Fun Love and Logic Stories #2- Biting, hitting, and spitting

Michelle - posted on 03/11/2010 ( 4 moms have responded )

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From My diary on October 27, 2006
My son was 4

The return of Dracula

Recently, a friend of mine had a situation in which her child was bitten by another child at day care. Now first of all, we all know that regardless of what type of parents we are, or how great our kids might be over all, Sometimes, kids go through these stages. Maybe its biting, maybe its hitting, or spitting, or some other behavior that drives us nuts. These stages are considered to be normal parts of development. Now, let me explain what "normal stage of development" means... It means that we expect children to do this. It does not mean that it is ok, or that we should ignore it. While it might be normal for a 3 year old to hit someone, it is then NORMAL for the parent to discipline the child, so that the child can learn to grow out of this "normal developmental stage".

The child who bit her little girl has been a known biter for over 6 months now. So, I guess the question is, "How long does it take to get your child out of this stage?" I am not an "expert" but my brother is...lol... And the answer is a heck of a lot shorter than 6 months. lol. Obviously, there is not a definition timetable, but with consistant discipline and rerouting, and barring a physiological problem, this should not go on for a significant length of time.

None of my children have been biters. Kate bit me once when she was 15 months old- she even drew blood. I screamed so loud ( it really hurt) that I think it startled her enough that she never did it again. However, I have faced a similar problem with hitting. And spitting.

The first thing to recognize is that there is a reason that the child is hitting (biting, etc). The most common is that they are feeling frustrated and can not adequately express that. That was certainly the case with my 4 year old- especially because he has Receptive Aphasia. But Aphasia or not, hitting in our family is unacceptable in all cases. Period. To me, I look at the large picture. It is simply not ok to disrespect other people ro their bodies. And causing someone pain is definitely disrespectful.

So, I made the behavior more inconvenient to my son than whatever benefit he might be getting from it. If he hit someone, He was immediately taken out of the situation. Usually, he was forced to stand at the door. ( For some reason, he can not sit in time out, so he stands with his nose to the wall). I usually had him stand there for 3 minutes which was one minute for each year he was at the time. Then I rerouted his hitting. This is one of my favorite techniques is child discipline. I told him he could not hit his sister, however, he could hit his pillow, and he could hit the handball, and he could hit with his home depot toy hammering set. Then I told him if he felt frustrated with his sister, he could talk to her with words, or he could come and talk to me, but hitting was not an option.

It got slightly better, but he still hit her. In love and Logic, we alsways say that we love chronic problems because they are the easiest to deal with. Why? Because if you know they are going to do it again, you have time to come up with a plan! So, one day, after he hit his siter, we had already had plans to meet another family at McDonald's playland. When we got there, I said, "You know, you hit your sister again today, and I am just not feeling like I can trust you to respect other people's bodies right now, so instead of playing, I think I am just going to have you sit at the table tonight." Naturally, he began to cry, and I just said, "I know how much you love to play with your friends, and how hard this must be for you, I am sorry that you have been having such a difficult time with hitting, it must be frustrating for you, but maybe by next week, you will be able to convince me that I can trust you to control your body." We then stayed a little bit longer than normal at McDonald's that night.

He did not hit his sister (or anyone else) for 3 weeks after that. Compliance is great because you can always build off that. I frequently told him how much I enjoyed watching him play so respectfully with his sister and his friends. When he finally did slip up, He was again restricted from playing with a friend. There was really no other discipline, I just said, "I let children play with their friends when I can trust that they will be respectful." From the time I felt his hitting was becoming an issue until the time I felt it was controlled was about 5 weeks, with constant and steady improvement. It has now been more than 7 months since this has come up.

The spitting was solved in about 12 minutes. My brother saw Austin spitting and took him aside. He said, "Hey buddy, I notice you seem to have too much saliva in your mouth right now. Why don't you spend the next 10 minutes spitting into this bucket. " After 10 minutes, my brother inspected his mouth, decided that he had a little saliva left and could easily go for another 2 minutes. He kept him outside, watching everyone else playing and having fun. After the 2 minutes, he said, "OK, it seems that we have gotten rid of all of that extra saliva, but if you need to spit again, this is where you may come to spit." ( Notice the rerouting- always give them a way that it is acceptable to do the behavior- allowable behaviors are never as much fun as things we are not supposed to be doing...) I have never seen Austin spit since that day.

I guess this is all to say sometimes, simply telling your child, "please stop biting" is not going to get it done. Sometimes, you are going to have to up the ante and actually parent your child. Or I guess you could wait and have the school do it for you... or even wait longer and the police will be happy to take care of it. I am not saying that if your child bites another kids, he will end up a criminal, but if biting keeps working for him, what is it going to take to change that pattern later on?

If only EVERYONE had to take parenting classes... lol... the world be so much nicer....lol

***Update***
LOL, This happened over 3 years ago... And I had actually forgotten all about this brief period of time. But I do SO love these techniques!! When my youngest turned 4, she began hitting as well, and I did the same exact technique... her hitting completely stopped in less than 2 weeks.

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Michelle - posted on 03/14/2010

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Kimberly, I am HUGE fan of positive reinforcements. I always keep little tootsie rolls in my purse for that reason. :) They never know when their good behavior might result in a treat, so they try to be good. LOL

Sarah- That might be an idea too... Randomly praise your son for not biting. It might help him to better understand what the desired behavior is. :)

It is really important to understand the development of the brain at preschool age. They operate almost entirely out of the amygdala part of the brain, which is pure emotion. It is what gives toddlers/ Pre-k kids that bipolar appearance. They can go from temper tantrum to singing in seconds flat. Because of that, during fits, the oxygen flow is not going to the cognitve part of their brain, it is going to the emotional part of their brain, making it even harder to calm down and act rational. I have found it very helpful to have my children take 2 deep breaths when they begin to get really upset. If they are too upset to focus on that, I find short sprints to the mailbox to be helpful. At school, depending on staffing, a short walk around the playground can be very beneficial. If helps to restore oxygen levels to the cognitve part of the brain, and allows the child to be in a better place to make better choices.
Once the temper tantrum is over, I always favor redirecting energy. Throwing a ball to see how high it can bounce releases that same energy.
And at home, chores are always a great thing. from age 3 on, the broom is your friend. If my kids get worked up, I tell them to take it out on the garage floor. :) Sweeping can be very calming. :)

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Kimberly - posted on 03/13/2010

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Thank you for sharing this! I have been digging back into my Parenting with Love and Logic books and trying to find new and creative ways to apply some of the techniques to some issues that our four year old is having. While we have gotten some things to improve at home, he is having a difficult time with hitting at his preschool.
He hits his friends and his teachers. More his teachers than anyone else. He gets angry and takes a LONG time to cool down. Hitting in response to anger is not acceptable, and we have tried several approaches. He is improving at using his words, but is seems like he has a "quick trigger" and his first response it to hit.
We have tried having further consequences when he gets home - like no tv time. No difference. We have tried a clean slate. No difference. I am now using positive reinforcement for not getting any "oops" reports from school. (One sticker on a calendar in his room every night that he didn't get an oops report at school). Almost 3 weeks to get 5 - with it known that this would result in a trip to get a scoop of any kind of ice cream... He did it!
Even so, we have consented to have someone come in and observe him at school, that can work with his teacher and him when he gets into one of his rages... I am hopeful, for his sake, that this will open up some solutions for his best interests.
If you have any words of wisdom that you would like to direct my way, please feel free.

Michelle - posted on 03/12/2010

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Sarah...
I do think the "uh- Oh" game is worth a try. It is a great verbal reminder to little ones that they are about to have a consequence. I also wonder if you could try redirecting him. For example- Biting is not ok when you are excited, but clapping is. Another technique I have seen used is to start and stop. it is more time consuming on your part, but for younger kids, it help make the connection easier. If he bites, he has to sit for 30 seconds to a minute, then let him play again. This gives him more opportunities to bite and sit, shortening the time in between occurances. Otherwise, he may have forgotten why he is sitting. Another option is giving him something he can bite. I have seen a lot of people use crunchy apples, big carrots, or celery. Saying, "we bite food, not people".

Sarah - posted on 03/12/2010

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What a great post, and I too am having difficulty with my son biting. I am not sure what is the best approach though because he is only 15 months old and he bites when he is excited or playing. It is just something he does wen he is happy and excited. What to you think is the best method to curb a toddlers biting? We have tried the "stop playing immediately" technique but he does not seem to get the message. He just stops biting when we stop playing and he starts when we play again. I wonder if the Uh Ohh game would work. Any thoughts?

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