Last week we wondered about how to best react when a toddler bites a preschooler. If you would like to read last week’s column again, you can put the following address into your browser: http://twinkletime-bringingupbaby.blogspot.com/.
Our scenario is a living room floor. The toddler sees a car and the preschooler, having finished his garage, reaches for the same car to put inside the garage. The toddler grabs also, but falls short of the mark. He has no words to express his frustration, but he does have a set of teeth and he sinks them into his brother’s arm. Here are some possible parent reactions:
• Reach for the toddler and tell him in a loud angry voice, “NO, Don’t you ever bite your brother again! Shame on you! Bad Boy!”
• Physically and emotionally comfort the preschooler with your empathy for the preschooler’s distress, “Oh ouchie, that hurt! You both wanted the same car and your brother didn’t do a good job of telling you that he wanted it.”
• Ignore the crying preschooler and punish the toddler by taking away his toys (or worse).
• Tell the preschooler that he should have let his brother have the car.
• Take away all the offending toys and hope that will fix the problem.
No parent will come out with an A-plus grade in this highly charged emotional episode. Because it is so emotional for us (seeing our children hurt one another), we may not react as we would like. However, thinking and talking about it will help us be better prepared for other similar challenges. Being better prepared is important because something like this will happen again. Try to think about what you are teaching both children by your own behavior and know that you are modeling the behavior that your own children will probably resort to when they are parents. Do you really want to model power and punishment?
In the meantime, be proactive. Hedge your bets for better outcomes in the future by modeling love, kindness, and caring in your relationships with your spouse and your children.