added cross to bear of an overly attractive and quite young looking mother. Who wouldn’t want to bite a few people? Still, we were told to continue giving time outs very consistantly and to start signing with Sadie. Plus, we are going to be getting regular play therapy which thankfully will include Matilda. Poor Matilda, if we don’t correct this problem soon I fear her childhood will eventually become a Lifetime movie. Scarred for Life: One Twin’s True Tale of Growing Up with a Biter. Of course, if that happens I hope it’s sort of soon because I don’t want Tori Spelling to be aged out of playing the part of Sadie. Lifetime, you know where to find me.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on September 15, 2009 10:09 pmTwins42 comments  


  1. Cheryl Lage said,

    I'm going to go with Matilda is simply too tasty to resist. 😉

    Hang in there, Overly Attractive and Quite Young Looking Mother.

    | September 15, 2009 @ 11:21 pm

  2. Laura in Michigan said,

    Here is what we did…. when one bit the other, I totally ignored the biter and fussed all over the bitten. I had a daycare and one child in particular was a biter. Of course, he was the one that was a late talker. After I loved on the one that was bitten, I would time out the other child. I really tried to watch his frustration level too. Don't know if that helps or not. This was in the 90's and the advice may have changed by now! : )

    | September 15, 2009 @ 11:27 pm

  3. Suzy said,

    I only remembered this a few months ago but I used to bite my right arm all the time. Hard. Really hard. It's amazing I didn't grow up to be a cutter. I have no idea why I did it. I think it was in Junior High. Or maybe last week.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 12:00 am

  4. crap-tastic mommy said,

    We resorted to Cinnamon in the mouth of the biter. It worked like a charm after about a week.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 12:08 am

  5. Aunt Becky said,

    I totally think that Tori Spelling should play both of the twins.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 12:24 am

  6. Bethany said,

    signing is great at relieving frustration, although being able to sign "milk! Milk!" over and over might not cut it when you are mad at your sister. We squirted pure lemon juice in our kids' mouths when they bit and it worked awesome; they didn't try it twice.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 1:37 am

  7. Lisa said,

    Shout out for EI. They are awesome resources (and not just for the usual OT/speech issues). We're past biting (3 yr old was smallest in her daycare room and had to do something to fight back) knock wood. We've got EI for unilateral hearing loss and have to say WE LOVE THE BABY SINGING TIME DVDS!!!! Rachel will rock Sadie's world. It's baby crack in our house (better than Einstein). The 3yr old has mastered the first 2 DVDs and the 10m old is already signing "more" and "baby". Best of all EI specialist let us "borrow" them for an extended period of time…they aren't cheap and NetFlix doesn't have them available in the que yet.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 1:42 am

  8. Emily said,

    Your kids are so fortunate that you care so much! You are doing a great job…just imagine where sweet Matilda and Sadie would be without you advocating for them?!

    What if you coat Matilda's arms in cayenne pepper…we did that to our window-sills and our dog stopped chewing on them! Can you tell I dont' have kids yet?

    | September 16, 2009 @ 2:08 am

  9. Laura said,

    I may or may not have just snorted Diet Dr. Pepper out of my nose reading that. Funniest accounting of baby behavior EVER. The imagery of Sadie reclined in her bed like a starlet lounging poolside at Chateau Marmot had me completely undone. Actually, I'm still laughing as I obsessively edit my first comment on your blog. Sorry to hear about the biting, but congratulations on reaching 20 pounds. I know it has been a tough mountain to climb.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 2:13 am

  10. JennieB said,

    Perhaps the periactin is making Sadie want to eat her sister? Just a thought.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 2:34 am

  11. Cass said,

    Yes, love EI. Though the kids behave so well while they're here that EI probably thinks we're big fat liars about any and all behavior problems….

    | September 16, 2009 @ 2:45 am

  12. Red Lotus said,

    Dylan was a spontaneous biter at Sadie's age. He will be 5 in 2 weeks and even now if he has had enough his top lip curls back and he looks for flesh. Hayden being his victim. Dylan is developmentally delayed as well and has expressive/receptive language disorder so I definately agree with the link between inability to communicate and biting. Not saying that is an excuse to make or anything… But I was told to use mustard when he bites because kids are supposed to hate mustard. Wouldn't you know it, Dylan just swallowed it and scampered off every time. Tough kid.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 4:22 am

  13. Alison aka Baby B said,

    I'd watch that Lifetime movie!

    My childhood TERROR of the Wizard of Oz and being chased probably came from being chased around by Baby A who would scream "I'll get you, my pretty! I'm the Wicked Witch!" I turned out alright… at least, you'll never see me on the evening news leading police on a car chase. Mattie will probably turn out just fine.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 4:28 am

  14. heather... said,

    How is it that no one is laughing at the idea of you SIGNING?! Holy shit, I am hardly able to type. You realize that you have to teach signs other than the middle finger and up yours, right? AAAAAAAH I gotta come over and watch this. I'll bring my own popcorn.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 6:20 am

  15. Shannon said,

    I'm with the Heather chick! Signing? WTF? Maybe they thought Sadie didn't hear you SCREAMING No at her! Oh well, I guess everything is worth a try. My one year old just took a hunk out of the back of my leg because I didn't make her dinner fast enough! No twin, just an Italian temper. Wonder what the sign would be for me? Hang in there, it's gotta get better.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

  16. Rachel said,

    Although I don't have twins, I do have a nearly 2 year old son and I watch a just turned 2 year old girl. I have kept her since she was 4 months old.

    Around 14 months or so she would occasionally need a timeout, which was very effective. I put her in a little chair in the kitchen, she stayed, and I thought I was a genius. A couple months later when my son reached that point I tried the same thing, it was completely ineffective. He had no concept he was being punished. It took 3 or 4 months of putting him in timeout after he did something he wasn't supposed to before finally they worked. Hang in there Sadie will catch on.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

  17. Wicked Step Mom said,

    Sadie has got to be jealous of Mattie because she can communicate and Sadie can't. That has got to be tough. I am surprised that Mattie hasbn't started biting back.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

  18. SmartAssMom said,

    Hey, my Early Intervention chica is biting now, too. But she's not a twin. But, she does have a pretty mom.
    Hmm. Interesting.
    We started signing to help with communication and apparently, you have to be consistent with it. Who knew?
    We're totally failing.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 3:14 pm

  19. Mommy, Esq. said,

    We just started a play group that Penny qualified for and Ned got to go for free as the "normal" kid. My nanny took them yesterday and they loved it so I'm sure Sadie and Matilda will too. I'm still on the fence about signing. We do some basic, "all done" and "no" but that's it. I've always thought it was a bit, you know, yuppie. Although there is probably a much better word to describe the people I am thinking of. I would definitely say take all toys out of her crib for when you do time out. A blog I read recommended signing flash cards. The kid will play with them and you can do them at breakfast or dinner with the kids.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

  20. jerilyn said,

    Listen to Kenny Loggins & Steve Perry (shut up!) song 'Don't Fight It' and indoctrinate your kids with it by singing repeatedly 'Don't Bite It'! It works in our house!!

    | September 16, 2009 @ 4:16 pm

  21. kate said,

    "pint-sized Ted Bundy"….god woman, you are funny!

    The biting…oy. I have no advice for you whatsoever, but can I come over and watch?

    | September 16, 2009 @ 4:40 pm

  22. MereCat said,

    We had this problem, too. If she digs her crib too much, get a pack 'n play set up somewhere remote and boring, no toys, no sheet. A small baby jail. That might make a difference too. And I always opted for discipline before comfort because I figure part of the comfort is the discipline. And if it helps at all, since mine are boy and girl, the boy is always way behind the girl so I have to handle them totally differently. Hang in there, be consistent in whatever you do, and it WILL go away.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 6:13 pm

  23. Wild to Child said,

    You could always try to book Lindsay Lohan as both the twins….she has experience you know. 🙂 LOL


    | September 16, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

  24. Tuesday Girl said,

    I had one twin who was a biter also. He grew out of it and hi ssister is no worse for the wear!

    | September 16, 2009 @ 6:17 pm

  25. kyslp said,

    My kids are 2 1/2 years apart and the little one ALWAYS bit the older one. From the time he could crawl over to him.

    I have no advice – just sympathy. He did stop- eventually.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 7:41 pm

  26. Amy said,

    Be glad that Mattie is her main victim and you can keep it "all in the family." My son was a big time biter but he usually preyed on the most innocent, cherubic little kids on the playground. I would try to stop him but I had a newborn hanging off me and sometimes couldn't get there in time. Oh, the wrath of the other mothers that I faced…you could almost hear them judging and criticizing me in their heads, silently praising their own obviously superior parenting skills while condemning me. I got plenty of advice: my MIL wanted me to bite him back, my doctor suggested I just leave the park/playdate/party (but really, that was just punishing ME by forcing me to return home and face them alone). We even got kicked out of our first preschool. In the end it was just sweet, sweet time and the biting (more or less) went away.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 8:12 pm

  27. Anonymous said,

    my doctor suggested I just leave the park/playdate/party (but really, that was just punishing ME by forcing me to return home and face them alone
    Amy, I totally get needing a break and needing to get out, and heaven knows I've let things go I shouldn't because I was just tired. I totally get feeling punished yourself, by not being able to socialize. But it sounds a bit like you are okay with sacrificing other kids, that it's okay to let them get hurt because you need to get out.

    Yes, you need a break, absolutely, positively. But not at the expense of children getting hurt. Maybe I'm reading more into the biting issue, but it sounds like this happened often enough to be a real problem.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 8:40 pm

  28. Rebecca said,

    My little boy (2 years old) is a biter. He's taken a few chunks out of his 4 year old sisters arm. I always make excuses too. She took a toy from him, he's frustrated because he's not talking yet, he's been through so much, he's still only a baby, he had to put up with speech and developmental therapy today…..the list goes on and on. I wonder if we put Joey and Sadie in the same room if they'd bite one another if they'd team up on their siblings, of if the biting would halt.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 8:46 pm

  29. TheKitchenWitch said,

    I am giggling at your description of Sadie grabbing a smoke and a read while in her crib quasi-timeout.

    I'm sure the biting is usually out of frustration because her verbal skills aren't equal to kids her age. It's great that you have resources that will help with hard stuff like this.

    And of course Mattie is too delicious to resist sampling!

    | September 16, 2009 @ 9:16 pm

  30. Rebecca said,

    Had to come back and say Sadie weighs 20 pounds!!! How exciting!!! Celebrate with something really fattening like a fried snickers bar.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 9:24 pm

  31. Catwoman said,

    The irony of Sadie, the one who will not eat, constantly trying to eat her fatter twin does not escape me. Clearly she's just jealous of Mattie's curves.

    And I do think your hawtness is what sent her over the edge. Any good therapist will tell you the mother's always to blame for every issue.

    | September 16, 2009 @ 9:55 pm

  32. Stacey said,

    Laura in Michigan is correct. I've learned that you cause a fuss over the "victim" and ignore the "biter". The biter sees that they did wrong and wants the attention from you now. But, again, parenting is about what works for you. If this doesn't work, then go to Plan B. Just started following your blog, as I really enjoyed reading your books. Keep on Rockin!

    | September 16, 2009 @ 11:05 pm

  33. Wishing 4 One said,

    Tori would be perfect! Heres to perfect play without biting real soon. Sadie will make it, she always does! You are such a trooper girl, and you got mad skillz as a mommy yo! You're awesome!

    | September 16, 2009 @ 11:25 pm

  34. Kendra said,

    Oh, God, biting has nearly ruined my life. My (now) 18-month-old started biting sometimes around 9 months old. It was mostly me, and I attributed it to teething. As it continued after her birthday and moved out to include the kids I watch in day care, I made more and more excuses. It was awful and cost me at least one day care child. I ended up taking two full classes on the topic of biting, in addition to getting serious insight from no less than three child care licensors.

    Sadly, after all that, I have no cut-and-dry advice. I found I always had to be within an arm's length of at least one of them, I had to make sure there was enough room that they didn't get in one another's ways, I had to yell and plop her on her butt when she bit (with her bedroom in the basement, a time out in her crib wasn't very practical, but if I made it clear that she wasn't getting "up" or any attention for a few minutes, that was pretty serious punishment). And eventually it stopped. That may have to do with the fact that the kid she bit isn't here anymore, something that doesn't work with twins–you're not going to just send one away.

    But my heart goes out to all of you–you for having to deal with it and (if you're like me) feeling like a lousy mom for "letting" this happen, for Sadie for getting so frustrated and confused that she resorts to biting, and of course for Mattie, for being on the receiving end. I hope it gets better soon!

    (And I don't know if it will help at all, but in one of the classes I took, they made a point of the fact that biting behavior definitely does not foreshadow a lifetime of "problem child" behavior. Once they outgrow it, they're in the same boat as everyone else, behavior-wise, with no greater chance of problems. That made me feel a lot better.)

    | September 17, 2009 @ 12:23 am

  35. Hi! I'm Alex said,

    I had a biter. Little bitch, I mean, sweetheart would chomp on my arms whenever the mood took her. My arms were covered in bruises constantly. As soon as one healed CHOMP there you go mummy! I put foul tasting sunscreen on my arms. My friends told me to bite her back. She just thought that was funny. She eventually stopped doing it…how? Who remembers? She's only two now. Good time, good times.

    | September 18, 2009 @ 1:32 am

  36. Susan said,

    You really shouldn't let her smoke in her crib. Fire safety and all…

    | September 18, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

  37. Anne said,

    I taught preschool about 15 years ago and the wisdom then was that a lot of tactile play (play-dough, sand table) could help stop kids who were biting. The theory being that the biting was more about the feeling of biting than the reaction of the bitten.

    Comforting the bitten first was also a rule of thumb.

    | September 18, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

  38. Anonymous said,

    Me, I'd whack the biter on the bottom. But then I'm a hella lot older than the other women reading this blog.

    | September 19, 2009 @ 10:30 am

  39. Mother of 4 said,

    Being a biter for a short time…eons ago…my mother(who I like to tell "if you were an animal, you be the kind that ate your babies") just reached down and bit me back…few times of getting a dose of my own medicine apparently cured me. Although, I like to snarl every now and again to warn others! Well that was old school…now it warrant DSS being on speed dial! Good luck to ya!

    | September 20, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

  40. CRUSTYBEEF said,

    I totally can relate with biting. My youngest, is delayed: OT and Speech (sensory no fear issues) and social (anger, hit, bite) issues…

    Only he's 3.

    Hang in there-like you said, having all that extra assistance with the therapists does help out a lot.

    | September 21, 2009 @ 1:08 am

  41. Anonymous said,

    My 2 year old Sam runs after my six year old muttering "bite Robert, bite Robert" and then he does. Totally unprovoked. We also have our team of regional center folks out to "fix" his lovely behavior but not sure if it is working. We are in west la, perhaps Sam and Sadie can date.

    | September 22, 2009 @ 6:16 pm

  42. Alice said,

    Thanks for the laugh! Isn't it amazing how these sweet g-tube babies will eat EVERYTHING as long as it's not food?! Oh yeah, I'm talking about rocks, rubber bands, siblings' flesh and even shopping cart handles (hey if my kid didn't get sick from that she doesn't need the flu shot – she's immune from everything now!) xoxo

    | September 26, 2009 @ 6:06 pm

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