Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Bite to Remember

If a child bites in the forest and there's no one around to receive that bite, does it make a sound? The answer quite simply is no. 

A couple of months ago I wrote about Amari's go to defensive move - the bite - including pictures of the mark she left on Hunter's back before he went to Rochester for the summer. While he was away, however, not a single incidence of biting. Granted, she does like to shove Oscar Magee around from time to time, but somehow that never seemed quite as bad. You can't take a finger off with a shove. Now that Hunter's back, Amari's bite is once again worse than her bark. 

Jim writes it off as payback for months of Hunter abuse, but I can't stand it. Behaviorally, I know that kids (and grown ups, too) do things for two simple reasons: to gain something or to escape something. The times Amari goes to the bite, she is sending a message to Hunter that says, "I want what you have...that's my stuff...or your in my personal space." Regardless of the motivation, however, I'm determined to nip it in the bud. 

According to what I've learned, the secret to successful discipline - outside of reinforcing positive behaviors as often as possible - is not only to interrupt the undesirable behavior immediately but also to offer your child other, more acceptable ways to get their needs met. This week, Amari has had three time outs ranging between 1-2 minutes followed by suggestions on how to ask Hunter to share toys or how to move when someone's crowding you. 

The first time out was very traumatic for both of us. I was stern, loud, and direct. Initially, I think she thought it was some kind of game, because she smiled at me as if to say, "Yeah, let's play the Don't Bite Hunter Game." She looked proud and for a brief moment sociopathic. Then came the remorse or the separation anxiety when I sat her down in a chair in the corner, said one last, "NO BITE," and left her to sit by herself. Oh the tears and the wailing, but she sat there until she saw me glance back, and then she put her arms out and said, "Up Dada." I quizzed her briefly about biting, but I couldn't stay mad. 

As the week progressed, her behavior improved, but each time I saw her open her mouth and lean in towards Hunter, I snatched her up and returned her to the chair. Yesterday morning marked a small improvement when Amari saw Hunter riding her wooden rocking horse and let him know she wanted a turn by leaning in and biting the horse as hard as she could. 

Now what the hell do you do with that?

                                                                      NO BITE!!

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