Childhood Anti-social Behavior Into Adulthood
Childhood biting usually begins in Toddlerhood and often arises for the following reasons:
- Lack of communication ability, uses biting to express one's frustration
- Instant gratification and lacks impulse control
- teething, congestion (unwell) whereby biting offers temporary relief
Biting seldom lingers beyond the Toddler class when we address it. Some schools or parents make the mistake by taking a stance, 'they will outgrow it'. A child 'outgrows' such anti-social behavior when she is corrected, told that it is wrong and guided to alternative response ('please share, please take turn to play').
Essentially we divert a child's response when conflict arises and guides the child towards impulse control and delayed gratification.
When we enter older preschool phase and primary phase, our child can communicate better but not necessary better at expressing her emotions. 'Mommy, S doesn't want to friend me or play with me today,' and childhood friendship remains volatile as we guide our child in resolving conflict and working through issues with her friend.
We would expect adults to have developed a diversified suite of responses in a wider social circle. We would not expect an adult to bite his colleague because the colleague doesn't agree with him at work place, right?
Or maybe not.
Social media and technology has changed the way we communicate as humans.
One of the ways we correct a toddler who has hurt another child is, 'see how the bite has hurt L. It is painful. We want to be kind, we don't want to hurt our friends.' We teach our child empathy by showing her how her action has impacted another child.
Social media thrives on quick reaction and is veiled behind the screen. Does this barrier allow us to switch off our empathy and ability to speak properly? I think so.
Recently there was a kindergartener who experienced a scratch. When we noticed and asked him, his first response was he didn’t know about it and cctv revealed no incident between him and another child (blind spot, or no man-made incident?). However, the parent was (understandably) upset and wanted us to 'investigate' further. As the child was old and articulate enough, I explained that it indicated an accident but we would speak to him again and approximated from the height of scratch to locate where, to fix the area and avoid another child from getting hurt again.
The mom insisted that another child had hurt her child (but not captured by footage, could it be data mining by a concerned parent or the child has a different recollection later on? Still reasonable). Hence I suggested that we would speak to her child again to find out more. The mom became agitated and instructed us not to speak to her child again. I was confused and clarified if we were to investigate further or not, perhaps we can speak in person the next morning. She wanted to withdraw and we obliged, saying we would facilitate, all conversation was documented. However, the next morning, she went on social media to distort the story.
The need for instant gratification/impulsive response remains beyond childhood, spilling over to marriage/divorce, job switches/hopping, unfriending someone.
Does a Toddler who bites grow up to be a bully? I don't think so.
But the ease of saying impulsive hurtful words by hiding behind the screen definitely has facilitated the increase in cyber bullying. Smart technology has allowed us to communicate faster but not necessarily better and more. Human communication is gradually losing the personal touch.
Mental illness is the number one disability in the world, according to WHO. 1 in 7 people suffers from mental disorder with depression taking the lead. How has this happen when science and medicine has improved?
Online platform has facilitated the growth of fake news, allow people to say hurtful words to another to get what they want. ‘Keep my sick kid in school or I will smear you!’ is akin to ‘give me the toy or I will bite you’.
Do police and lawyers replace the role of teachers on schoolyard duty because adults like school children cannot resolve conflicts amicably anymore?
I don't know how present adulthood bullying can be reduced. Just like we stand up to bullying within schoolyard, we have an obligation to serve the interest of majority of the children by keeping to principles and standing up to adult bullying.
Perhaps we have to go back to basics with communication.
Continue to teach our child in communicating better and learning to practice conscious communication ourselves.