Friday, January 27, 2012


Micah has turned into a biter.
A mean biter. A biter who bites with the intention of hurting.
I saw him do it for the first time less than a week ago.  Grey had taken a toy from him, and then turned away so that Micah was facing his brother's back, which was hunched over something he WANTED.
With sudden ferocity, which I had never seen before, he lunged at his brother. Micah's arms wrapped all the way around Grey, pinning Grey's arms at his side and squeezing as hard as he could, and Micah's head slammed into Grey's neck/back, where he clamped down with his three sharp little teeth.
I was horrified, to say the least.
But also, I laughed a little. Where had he learned that? He looked completely insane. 
Grey started crying, so I comforted him and shook my finger at Micah, and kind of didn't think much of it.
Until a day later, when Travis yelled "Holy cow! Micah just totally attacked Grey!" and then on Tuesday, when we were at a friend's house and an older boy knocked Micah down at (on accident) and Micah LUNGED at him, with this crazy maniacal look in his eyes and his teeth sharped for the kill.
But it isn't just biting. It's head-butting, squeezing, pushing, and hurting.
He wants to hurt the person who hurt him and/or took his toys.
It happened once or twice on Wednesday and then several times on Thursday. It's really hard and I don't know how to handle it, and here's why:
Grey starts crying, so my first and immediate need is to scoop Grey up and snuggle him and help him try to feel better.
That, however, leaves Grey's toy unguarded - which means that whatever Micah was fighting for is now free for the taking. If I wait and come back to scold Micah and put him in "time out" (more on this in a second) a few minutes later, then I worry that he doesn't know what he's in trouble for. He's not in trouble for wanting that toy. He's not in trouble for taking the toy off the ground. He is in trouble for intentionally hurting his brother, but how do I make him understand that?
If I try to scold Micah while holding Grey, then Grey becomes even more upset, and I'm worried that he thinks that I'm angry with him.
Gah! TWINS. Did I mention that they're only ten months old? How do you teach a ten-month old right and wrong?
Oh, and "time out:" Travis said that Micah needs to learn that doing bad things makes him feel sad, so I need to make him sad when he does something wrong, by taking him away from the fun. So when Grey isn't hysterical, or there's someone else around to comfort Grey, I try to take Micah into another room for a minute or two while I explain what he did wrong.
Again, though... explain? Really? To my not-even-one year old?
I usually say "Micah, no! We do not hurt our brother. We love Grey, and even if we're mad we can't try to hurt him. I'm sorry that Grey took that toy (or is in your way, or is being held by mom when you want mom), but we need to always be nice to other people."

Yikes, that seems weird. I shouldn't say "we," right? But "you" sounds so accusatory, and I mean... I love Grey and try not to hurt him, too.  Anyway.

I did see something encouraging yesterday though. Micah was playing with this little baby xylophone and Grey scooted in next to him to play, and slowly Micah started to get edged out. And he was mad.
Grey was sitting, and Micah stood up, teeth bared and fingers out -about to attack him- and then suddenly stopped.  He turned and looked at me, with this face like "What now?"
Maybe it wasn't really his thought-process, but to me it seemed like he remembered (just in time) that I told him not to hurt his brother, so he turned to see what I wanted him to do instead.
I smiled as big as I could, and told him that I loved him, and he was such a good brother for sharing and I was so, so glad that he had decided not to hurt his brother, and motioned for him to come over by me and look at the other toys.  He slowly walked over to his pile of books, and picked up a picture book of animals and carried it to me, and then sat down in my lap.

Sigh. Oh my goodness, it was so sweet.
And I was so proud of him.
I really do think that he was deciding to make a good choice.
We read the book three times through, and he didn't make a peep (although he usually makes all kinds of noise when I read stories). Instead he concentrated on his hands; I made baby signs for the few animals I know signs for (like horse and frog and kitty) and he tried to copy me.
My favorite was frog. He was trying so hard, and just kept flicking the page and then smiling up at me for approval.
Such a good boy. I love him so.

But also, I don't think that we've seen the last of biting.  Any advice on teaching your baby how to be good?

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Julia said...

My girls went through a phase of being terrible biters. I mean really---their arms, back, even the cheek once (!!!) were covered in bruises from bites. It was terrible!

I was so thankful that they never bit us (me and hubby) and they never bit any other children. Just each other.

There were a couple of things I did. I always tended to the person who was bitten. I'd say "Teeth are not for biting" and turn away from the other twin, and not give them any attention at all. I didn't want them to associate biting with a way to get attention.

Also---I would try to recognize when one twin is getting frustrated, and just say---"you are mad that _____ (fill in the blank). Sometimes just telling them that I know they're mad helped to prevent them from taking their frustation out in biting.

I also bought a book called "Teeth are not for Biting"----it's a cool board book with great pictures. It shows what teeth ARE for (chewing food) and it gives alternatives to biting. The girls love reading it b/c one of the alternatives is going and getting a hug.

It does pass. I think there's just frustation that they can't communicate what they want, so they bite. I know it's hard. I hope it comes and goes quickly for you.

Hugs to you as you navigate this.

Marissa said...

I have found with my twins more words = more confusion. We do a simple "Chloe, you do not bite!" we also started time out at 10/11 months for one minute. After they get out, I tell them to say they are sorry and give then a kiss. Now that they are almost two, they know the drill. They are so much smarter than we realize and he absolutely was making a concious good decision : )

Amy said...

I don't have twins, but what I've always used with my 2 is if there isn't blood, I actually go to the biter first. I use a big loud "NO!", take the wanted toy away from *both*, and then slather on the attention to the hurt child. Like seriously load on the the attention, to the point of being ridiculous. And I try my best to physically turn my back to the offending child.

They aren't going to compute a big long lecture, especially being as young as your kiddos are (& even as they get a little older- they're in the heat of the moment & just won't "hear" it). Once you've calmed the hurt one, then you can come back to the situation, take the offender & offer a short reason why he got in trouble- "No biting. Teeth are only for eating. Tell your brother you're sorry*." *In our house, since one of mine can't talk yet, "saying sorry" means giving a hug. Everything ought to be very short & to the point.

Oh- and the toy goes away from both for a while (however long you feel comfortable with).

Good luck!

Angela said...

Just keep doing what you're doing! Being consistent is the best thing. In a few months they WILL understand you. The sooner you start, the sooner they'll understand. Just keep letting Micah know that it is NOT ok. Using the words "not ok." Is highly effective, in my experience. No kid needs to hear they're "bad," but they need to know that their negative actions are not ok. Sounds to me as if you're doing a pretty fabulous job. Keep it up!


Brittany said...

I was told, "Just bite Lillian back. She'll learn that it's not Ok if you do it once. My mom did that with me when I was a biter and blah...blah...blah." I thought it was a barbaric idea, but after two bites in less than a hour, I got desperate and bit her back.

Guess what?

It didn't do anything at all other than her eye welling with tears and Lillian wanting nothing to do with me for the next several hours. It was awful and she STILL bit Sophie.

It hasn't happened in a while, but when it does, I calmly go put her in her crib or the pack 'n play and say something like "we don't bite" or "no biting" and let her sit there while I calm Sophie down. When I get Lillian out, I say something cheesy about being nice to her sister. I don't know if it's working, but we haven't had any bites in a few weeks. However, I'm still trying to figure out how to stop the hitting and pushing...

The Spencers said...

Oh we went through the crazy biting stage. It wasn't fun at all. ALL 3 of my girls went through the biting stage. It was horrible. Since I had 3 little 1yr olds, I always grabbed the biter and put them in a time out and would tell them why they were in time out. LIke the others have said, less words the better. THen I'd get the girl with the bite and calm her down. It was CRAZY times! Our time out spot was a place with baby gates surrounding it, so they couldn't escape. I'd time it for a minute. Then they had to come out and give a hug and kiss to say sorry.

At one point one of my lovely girls (can't remember which one) got so mad at her sister (Abbi), that she bit Abbi through her coat on her back. I quickly took care of the biter and calmed down Abbi. But didn't think of taking off her winter coat to look at her back. By the next day Abbi was still complaining about her "owie" on her back. I looked and was horrified. We ended up taking her to the hospital and she had to go on antibitotics because the bite was so bad that it was red and swollen with infection. I felt horrible. They were 3 at the time. THey were way past the biting stage but I guess the girl was so mad she didn't know what else to do. Crazy!

Good luck. Sounds like you're doing a great job Beckie! Keep up the good work!