Why is my child {biting, throwing, yodeling}?

I get this question a lot. Parents follow along with the childhood developmental milestones I lay out. Their child is following a milestone “to a T,” but their child is, in addition, doing something unusual. Maybe the child is biting everything. Or they can’t stop themselves from throwing. Or their tongue is a big, slobbery mess and they love to make unusual sounds with it.

I propose you just found out something about your unique child. The parents always ask, “Are other children doing this?” So, the honest answer is: maybe. Maybe not. I can tell you that no, not all children compulsively bite everything at 21 months. But it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your child, either.

I can’t document something like this, because it is far too unique to one child. There might be a similarity. Maybe “acts compulsively” is the underlying skill. However, I would need to compare two or more children to tell.

I actually think ALL children will go through the milestones just a little bit differently. I think their natural personality plays out big time.

I started studying Jungian psychology recently–and I am going somewhere with this, I promise. I have a better understanding of what it means to be an E (extrovert) or I (introvert); an N (pattern seeking) or S (intently focused in the moment); F (sees feelings) or T (sees objects); and P (goes with the flow) or J (has their own agenda).

I recommend studying Jungian psychology. It helps me in everyday life. I all but “see” these functions now. I can see it live in people. When a new teacher on Zoom was all but yelling, enthusiastically, getting children pumped up, I thought to myself, “Oh, a sensing extrovert.” She was clearly energized by others, the definition of E. And she wanted to be up close and personal with the students. That is S.

I am an INFJ. I am energized by being by myself, doing solitary creative work (I). I am a pattern finder and I need some sincere space between me and reality (N). I notice feelings and emotions when I walk into a room (F). And I definitely do not go with the flow or pivot easily and prefer to advance my own agenda (J).

As a total opposite, my youngest son is an ESTP. He is very energized by other people (E). He is up close with reality. He can stay focused on anything endlessly, and it doesn’t even bother him when things are close to his face (S). He likes to look at trains and trucks (T). And he pivots easily (P). He has a charming, engaging, thrillseeking personality. I have a bluntly honest, withdrawn, cautious personality.

When I see children now, I see these functions. I can see if they are lost in their thoughts (N) or very focused on what is in front of them (S). And I think in human evolution, it is these functions that are constantly being tweaked just a little, with every new kid.

Any time it’s tried, researchers can never find two humans who have the same exact hands. Similarly, I don’t think you’ll ever find the same exact psychological functions. One gets pulled this way or that. For instance, some people are extreme theorizers. They hardly come back to reality at all and stay lost in the world of ideas. Sure, this may have its issues. But I propose they are just an extreme NT on the Myers Briggs. Maybe it has value. Maybe they come up with some new insight never thought of before, even if they are totally crazy.

I see similar things with, say, autistic children. I have read before that autistic children can’t imagine the end result. They can’t imagine what it’s like to have their clothes on and be ready for school, so they struggle terribly. I would simply counter it with: and so they are likely exceptional at something else. If they can’t imagine having their clothes on, an NJ function, maybe they are super good at imagining the happy face someone will have after throwing them a surprise party. Or maybe they are intently focused on something to the point that they will tell you devastating detail that you never noticed.

I am a bit opposed to labeling children or others as “neurodiverse.” Because everyone is neurodiverse. I get it that our culture tends to value Extroverts (E) Sensors (S) and Thinkers (T). Basically, the average male. And so those extremely away from this are incorrectly maligned.

But many people are maligned just for being. I was definitely maligned. My own father complained I “couldn’t go with the flow” (my J function) and I was “always in my head” (my N function). These were my N and J functions flaring up his S and P functions. People tend to be irritated when they see their inferior function in others.

And so I get that people don’t want to be mistreated and labeled because they fall outside the norm. But the problem is the arrogance of the mainstream. I fear calling someone “neurodiverse” makes a person think “there is something wrong with me.” You are just Adam. Or Tony. Or Kiley. Or Amber. You are distinctly and wonderfully you.

Similarly, I see this playing out in their physical mannerisms. Just as people and children have different psychological functions, they have different bodies and like different sensations.

My third, for instance, loved to slap his feet on the ground, loudly. During his stages, he would sometimes run around, as if he liked the sensation on his feet. I wonder if this is because he is more flat footed and likes the sensation? Combine this with his “S” function, and he just likes having that sense of “reality” on his feet. And for those who malign being “flat footed,” as if it means, “slow,” know this: he was amazing at things like standing on a surfboard. He was unbelievably sturdy. Nature is constantly tweaking and changing, and some of these tweaks have evolutionary benefits.

So that’s what I think about children who bite, throw, yodel, etc. I think you just learned something about their body, their psychological function, and what they might naturally be adapted to. Maybe they just like the way chewing feels. One mom directly said she used to randomly throw things all the way until about 25 years old, because she liked how it felt. And her child was doing it now. And I don’t necessarily think you need to get them stop.

I would ask this: what damage is being caused? Can you let them be uniquely them for the time they need to be uniquely them?

See my book series Misbehavior is Growth in which I advocate we lean into our child’s developmental timeline to see what is wonderfully and uniquely strong about them.

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