This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

My son the cannibal

His exams may be over but our diarist Geoff Tipper's lessons in parenting continue

His exams may be over but our diarist Geoff Tipper's lessons in parenting continue

Ah, finally finished with the viva. Now I can regrow my ponytail, put the earrings back in, and get that tattoo I've been planning. Just kidding of course: ponytails went out in the 80s. Still, it's a good feeling.

However, my post-exam glow has been slightly tarnished by my son's first ASBO. I could just leave that statement as a bald fact, but let me embellish it with one crucial detail: his age. The light of my life is a mere 18 months old. In many respects he is utterly normal for his age: he toddles and falls, he transfers, he throws balls. He feeds himself, putting at least 60% of the food into mouth or ear depending on his mood. He shouts 'Da Da!' whenever I enter the room. Mind you, he shouts 'Da Da' when he falls, when he sees a cat and when the milk is delivered. I worry sometimes about that last one.But he's a biter.

Little Hannibal

Little Hannibal apparently prefers girls, as documented by the three-page incident report sent home from nursery a fortnight ago. This listed each and every member of staff and schoolmate that he had sampled that day. The nursery called in a behavioural counsellor, who took quite a scientific approach. At first I was quite impressed. She said she was going to try to identify what situations led to biting. But then she asked whether we tended to bite at home.

Did she expect us to be a lost tribe of cannibals? I in turn blamed them for having fruit-flavoured staff. If they must hire Amy Apple, Paula Plum and Teri Tootyfrooty, then it's their own lookout.

Learning curve

The impact on my wife has been quite marked, which is one of the reasons I write today. Naturally she fears that we have a future hooligan on our hands. Also, the little nipper doesn't tend to bite me. This strange predilection fits the pattern of two other young mothers I've seen recently at the surgery. As you can imagine, it's quite an emotive issue. So, having lived through it and consulted anyone who will listen, including a paediatrician, here are my top tips:

However unpleasant, it is normal. ASBOs are definitely not called for. It does not mean the child dislikes the mother. They will grow out of it. In the meantime, the child probably understands more than they can say, so it is worthwhile telling them in simple, firm language that you are upset and they shouldn't do it again. It is probably the frustration of not being able to express themselves that leads to the behaviour. That and the spectacular reaction they get. So the trick is not to ignore them, but to respond appropriately. And if support and understanding fail, I think they're putting a Lecter-style mask on the formulary.Dr Geoff Tipper is a GP registrar in Maidenhead, Berkshire

No need for an ASBO for biting toddlers. Dr Geoff Tipper

Rate this article 

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Have your say