Hard Parenting

Adam bit Zachary again. This time it was on the arm. It looked just the same as the bite a few days ago: deep imprints of top and bottom rows of teeth. A full bite. Zachary shrieked in pain as Sally scooped him up to bring him in and take a look at it. I had one of those “moments” in the driveway where I grabbed Adam as fast as I could, yelled at him for what he’d done, and whisked him away for punishment. As quick as it happened he was in his crib, alone with the door shut. He wasn’t going outside again tonight.

This was the most recent in a string of biting incidents that we’ve been dealing with lately. They all involve Adam and they all involve Adam biting Zach. A few days ago it was a bite on the arm, a few days before that a bite on the face, and days before that a bite on the back. Each bite is a full, deep bite. They hurt. Adam has always had issues with biting but he had been fine up until the last couple of weeks. Sometimes he bites when he’s excited. When that happens we try to teach him to make happy exclamations or laugh instead. Sometimes he bites when he’s angry. When that happens we try to teach him to express his frustration with phrases such as “I’m angry, No thank you”, or simply “stop”.

We had a discussion this morning with Adam about biting. We talked to him about why we don’t bite and what would happen if he bit his brother again: he wouldn’t get to play outside. When we got home everything was fine. The boys were playing in their yellow Jeep. They were standing on the seat, stepping onto the door, and then slowly falling to the ground. It was relatively safe and cute. I even took a slow motion video of it. Ken was over chatting with us when things went south. Adam had decided to sit inside the Jeep instead of climbing on it and Zach was mad. I’m not sure what happened next, but it ended with Adam’s teeth deeply indented in Zachary’s arm. He didn’t draw blood but it was a deep bite. And when I ran over to Adam to scold him for it, he had a big grin on his face.

Not in my house.

So it was up to the bedroom for Adam and back outside for Zachary. I played outside with Zach for a few minutes but soon he wanted to go in to watch the Magic School Bus. Having Zach back inside didn’t really enforce the punishment we were trying to give to Adam so things got a bit awkward. We were both angry. We are frustrated with the biting and mortified that Adam thinks it’s funny. Since he wasn’t really that affected by not being able to go outside, we just kind of ignored him. We made them dinner and they ate it. Then he asked the question.

“Daddy, I want to go outside,” he said. This was it, our chance to make it hurt. “No Adam, you can’t go outside,” I replied. “Do you know why?”. I explained that he couldn’t go out because of the biting. It went over relatively fast and didn’t seem to be much of a teaching experience. Until Zach went back outside. Then Adam went into a full tantrum – wailing, hiding his face, rolling around, kicking. Now he was starting to understand. Biting is not allowed in our house. If he chooses to bite, there will be consequences and they will hurt. The tantrum lasted the majority of the time that Zachary was outside. He didn’t even really want to be outside, but we encouraged him to go simply so Adam would feel a consequence.

It was a tough situation. We don’t like making our children cry. We don’t like when they are sad or hurt. We also don’t like the thought that they will harm each other and enjoy it. That smirk Adam had after he bit Zachary was mortifying. It made me sick and brought tears to my eyes. That is not how we are raising our boys. That was not my son. We are pretty reasonable parents and very lenient when it makes sense. We fall more toward the strict side when it comes to rules and consequences. Taking away outside time was difficult and “rubbing it in” was even harder, but Adam needed to feel a consequence for his actions. He may not fully understand everything but all he needs to remember is “Biting = no outside”. He’s a pretty smart little boy so I think he can remember that equation.

We have discussed the issue multiple times with Adam this evening and we will continue to discuss it tomorrow. Biting anyone is not OK, let alone your brother, let alone in the face. It is simply not acceptable and will not be tolerated. We have set a consequence. Now we need to determine a reason. We can’t watch their every move every second which is unfortunately when these things happen. Without seeing it, it is difficult to understand the cause and suggest a solution. We will do our best. Parenting, good, active parenting is difficult. It’s tiring. Brushing it off would be easy. Chalking it up to “boys being boys” would be easy. It would be irresponsible. Being a parent is hard. Tonight was hard.

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