Monday, October 18, 2010

Parenting Test #1,863,954

You’re not going to judge me, right? You’re not those kind of people are you? The judge-y kind? I mean, unless you are a JUDGE in real life, and then I will address you as Honorable Judge So-and-So from this point forward. I trust you, readers. You’re nice people. Right?

Noah bit at preschool yesterday. For the third time. He’s on “watch” with his teachers. WWWWAAAIIIILLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL.  

The first time he was provoked by another child and responded by biting. We started our reinforcement of “No biting, biting hurts. Use your words to say “No! Stop that!” or walk away. Biting is never ok.” He got really good at parroting what we wanted to hear but I wasn’t so sure he really understood.

The second time was completely unprovoked. He and another little guy were playfully shoving each other while waiting their turn for the balance beam. Two minutes after they stopped playing, while still waiting, Noah turned to him and laid into his arm with his teeth. Why did he do that? Was he upset that his little friend had stopped playing with him? Did he, two minutes after the fact, decide that he didn’t like his little friend having touched him earlier? The toddler brain is so confusing. We went home and began again with the reinforcement of no biting. Again, he parroted.

The third time, yesterday, was again provoked. The other little guy was draping himself all over Noah during their planned “centers”. The teachers noticed, and knowing how Noah has some personal space issues, gently asked the other child to stop touching Noah and removed him. The kid went back for more and Noah had obviously had enough. Noah turned around and bit him square on the arm. Did the kid deserve to be bitten? No. Did Noah have the right to defend himself? Yes. I asked his teachers if Noah felt remorse afterwards and if he understood that biting was unacceptable. They were clear that he gets very upset after it happens and repeats to himself “No biting! Biting hurts!” but he has problems controlling himself in the moment.

Yesterday I added major emphasis to “using your words when you get angry” to our daily behavior discussions.

I will not classify my son as a “biter”. It is not a serial problem with him. He is not biting everyday or even every week. However, he does have impulse, or temper, control issues. Noah’s temper flares quickly but dies down just as fast. He has always been this way. As an infant, if he was hungry and I wasn’t able to nurse him within 30 seconds of his wails starting up, I could have sworn his head would begin spinning on its axis. His face would turn so red and his little fists would ball up and he would just lose it. As a one year old, when he didn’t yet have such a great grasp on language but needed to express himself, he would use a high-pitched scream to get my attention and then keep going until I figured out what it was he needed. At that time I had hoped and prayed that once he could communicate he would find more patience and use his words to express himself when he was angry or frustrated.

On one hand, he’s two. TWO. Two is tough any which way you look at it. Every two year old has their “issues” whether that be temper control, inability to share, lack of communication, not playing nicely with others, defiance, etc. On the other hand, aggressive behaviors are not a proper way to express anger or frustration at two or beyond. I want Noah to understand that biting does not make him “bad” so we never use the words “You’re a bad boy for biting” or “You’re naughty for biting”. The action is bad, not the child who is doing it. However, he does need to understand the appropriate way of handling his anger.

We’re proactive parents. We’re addressing the biting immediately and consistently. As we see a ramp up in his imaginative play, we’ve begun acting out good behaviors, bad behaviors and the proper responses using his favorite toys. We ask him “We don’t use our mouths for biting. What do we use our mouths for?” and he responds with “For eating! For talking! For kissing! For making funny sounds like Beep Beep Beep!”. We say “It’s ok to be angry or frustrated. But what do you do when you get angry or frustrated? Do you hit? Do you bite?” and he answers “Nooooooo, no hitting, no biting. You walk away! You say “No, stop that!” and tell your teacher”.

Now, I’m pretty sure he gets it. He knows that biting is not ok. He feels awful after it happens and remembers to apologize. But how do we address his temper control without making him think it’s bad to feel angry or frustrated? I know we continue to reinforce “walking away” and “using your words to say “No, stop that!”.

I’m trying really hard to not let Noah’s recent biting episodes reflect on me as a parent. I know we’re doing our best. I know in my heart that he’s a good, smart little boy with a whole lot of love to give. I also know that he inherited his father’s quick temper and we have some learning to do. This is one of many parenting tests we’ll be faced with in raising our son and I really hope we’re doing the right thing.

We were at the grocery store the other day and I looked at Noah in the cart and said “Buddy, Mommy really doesn’t feel so good today.”

His reply? “Mommy, you need a vacation.”

Damn straight, kiddo.


donna said...

UGH, my daughter was a biter. Chronically. It was horrifying. I'd rather have a kid who gets bitten. I even talked to her pediatrician about it who told me that he has seven kids and three were biters at that age. There is just no rhyme or reason and it's nothing the parent is doing or not doing. It's simply impulse control and they will grow out of it. Hopefully he'll get over it soon.

samantha said...

Hugs to you lady. He's the best kid and I've seen him try to work through it when he's upset. He's getting there. You're doing everything right because you're a good Mama.


Jessica said...

I am not looking forward to two. My daughter is (currently) an only child and the only grandchild on both sides, so she's not great at dealing with other kids. She's outgoing, but has major personal space issues.

Mary said...

*Hugs* Sorry he is biting. Two blows, in my experience. Harper pushes; not because she is mad, because she has a very dark sense of humor. Someday, they'll pull it together ;)

k said...

Listen, Ezra got bit at school yestesrday and while I felt bad for him--I mostly felt bad for the parents of the biter. Really.

Because I know I feel bad when Ezra hits someone ("Hands are not for hitting!"), and it just feels shitty when you're trying your best to reinforce good tactics but the teaching road is long.

He'll outgrow this--don't worry.

Paige said...

I'm sure I'll be going through the same thing in about one year. It sounds like you two are dealing with it really well though - I'm sure he'll outgrow it soon.

kyooty said...

He's two, it will get better.

Rougie said...

Says the girl with no kids: HE'S TWO. You're doing everything you can. With a two year old. Be patient. Keep teaching. That's all you can control. said...

Ugh, that sucks. But hey, if you want proof of his empathy - he told you that you needed a vacation! He'll figure it out soon enough, he's getting there.

Maddie doesn't bite, but she hits. Now that she's almost three we're *mostly* through it, but it was HARD for a while there.

Does he watch Yo Gabba? I loved the "Don't Bite Your Friends" bit. It at least gave me something to reference the few times Maddie tried it.

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

Of course, I agree with what everyone else says here. He's a good kid and he will outgrow this. And you are absolutely doing what you can as a parent.

I can only imagine how frustrating it is (and might come crying to you in a few years with my own woes). One thought ... the teachers at his school seem to do a good job at redirecting kids who are invading Noah's personal space. I wonder if they can also have a quick two-minute conversation with Noah about how he reacts to kids who are in his space. Kind of reinforcing what you do at home. That way, maybe the "no biting" will be fresh in his mind when kids re-invade his space.

Hang in there. Hugs.

Hillary said...

My kid was the biter. He grew out of it. Noah will grow out of it. And if, one day, he bites the wrong kid, a kid who decides to bite back, he'll grow out of it faster.

You're a good mom.

Cupcake Mama said...

Hmmmmmm the timeless debate of biter and bitee. Hang in there and give it the college test. Will he bite people at Harvard? Nope, so you are good!