By Retha Bloem
With ignorance comes fear – from fear comes bigotry.
Education is the key to acceptance.
The biting or pinching actions usually take place when the child reacts impulsively or when they are feeling frustrated and powerless. The age and development level of the child plays an important role in the use of these two ‘weapons’.
Biting and pinching are often the instinctive reaction of fight, flight or freeze, in this case fight, which is controlled by the survival brain. Once the child’s emotional brain develops, this type of behaviour should cease. It therefore occurs less frequently in pre-school children than in toddlers. As the child learns how to react to emotions from their cognitive brain, they grow towards emotional maturity and biting and pinching will not be used as a ‘weapon’ anymore. Words that describe the child’s emotions are then used.
If you’re horrible to me,
I’m going to write a song about it, and you won’t like it.
That’s how I operate.
Seeing that there are so many reasons why young children bite, only ten general reasons will be discussed:
Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much
unless you do what’s right.
As indicated in the introduction, the problem of biting can only be solved if the earliest incident is dealt with in an appropriate manner. Attention should be given to the victim, as well as to the child who bit or pinched.
Seeing that the victim usually gets attention first after the incident of biting or pinching and the problem hardly started with the victim, the focus should be on the guilty child. Negative behaviour like biting and pinching should not get so much attention that the offender feels empowered by the negative behaviour.
Firstly, the child should be made aware of the emotions that they are experiencing. This awareness unfortunately does not happen overnight and therefore the child should get lots of opportunities to project these emotions.
Emotions should now be named, so that the child can identify them. Vocabulary should be expanded so that the child can be empowered by language. Words like nice can now be replaced by words such as happy, excited, cheerful, and angry can be replaced by words such as disappointed, unhappy, sad etc.
When the child is aware of their emotion, they can identify it in order to manage it constructively. The age old advice to count to ten before reacting is very much applicable. The child has to learn to control himself and to first think about the incident that could lead to biting or pinching before reacting. With each need to bite or pinch that is controlled, the child will feel more empowered and intrinsic motivation to show positive behaviour will be developed.
The child has to be guided to identify the emotions of the victim, so that they can understand the cause and effect of their actions. Children have to be encouraged to recognise each other’s emotions, so that they can comprehend the cause and effect of their actions. Although they are encouraged to recognise each other’s emotions, the offender and the victim should never be forced to play with each other directly after a biting or pinching incident.
The following saying: “you can’t fight fire with fire,” is so applicable and a child who bites must NEVER be bitten in response. The correct and positive behaviour should at all times be modelled to the child. It is of utmost importance that children be exposed to healthy, positive, and meaningful relationships over a long period of time.
People who love themselves,
don’t hurt other people.
The more we hate ourselves,
the more we want others to suffer.
Due to the fact that children are unique and should not all be treated in the same manner, the following solutions should not be viewed as the only solutions. Mind Moves® (De Jager, 2009), a movement programme that can be utilised on a daily basis – 3 times per day in a controlled manner – to address biting and pinching, can also be recommended.
Simulate the reflex by flinging the arms wide open while breathing deeply and slowly, and then closing the arms over the chest in a hug, breathing deeply and slowly. The learner can hug himself, or the parent may hug him simultaneously. This move boosts relaxation, rhythmic breathing and a sense of well-being.
Open the mouth wide by dropping the jaw, feeling the jaw joint just above the molars and all the way up in line with the ears. Gently massage the joint from top to bottom to loosen tension and promote muscle control and expression. This promotes both verbal and written communication, since the hands as well as the mouth are involved in the movement.
Give the tongue a workout by lifting it high in mouth, pulling it back as far as possible, sticking it out as far as possible and moving it from left to right. This workout develops and stimulates the muscles necessary for speech, saliva control and neat eating.
Firmly massage the hand by applying pressure to the muscles between the bones of the hand to relax the hand from wrist to fingers. Apply pressure to each finger from the base of the finger to the nail. Spread the palm of the hand wide open and hold it for eight seconds. Repeat with the other hand. This move improves muscle tone, proprioception, pencil grip, fine motor control and speech.
Child must stand upright and hold both arms 90 degrees to the side of the body. Stand behind the child and firmly trace the outline of the body from head to toe. Hold the feet and push down for a moment as if planting the legs before repeating three times. This move develops tactile awareness, gravitational security and a positive sense of self.
Cross the feet and arms in a hugging fashion. Rest the tongue high against the palate, in the sucking position, in order to activate the part of the brain that calms emotions. Breathe slowly. The eyes may be closed. This move calms the body, heart and mind. It also boosts the immune system and enhances rhythm.
Rub the indentation just below the collar bone in line with the left eye to re-establish the electrical flow via the vagus nerve (to the speech organs and stomach) to help relax butterflies and talk with ease. Rubbing both indentations to the left and right of the breastbone supplies oxygen-rich blood to the brain and relieves the staring habit. It literally switches the brain ON for improved concentration without anxiety.
Move the arms in a mirror image as though conducting a choir. This is a fun way to develop rhythm, eye-hand coordination, focal and peripheral vision, left and right integration in preparation for fluent speaking, reading and writing.
Sit on a chair and straighten both legs in front while resting the heels of the feet on the floor. Raise both legs off the floor. Flex and point both feet and be aware of any tightness in the calf muscles. Rest the left leg on the floor and flex the right foot. Hold for a count of eight in the flexed position. Relax the foot. Now raise the right foot and flex for a count of eight. Repeat this move at least three times with the right foot. Raise both legs off the floor. Flex and point both feet and be aware of any difference in the calf muscles. Repeat this move at least three times with the left foot. Horse-riding or walking on the heels could also help to lengthen the calf and hamstring muscles, reduce hyperactivity and improve impulse control.
Slowly lift left arm and leg together, with head turned to look at the hand. Relax….. then lift the right arm and leg with head turned to right side. Always follow this with a Bilateral walk. This move develops hip flexion, the left and right brain, it interrupts reflexive movement and relieves impulsive and hyperactive movement.
Touch the left knee with the right hand, twisting the trunk to bring the opposite shoulder and hip towards each other, extending the other arm and leg. Now touch the right knee with the left hand, extending the other arm and leg. This movement stimulates left-right integration by crossing the lateral midline and is best done first lying down and then standing up. Repeat at least 10 times. The exercise can also be done while singing or doing some form of rote learning. This move integrates the left and right parts of the brain and body, while crossing the midline. When eyes are moved into visual, auditory and kinesthetic positions, this move also crosses all three midlines.
Simultaneously rub the areas above the top lip and below the bottom lip in a horizontal direction. In a baby this triggers the Sucking Reflex, but in an older learner this movement promotes perception skills and thought and lowers impulsive expression or the need to eat or suck.
In order to understand the child better, it is important to first distinguish between punishment and discipline. Punishment is often a reaction to the offence of biting or pinching which is applied due to the emotion that the educator has after to the incident. It does not address the emotions, cause or effect of the negative behaviour on the people involved. Discipline is applied as a result of pre-set rules that the child comprehends. The offender has to carry the weight of their actions when they break these rules, with which they are familiar, by making the wrong choices. Discipline supports the development of a sense of responsibility because the offender is guided to look for independent solutions to problems in the future.
A last word to the educator/parent: rather handle the offence of biting or pinching from a cognitive brain, as opposed to the emotional brain. Control the reaction and take action.
I would rather be a little nobody,
than to be an evil somebody.
De Jager, M. 2009. Mind Moves – Wikkel die brein wawyd wakker. Johannesburg: Mind Moves Instituut.
De Jager, M & Victor, L. 2013. Speel Leer Slim. Welgemoed: Metz Press.
Orffer, H. 2010. Wen teen boelie. Pretoria: Hettie Orffer.
Richardson, A. 2012. Koester jou Kleuter. Kaapstad: Metz Press Publishing.
Ervaring vanuit gevallestudies gedurende spelterapie in die praktyk van J. M. Bloem