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What's The Deal With The Biting?

I’m afraid Cora’s turning into
a little biter – though pretty much limiting her culinary
excursions to her sister. Whenever cornered or frustrated, she
turns to biting to try to get Maddie out of her face, and sometimes
she actually succeeds.

Over the past year we’ve started to get a handle on it,
partly because she’s learning to deal with her frustration in
more productive ways, and partly because the girls are learning to
compromise, to give and take more graciously, thus avoiding the
“need” for biting. But just the other night Maddie took
a train away from Cora and refused to give it back, and after a few
tense seconds of both sets of hands trying to hold onto it, Cora
leaned in with a red rage and bit Maddie – hard – on
the stomach.

This had the desired effect, of course:
Maddie immediately let go of the toy and backed off, leaving Cora
with her prize and her precious personal space.

I understand why Cora bites – she’s got limited
resources, since Maddie’s bigger and stronger and more
persuasive. How do you explain to a two-year-old that while her
cause may be justifiable, her actions are not? And how do I punish
Maddie for taking Cora’s toy from her, and explain to Maddie
how her actions led to Cora’s biting, without making it seem
as if the biting is her fault? After all, biting is never ok, so
Maddie can’t be blamed for Cora’s bad choice.

The sibling relationship is complicated, and the biting is just one
aspect that we’re wrestling with. But it highlights the
difficulty in trying to unravel the fight, follow the thread back
to the beginning and define faults and choices and consequences.
And fortunately, Cora’s biting isn’t frequent: I can
see the signs pretty easily now, and if it looks as if she wants to
bite me out of frustration, I pin her arms to her sides and turn
her to face away from me so she can’t bite. When I can, I
immediately let go and give her the space she needs, then put her
in a break until she’s calmed down.

When she’s interacting with Maddie, though, I can’t
always get there in time, even when I see it coming. So sometimes I
find myself yelling, “Just give her the toy!” even if I
know it’s not Maddie’s fault; I’m trying to
defuse a situation in order to step in and sort it out with minimal
casualties, and I know that the toy will be sorted out when
everyone’s calm. But I know it makes Maddie feel as if
she’s being blamed every time, and it’s hard for a
four-year-old to back down when she knows she’s in the clear.
Maddie’s learning, and is getting much better and backing
away and coming to me for help rather than trying to fix it
herself, but she’s not perfect at it.

Hence the big Dracula mark on her stomach today.

Anyone out there with biters? I’d appreciate hearing how you
nipped this in the bud, ha ha. I want this completely gone before
Cora starts organized activities with peers this fall.


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