24 February 2011


A few evenings ago I was busy tidying the kids’ room for bedtime whilst they played together in the front of our apartment in their heady after-bath excitement. Out of the contented chatter I could barely hear suddenly came the most sickening scream. I thought my 3 year-old had trapped a finger or otherwise gravely injured himself so I dropped what I was doing and sprinted to where the kids were playing. To my surprise it was my 5 year-old daughter screaming and in such agony but I couldn’t work out why. Eventually when she had collected herself enough to make herself understood she showed me her back where my son had sunk his teeth into her. Ouch, it looked so painful. I received the odd nip from my children when they were teething babies so I know how painful it can be but thankfully until this point biting hadn’t really been an issue for us.

I recently read an amazing book: Siblings Without Rivalry: How To Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. A friend sent the book to me, she had finished with it and wanted to pass on the love. Well, to date I have read it twice and I am sure I will read it again soon as I want every bit of information to remain in my poor forgetful brain.

I saw the situation in front of me as a very important learning experience for all three of us. I realized my response to what happened might be vitally important. I quickly dragged to the forefront of my brain what I had learnt in Faber and Mazlish’s book and went first to my poor daughter. My son tried to come in for a cuddle but I gently pushed him away without looking at him and hugged my daughter and talked to her about how much the bite must hurt and how I imagine she had also had her feelings hurt. We talked about how her brother needed to find another way of getting her attention without addressing him directly. I carried her to the sofa where I inspected the bite, gave her a colorful bandage and helped her to put her pajamas on. Only when she was settled did I turn my attention to my son. He was sad and shocked. I believe he has no idea, as it should be, how much it hurts to be bitten. I explained to him how very much he had hurt his sister and asked him to apologize, which he willingly did. Then I kindly told him he would be going to bed now before his sister and with no story. He protested a little but quickly settled down. Then I had time to comfort my daughter alone and she was feeling important and cared for by the time she went to bed.

My son explained to me that he had been trying to talk to his sister and she was ignoring him and that is why he bit her. I was pleased he was able to articulate what had happened and it gave me the opportunity to talk to him without anger about finding another way to get her attention. To date the situation has not reoccurred.  I was so relieved to have been able to find a way to deal with a horrible situation without relying on anger and raised voices.

Faber, A. and Mazlish, E. (1987). Siblings Without Rivalry: How To Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

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