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  • Writer's pictureDonné Restom

'The tip I discovered that soothed my angry child in seconds'

He went from biting me repeatedly, to talking calmly, apologising and (most importantly) letting me put his f**cking shoes on.

This article originally appeared on Kidspot.

Sunday morning. My three-year-old son has been awake since 5am. As a result, I too have been awake in the the cold and the dark - that bitter hour before the birds arise. God, I loathe 5am.

Anyway, it's now 10am. We have watched some tele. We have taken all the toys and dispersed them in a throwing manner about the house. I have had the audacity to attempt to clean the kitchen, make a shopping list and get an end-of-the-week soup on the stove, because you know, keeping a family alive and all that.

This has displeased my son, who would rather I play with him.

So, it's 10am and I'm trying to get us out of the house because it is becoming clearer by the minute that nobody is coping with being cooped up.

We need air. We need space. We need to run (run, pronounced ROAR!!!-un).

I'm trying to get us out the house and for that we need shoes. The toddler makes it very clear that he will NOT be wearing shoes. I'm not going to argue. I set about putting mine on instead (so he can see how great it is to wear shoes, of course).

That's when the biting started.

Vicious, repeated biting of my hands, arms and even the sides of my ribcage.

Now I hate biting - especially when I'm trying to get something done. It hurt, and I felt myself getting more and more frustrated. I was SO TIRED. I wanted to cry. I wanted to yell! More than anything, I wanted to throw him across the room.

The strength of the impulsive violence I felt terrified me.

And that's when I realised I had to do something different.

What I knew

I've tried crying - it makes him laugh because he knows I'm exaggerating - and it doesn't work.

I've tried shouting - it makes him even angrier.

I've tried talking calmly - it's like trying to talk down a rabid tiger: pointless.

I've tried hugging (more biting of neck and face), and spooning in my arms like a baby (cue hitting, kicking and hair pulling).

I've tried time-out - or as I like to think of it, lock him in a room so he can destroy it and come out having learnt NOTHING.

What was there left to do?

Deep down, I wanted to push him. And that's when it came to me - maybe that's exactly what he needed.

The push-back technique

Sitting on the bed, I grabbed my son's hands and told him to push against mine. "Push against me as hard as you can," I told him. "Grrrr!" he said, using all his might.

"Push harder, harder!" I encouraged.

My son pushed and grunted until his feet slipped out from underneath him. He got up laughing.

"High five!" I said. He happily slapped my hand and got straight back into biting me.

So I did it again.

"PUSH!" I encouraged. He pushed and he pushed with all his might. He worked his little butt off!

"High five!" I repeated when he gave up.

He happily slapped my hand and got straight back into biting me.

I did this four times, but at the end of the fourth I didn't high five him.

"Mummy!" he said, at the end of that round. "High five and then no more biting, OK?"

"High five!" I said.

And he stopped. Not only did he stop biting me, but we hugged it out. He apologised.

"I was frustrated," he explained.

"Can I put your shoes on now?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied. "And no more biting."

"No more biting," I answered.


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