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Biting, hair pulling, etc.

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  • Biting, hair pulling, etc.

    My nearly 15-month-old son has been pulling hair for a long time; it got really bad when he was about 7 months old, got a bit better for a while around a year, and has recently gotten really bad again. He generally pulls my hair and his sister's hair.

    We've tried to teach him to pat/stroke hair instead of pulling it, and this sometimes works, but he frequently just really wants to pull on our hair.

    He's also recently started biting; as far as I can tell, he's biting because it's fun. He doesn't seem to be interested in biting alternative objects, just people. These activities are related, in that he seems to get into moods where he wants to do both of these things.

    I'm not entirely happy with the way I'm handling this right now, because when he won't stop biting or pulling hair, I wind up putting him in his crib or across a baby gate to separate him from me and his sister (so he can't keep trying to bite us and/or pull our hair). I generally stay with him (but physically separated from him) for a few minutes unless his sister needs help with something, like getting dressed. I find that taking a short "break" of this type does end the biting/hair pulling mood, but I'm wondering if I'm missing a possible solution that doesn't involve physically separating him from the rest of the family.

    How have you handled this situation?

  • #2
    My first gut reaction to your post is he is getting delight out of the reaction Mamma and sissy make when he does this.

    Secondly how verbal is your son?
    Does he have an unmet need at these times?
    Food, attention from Mamma, tired, overstimulated, ectera?

    I would encourage you, with your son, to continue to model the touch nice and hair is not for pulling.

    You are a good Mamma seeking out additional options to what is not sitting well with your natural Mamma instinct. I think removing him from the situation, to sit on your lap, together, and talk about the behavior is something to consider.

    When you do this you can:

    Try teaching him hands are for clapping (or anything else you would like to substitute) and not associate his hands anywhere near the hair at all or give him a brush (a small one so it does not become a hammer )and say hair is for brushing not pulling.

    As for the biting-biting hurts and that is not OK to hurt people. Tell him that. Dr. Sears recommends:
    Press your child's forearm against her upper teeth as if she were biting herself, not in an angry revengeful way, but as a parent making a point, "See, biting hurts!"
    At this age, it is age appropriate, and your son is not doing it out of spite or to be mean.

    Try to pay attention closely to what else maybe be occurring at these times and I am sure you will discover what is needed


    Practice Positive Discipline

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    • #3
      Originally posted by harmonicker View Post
      Secondly how verbal is your son?
      He's not yet.

      Does he have an unmet need at these times?
      Food, attention from Mamma, tired, overstimulated, ectera?
      I don't really think so. He's just in a rambunctious fun mood.

      You are a good Mamma seeking out additional options to what is not sitting well with your natural Mamma instinct. I think removing him from the situation, to sit on your lap, together, and talk about the behavior is something to consider.
      Unfortunately, that's exactly what I've been having no luck with. He views sitting on my lap during these times as an opportunity to engage in more biting and/or hair pulling. Which would be why I've resorted to physical separation. I should comment that he tends to be very focused on his goals, and has been difficult to redirect since he was a baby.

      I never had much luck with that method with my daughter, either -- when she went through a hitting phase (which was about being mad, in her case), sitting together on the sofa to talk was a recipe for me getting hit, and I didn't think letting her hit me was the right approach.

      As for the biting-biting hurts and that is not OK to hurt people. Tell him that.
      We do. We tell him the same thing about hair pulling.

      At this age, it is age appropriate, and your son is not doing it out of spite or to be mean.
      Oh, I know! He's just delighted by the whole thing. But I really don't get the sense that it's the reaction he's delighted by.

      It reminds me of a boy my daughter's age who used to pull her hair every time he saw her. He seemed to find her hair irresistible -- there were other girls in the playgroup whose hair he never had the slightest interest in pulling.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

      Comment


      • #4
        Since he is nonverbal Sonja, I would say that he is watching your faces and listening to your voices and learning. This is what I mean by him finding you and your daughters reactions interesting. He wants to see if you both react the same or different.

        Have you tried a feelings book with him?

        We use a felt board with feelings bears and tell stories about why he feels the way he does.

        What about signing?
        Born2Sign
        Give him some simple signing to do with his hands to help him communicate and this is a positive use for his hands vs the hitting.

        Hitting hurts and it is not OK, you are right. I have a hitter myself and it is heart breaking and draining.

        I have told my daughter when she hits me, while I am trying to comfort her during her anger fits, that I have to step back until she controls her hands and I cannot help her until she is ready to use her words not her hands. So, I stay in the same room (where ever we end up) with her and sometimes she does not want me to. I respect that too and tell her I am right here when she is ready.
        Also if she hits someone else I ask her how she thinks that child feels and what we could do to help that child feel better. I also talk to her about the possiblity of children will not want to play with her if she continues to hit.

        Her brother will do this with her (stop playing) and she on her own will go to him and hug him apologize and ask if she may rejoin him.

        Talk talk talk ..it is a lot of talking but it will sink in and do not underestimate the learning of talking to your son so early.

        BW's

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        • #5
          you could also try a "playful parenting" approach. dh is much better at this than i am, but he is able to redirect inappropriate behavior w/fun. so, in this situation, if he pulls your hair, you could say, oh! you want to play, huh? let's run like elephants! then start stomping around or something. if he's just trying to be playful, the hairpulling may be his way of interacting, so try offering other games.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by PaxMamma View Post
            you could also try a "playful parenting" approach.
            I agree! I imagine he just needs to connect. Another playful parenting idea is to run around fake-biting things, using your arms as the "teeth" and "accidentally" biting your own toe "ouch, that hurt" or other thing that prove to be unpleasant for the biter (whatever you want it to be). Just some game to play to meet the need for connection and also play with the theme of biting and how it feels.

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            • #7
              Thanks for the suggestions!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by PaxMamma View Post
                you could also try a "playful parenting" approach.
                I couldn't agree more, especially if your ds is biting/hair pulling when he is in a fun or playful mood. Redirecting with something even more fun worked great with ds, then when he was in a clamer mood and not interested in biting or hair pulling, we would show him that hair is for patting or stroking, and that teeth are for chewing food. Ds hasn't quite stopped the biting yet (he still bites once in a while, but not regularly anymore), but he doesn't pull hair at all anymore (knock on wood!)

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