things (part 2)

My child is a biter.

You know that list of despicable human qualities that you carry around in your head? The one that helps you decide if the person standing in line behind you is worthy of a smile and possibly bumping ahead of you because he's only got two things and you've got a whole basket full of chocolate covered shame that he hopefully won't notice because he will be so surprised and thankful that you allowed waved him ahead or very much NOT despite his impatiently tapping too-shiny, too tappy, too self-important tappy shiny shoes, you may just stand there Mr. Impatient Tap-n-Shine, and consider for a moment if you are really as important as you seem to think you are because I do not, no sir, I DO NOT... that list? Yeah. "Biter" ranks number 2 on mine. Which is hilarious because Haha! Universe, I have a Biter! And, Hoho! He's almost 4! And, Heehee! I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT! Isn't that a riot? *snorts, wipes tears from eyes*

I have spoken to him sternly. "Teeth are for food and blankie." "Teeth hurt! I don't like to be hurt!" "You are not allowed to hurt other people." "Use your words! I don't understand teeth - I understand words!"

I have reacted loudly, strongly. "OUCH! THAT HURTS ME!" Pulled arm/leg/hand away quickly, allowing those gnashing chompers to come in contact with whatever else they might, hopefully something hard and immediately painful; left the room/vicinity immediately, even locking him in his bedroom so that maybe just maybe he will begin to associate BITING=ISOLATION; smacked him (don't judge. Those effers HURT.); maneuvered his hands/arms/whatever so that HE is on the receiving end.

I have tried reason. "When you choose to hurt me, I choose to defend myself. I don't like to be around you when you hurt me. When you hurt me, I am going to leave the room." "Do you remember how much it hurt when [neighbor's MUCH younger, TEETHING (and therefore COMPLETELY UNDERSTANDABLE) child] bit you? That really hurt, didn't it? That's how it feels when you bite me. Can you understand why I don't like it when you try to bite me?"

And on Friday? On Friday I decided to summon every ounce of my inner Zen and let him get it out of his system. I was loading him into the car. He did not want to be loaded. He chose to indicate this by launching his teeth at me. I chose to respond by letting him bite me. There we stood: car door flung wide open, my right arm pinning his body into his carseat, his mouth firmly clamped onto my left forearm. Stalemate.

"You're LETTING him bite you?"

I'm pretty sure that what Josh really wanted to say was more along the lines of WHAT THE F-CK IS WRONG WITH YOU?! I'm equally confident that my response of "If you don't run, you can't be chased" made exactly zero sense to him. But that's what we tell the kids on the playground: You give something, SOMEONE, power by your reaction. If you choose not to react, you take away all the power. And that, my friends, is what this all boils down to -- classic power struggle, redefined to include teeth.

At that very moment, my thinking was along the lines of "Go ahead and bite me, you little sh*t. Bite me with all your might. I will not flinch. I will not struggle. I will not step away. And when your little jaw has grown tired, your rage subdued, I will calmly finish securing your seatbelt so that we may safely journey home and I will think of all the reasons that they should bring back the practice of beating small children." I just hope this m-effer on my arm bruises up nicely so that I can take a picture of it for his 3 year memory book.

On a positive note: I decided to follow through with my spiel of "I choose not to be around people who choose to hurt me" and pretty much ignored "distanced myself" from him for the rest of the night. At one point during the car ride home I poured the little bit of water from his dinner cup into my water bottle (much to his dismay... I truly didn't start doing it to piss him off. No, pissing him off was just a happy, unexpected side effect of being thirsty coupled with my neurotic need to only drink from my own drinking vessel) to which he then announced "Now Mommy and I are both sad. Mommy is sad because I bited her and hurted her and I am sad because she took my water." I didn't apologize. I didn't try to soften it, didn't try to explain to him how that even though I was sad about his behavior, I still loved him very much. Didn't console him, didn't make it okay. Didn't give HIM the chance to make it okay. Mean, mean, mean.

I also skipped out on the bedtime routine (which K-I-L-L-E-D me. I almost broke 3 times in the 15 minutes it took Josh to put him to bed), which seemed to have an additional lasting effect on him: He came into our room Saturday morning to ask me "Mommy, how do you feel? Are you still sad?" Also? Has not so much as chewed with his mouth open in my direction. So while I'm (twice) shy of feeling like we can put that one in the "lesson learned" column, dinnertime is aesthetically more enjoyable. So there's that.

W(TF)WJ(or Dr. Sears)(or Freud)(or you)(or your mother)D in this situation?



Amy Jo said...

Yipes! Does he bite people other than you, or is it just a mommy thing? I wish I had some words of wisdom for you, but we've been lucky in this arena.

(Furiously looking for some wood to knock now!)

Best of luck!

Lora said...

i think you're doing the right thing by ignoring it and laying a bit of a guilt trip on him.

everything else didn't work, so you find something that does.

on the upside, i've run into about 2 kids that bite after age 5, and i've dealt with a lot of kids. they grow out of it. the ones that don't? well, there are reasons they don't, and i don't think you guys are the type of family that fosters biting.

susan said...

AmyJo- So far, thankfully, it's only a mommy thing. I'm hoping that he doesn't somehow take my passive response as an invitation to try it out on others... you can bet that his interactions will be carefully monitored until I feel reassured on that point!

Lora- your upside is just exactly the kind of side I was looking for! I've been "okay" with telling myself he'll grow out of it, especially since I seem to be the only "victim". I guess something about realizing that he's almost 4 made me totally lose perspective on it. Or did it? There's a part of me that can't help but question if there is a much larger issue here. Anyways, for now, (August 24th, 2009, 3:00pm PST) it seems to be a thing of the past. *crosses fingers*

Curiosity said...

Congrats on winning the power struggle! That's a rough situation to be in.

The Curmudgeon said...

We had some biters, too, and went through the whole "teeth are for food" business.

And they sort of do grow out of it... eventually... some more than others. I mean, my 20-year old Younger Daughter still likes to bite her brothers... or me... to get our attention. She also likes to pluck hairs from her brothers' legs if they (the legs) intrude into space she's declared as hers on the couch.

At this point it occurs only in the course of goofing around -- but sometimes it still hurts and then I have to get all parental. (And "teeth are for food" is still chanted, like a mantra....)

The cold shoulder treatment is very effective -- but, as you have now found out, your mother was right when she said 'this hurts me more than it hurts you.'