My younger son (age 2-1/2) started biting when he was just over two years old. He would bite when he and his older brother had sharing issues, or when he didn’t get his way. He would bite really hard. He could not assert himself against his older brother, who was three years older, more able and verbal, and biting seemed to be an impulsive response.
Resolving the biting issue was a priority over other jobs I had, and I rationed my energy and attention to deal with his new aggression. I reduced the time I spent on my household work (I did very minimum vacuum cleaning, dish washing and cooking!) to stay close by when my sons were together so I could reach in before things escalated. I would spend five to ten minutes hanging out in the same room often during the day, or sit between them when they were playing together.
Sometimes, though, when I was in the bathroom or answering the phone, I could not stop my son from biting. My older son would be hurt and cry frantically, and my younger would be upset, his face frozen in guilt. I rushed to them, apologized to both that I wasn’t there. Then I would listen to each, one at a time. Often when I Staylistened to one, the other one would try to climb on my lap. So I learned how to hold them both on my lap, keeping them from hurting each other.
My success rate at holding my younger son’s forehead away from my older son’s body, thus keeping him from biting increased. I learned to read their very first signals of disconnect, like a slight change in their tone of voice or their mood, so I could prevent an attack, and I patrolled them when they came back together after a long separation.
This vigilant patrolling went on for a while. I worked on my embarrassment, guilt, worry and anger about this challenging situation in my Listening Partnerships, which gave me an insight into the helplessness I felt in the similar situations I encountered as a child (I was bullied). My Listening Partner gave me several chances to stand up and take charge, saying the things I had no power to say as a child, and releasing the anger I’d held for so long. It felt like rewriting my own life history.
I kept offering regular Special Time to both sons too. In one of the Special Times with my younger son, he would bite me suddenly really hard in the midst of our happy horsy ride. I stopped our play, offered eye contact, though his eyes didn’t meet mine, and said, “I can’t let you bite.” He then started crying. Again, a few more Special Time were spent on his sudden biting, my limit setting and his crying. This led to him biting his brother less and less.
This work brought gradual change; after six months, he did not bite anymore.
—Keiko Sato-Perry, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor
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