When our globally-delayed son picked up a habit of biting, life became a bit like a Dr. Suess book. All the Who's from Whoville, small and large, men and women, serious and curious, emerged from their homes to offer us advice on how to cure biting, whether we wanted advice or not.
Or, more importantly, whether or not they had actually "cured" a biter themselves.
"Be dramatic & scream out loud. Show him that it hurts!" Said a helping Who.
"Ignore the biting, at all costs! He's getting a rise out of you."
"The only way to learn is to bite him back -- hard," warned another.
"You should give him a stiff whack him in the bum," grumbled a grumpy Who mother.
One Who suggested, "Pin him to the ground and scare him -- just a bit."
And from a hippie Who: "Show him what a mouth is used for -- kissing with your lips."
When I ambiguously asked if another parent if they had experience with biting, every other Who, in a hush-hush whisper, told me a dramatic story of a biter they had to practically run out of town.
Kick him out of preschool - no one is safe! Certainly don't invite her to the party! Don't answer the door when that neighbor comes to play! If the parents cared, they'd put a stop to it! I think there was something wrong with that girl -- no one could understand a word she said!
Upon occasion, another parent looked at me sheepishly, or raised an eyebrow, or took a long, long sip of coffee while avoiding eye contact. And I knew, right then, at that moment -- I so very much knew, that they had a biter-Who, too.
"I'm not sure where he learned it," confessed a super sullen Who-Dad.
Another Who-Mom sighed, "It's a lightning-quick impulse when she's mad."
A Who-Colleague forces a toddler to say she's sorry because they've lost a couple friends.
Another Who-Dad has tried everything: "But I'm not sure it'll ever end."
Each time, quietly, in my bravest Momma voice, I admitted that I, too, had a biter. We exchanged compassionate acceptance, in a single Who-Parent glance. A look that only biter-Who parent would understand.
Of course we know it hurts, and we're doing our very best.
Our hearts break in pieces when you see the red marks, the preschool incident reports, the tear-stained cheeks, the tentative kids who aren't sure they want to play. It really is quite horrible.
And then, one day, it ends.
Our Doctor Who said, "It really is quite common. Some kids I see do it once or twice, and others three or four. Some tots bite for weeks on end, and some kids even more. "
Nevertheless, raising a biter is just not a popular public place to be.
So Dr. Who gave a few tips, and so did OT Who, and so did Language-Therapy Who, and even Teacher Who.
Many children who have delays, or sensory issues, or developmental challenges -- even typically developing kids -- experience periods of biting when they are asked to do things greater than their capabilities.
Try to identify the trigger, model calm behavior (using quiet time or time-out as necessary), and -- if they get bitten or hit by another child -- point out that it hurts.
No shame, for the Little Who or the Parent Who.
Because even if there are different types of Who children -- Biter Who's and the Bitten Who's -- here in our own fantastic Who-Ville, we all learn together, play together, and grow together.
It's a place where our differences make us much more alike than we might think.
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