Once Bitten, Twice is Child Abuse

This is Hugmonkey.

I realize I may be biased after gestating him and all, but he's pretty damn cute, isn't he? And he's very sociable and articulate, except when he's screaming. Or when he bites. 

Yeah, I'm the parent of a biter. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you manage having 3 kids in 4 years while volunteering at the schools and taking them on outings by yourself because your husband works a lot and trying to write and cleaning the house enough so it doesn't become an episode of Hoarders. You let one of your kids become super aggressive.  

I know a lot of kids go through a biting phase after their first birthday. But Hugmonkey STARTED biting at 18 months and he hasn't really quit since. He's bitten his siblings. He's bitten other kids at the gym's tot drop. He's bitten me. He's attempted to bite his father. We've tried time outs. We've tried loss of privileges. We've tried yelling*. And still he bit.

So I bit him.

Last week he bit Ironflower so hard that she sobbed. He broke the top layer of skin and left a bruise. I put him in time out. Ironflower sobbed in my arms. He tried to escape time out. I tried to get him to understand why Ironflower was crying. He attempted to bite me, intent on escape.

So I bit him first.

NOT hard. I did not leave a mark and it only lasted a second. There was a brief pause as he looked me in the eye, then he proceeded to scream, "Mama bite me!" And he cried. I hugged him and then we discussed why biting was bad. He told Ironflower he was sorry. We all hugged.

I felt guilty, especially throughout the day as one kid or another would remark upon the fact that I'd bitten Hugmonkey. I tried to use each occasion as a teachable moment, but I'm afraid somewhere along the line Hugmonkey may have learned that kids who bite usually get bitten back. Though not usually by their mothers.

It's been a week and Hugmonkey, despite the stress of potty training, has not bitten anyone. He has told just about everyone, "Mama bite me!" though. So far I have not been reported to CPS.

Not because I was so ticked off. Not because I believe in biting children. But because I didn't know what else to do. All the talking and time outs and tears from others did not help Hugmonkey understand why it was wrong and how he was hurting others. I certainly didn't bite him hard, but he cried anyway. After he got over the shock of "Mama bite me!", we talked about consequences. I explained what he felt when I bit him was not as painful as what other felt when he bit them. He looked a bit dubious. 

So I told him that I'd bite him every time he bit someone. This he understood immediately. 

*Not as a parenting tactic. I've yelled because being bitten HURTS, dude. Seriously. 


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LisserB said...

Don't feel bad about it. I threatened to bite my daughter too when she went through a stage like that, and again after she bit someone in kindergarten. She used to pinch horribly, until I pinched her back one day. She pushed down the little girl I babysat all the time too, until I pushed her back into a snowbank over it one day. Sometimes the only way to get them to understand what it feels like is to do the action to them. I've only ever had to retaliate with like measure once before she stops. I use the "do unto others" motto often in our house, and at 5 it is really starting to click for her. She van still be a bully, but it's much less now, and hopefully as she gets older, it won't be at all.

Long story short, you didn't do anything wrong, He won't remember is forever and I bet he is done biting.

tilly said...

I once bit a horse that bit me. True story. Just so you don't feel alone, let me tell you about my daughter, who went through a hair pulling stage. And not just any hair pulling, no. She would dig her little fist into my hair, and then twist and wrap and yank, so that any effort to extricate her little fingers caused excruciating pain. And then she would laugh.
So I pulled her hair. She doesn't do it any more. I felt*feel* guilty, but...yeah, I get it. Kids are tough.

silken said...

it's so hard to teach some of those lessons! hang in there. sounds like he is learning a lesson. and if he can make it through a week of potty training without biting I say it sounds like progress! I bet there are more of us out here who have used just such a tactic or at least one very similar than is realized....