Biting and Hitting the Hand that Feeds

biting teeth
biting teeth

Photo credit: gigabiting.com

Dear Mr. Dad: Our son just turned one and, almost like flipping a switch, he went from the sweetest, happiest little guy to smacking and biting. It’s bad enough when it happens at home, but my husband and I are beyond embarrassed when he attacks friends or strangers. Is it normal for babies to turn mean like this? Normal or not, how can we get it to stop?

A: No one knows exactly why, but right around their first birthday, most babies go through a stage that involves hitting and/or biting everything and everyone in sight. So, yes, biting and hitting are normal, and it’s unlikely that he’s “turning mean.” However, as you said, whether it’s normal or not, this behavior needs to stop. Before you can do anything about the behavior, though, you need to figure out what’s behind it.

According to child development experts, there are lots of possible explanations. Your baby may be hitting or biting because: [Read more…]

Parenting with a Story + Not What I Expected

Paul Smith, author of Parenting with a Story.
Topic:
Life lessons in character for parents and children to share.
Issues: Tell a young person what to do–play fair, be yourself, stick to the task at hand–and most will tune you out. But show them how choices and consequences play out in the real world, with real people, and the impact will be far more profound.


Rita Eichenstein, author of Not What I Expected.
Topic:
Help and hope for parents of atypical children.
Issues: Defining “atypical;” how the diagnosis of an atypical child affects the child and the parents; the emotional stages parents go through as they struggle to help their child; how to get help when you need it.

Temperament — Hey, We Were Born That Way

Dear Mr. Dad: We have a two boys, ages 6 and 4. We’ve tried hard to raise them the same way, but they’re completely different. The older one is generally pretty calm and cheerful, but the younger one is wild, noisy, and impossible to discipline. How could two kids raised in the same house by the same parents be such polar opposites?

A: You may think you’ve raised your kids the same way in the same house, but you really haven’t. First of all, you and your spouse have changed—a lot. When your first child was born, the whole parenting thing was totally new. Like most new parents, you probably had no idea what you were doing and you were afraid of making mistakes. By the time baby number two arrived, you’d gained a lot of confidence and discovered that most of the things you’d worried about were trivial at best.

Second, as you well know, taking care of two kids is very different than taking care of one, so there’s no way in the world (barring cloning yourself) that your youngest could have gotten anywhere near as much of your undivided attention as his big brother did. Given all that, how could your children not be different?

But even if you had raised both children in identical circumstances, there’s a good chance that they’d still be very different.

About fifty years ago, researchers Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas found that every child has a unique collection of emotional and behavioral traits that make up his or her “temperament.” That temperament is noticeable almost from birth and continues throughout life. Here’s a brief overview.

  • Approach/Withdrawal: This is your child’s initial reaction to meeting new people, tasting new foods, or being in unfamiliar situations. Approaching children are extroverts and enjoy the new and different. Withdrawing children are shyer and take time to get used to new things.
  • Adaptability: This is how your child reacts to changes in routines. Fast-adapting children adapt easily, slow-adapting kids get upset if anything changes.
  • Intensity: This is essentially your child’s volume knob. Low-intensity children (like your oldest) are relaxed and even-tempered. High-intensity kids do everything—whether it’s shrieking with delight or having a tantrum—incredibly loudly.
  • Mood: Positive mood kids laugh and smile all the time. Negative mood kids tend to be pouty, even for no reason.
  • Activity level: Low-activity children can sit quietly for long periods of time and prefer low-energy games and activities. High-activity kids can’t sit still and prefer higher-energy activities.
  • Regularity: Predictable children get hungry, tired, wake up, and even use the bathroom at about the same time every day. Unpredictable babies are, well, unpredictable.
  • Sensitivity: Low-sensory-aware children often seem oblivious to bright lights, strong odors or flavors, textures, and even pain. High-sensory-aware children are easily overstimulated and have a tough time dealing with everything from temperature to noise.
  • Distractibility: Low-distractibility kids can focus intently and may not notice interruptions (or attempts to get them to stop what they’re doing). High-distractibility kids have shorter attention spans and an easier time moving from one activity to another.
  • Persistence: Persistent children can entertain themselves for hours and will spend lots of time working of projects or learning new things. Low-persistence children lose interest quickly, often claim to be bored, and take a little longer to finish anything, whether it’s homework or a Rubik’s Cube.

 

Bottom line: Temperament is what it is—there’s no “right” or “wrong.” Your children are the way they are mostly because they were born that way, and there’s very little you or your spouse could have done to change things.

Reducing Screen Time–Even Just a Little–Makes a Big Difference

mrdad - screen time ripple effect

mrdad - screen time ripple effectDear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have an 11-year-old who’s very tech savvy and spends a lot of time on her phone and computer. A lot of experts—you included—talk about how we parents should cut back on our kids screen time. That sounds like a great idea, except that we both work full time and are exhausted when we get home, and neither of us has the energy to get into a battle with our daughter. We tried limiting her screen time, but after a few weeks, we didn’t see any difference in her behavior or her grades. Is there really any point in forcing the issue? Our home seems a lot more peaceful when don’t bug our daughter.

A: I love technology, and I’m constantly amazed at the marvelous things it allows us to do. But when it comes to kids (and many adults), there can be too much of a good thing. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that children spend an average of seven hours per day in front of some kind of screen (TV, computer, phones, and other devices). In addition, quite a bit of research indicates that there’s a direct correlation between screen time and obesity, eating disorders, poor academic performance, and other problems.

In our gut, most parents understand that we need to monitor our children’s screen time, but given how pervasive screens are in our daily life, limiting them is really hard. What makes it even harder is that, as you pointed out, it doesn’t produce immediate benefits. As a result, we can get frustrated, question why we’re trying in the first place, and simply give up rather than risk getting sucked into a knock-down-drag-out fight.
[Read more…]

Calming Chaos and Nurturing Your Child’s Developing Mind


Daniel Siegel, author of No-Drama Discipline.
Topic:
Calming the chaos and nurturing your child’s developing mind.
Issues: how to identify your discipline philosophy; best ways to communicate the lessons you want to teach; facts on brain development and what kind of discipline is appropriate for each age; how to calmly and lovingly connect with a child—no matter how extreme the behavior; navigating your child through tantrums; discipline mistakes we all make.

Understanding Worrisome Childhood Behavior


Bonny Forrest, author of Will My Kid Grow Out of It?
Topic:
A child psychologist’s guide to understanding worrisome behavior.
Issues: Common concerns and possible diagnoses; even babies get the blues; does my child have autism spectrum disorder? Does my child have ADHD? Sad or clinically depressed? Eating disorders; when to get help and whom to turn to.