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Biting back is confusing to children.
Use loving inattention to stop the biting.


427 words


How to stop a biting toddler and, perhaps, terrorism.
by Dianne Roth


George W. Bush is breaking the first rule of responsible parenting: Do not bite back! Well, okay, Iraq and Iran are not George’s children, but it is the same principle.

When my youngest was a wee thing he took to biting. We are not talking about generic biting. He bit with intent to consume. Once, he toddled across the room and nestled his head between my knees. It was a sweet gesture, but I was savvy. I enjoyed the gesture, but remained poised for the bite. Sure enough, when I checked he had drawn blood through a pair of blue jeans!

Same thing happened when he cuddled into my neck. Not always, which meant that I could enjoy his cuddles... to a point. Then, wham, right in that meaty part of my shoulder!
By the time I was in the emergency room for an infected human bite inflicted while nursing, I was desperate.

There was no lack of advice. Like hiccups, everyone has an opinion. Unlike hiccups, everyone had the same opinion. Bite him back!

It would have been so satisfying to give him a dose of his own medicine. But, I could not inflict that pain on my child. Would he have known the difference between his bites and mine? I was not willing to risk it.

Unfortunately, adult biting seems to work in the short term, but is there a cost? Should we also kick the child who kicks, hit the child who hits, call the child names who calls others names, and throw rocks at the child who throws rocks? This model would not make sense to any child. Parents tell me they hit their child every time he hits and cannot understand why the child continues to hit.

Is it that much different in our foreign policy? They bomb us.... we bomb them. They abuse our prisoners.... we abuse theirs. They enrich uranium.... we nuke ‘em. How does that make us different from them? And, ultimately, is our strategy of in-kind retaliation working to stop the terrorism?

Fortunately, I was able to maintain my nonviolence and end my son’s biting. I used loving inattention. I said, “No biting!” I put him on the floor and walked away, out of the room. No talk-talk-talk, no punishment, no biting back. I simply stated the rule and walked away. He wanted me, he needed me, he could have me if he did not hurt me. He got the point and the biting stopped.

Now, if George W. Bush would get the point!


Dianne Roth is a teacher, mother, grandmother, and freelance writer. She lives in Oregon.




Last updated on October 8, 2012