Question “Her 8 teeth are way to sharp!”

Caro Dottore, my 14 month old has fully discovered her mouth…and her 8 teeth are way to sharp!! I’m still breast feeding, and though she started asilo, it seems to be harder to ween her now. But more of my concern is that occasionally she bites me, and even other children! At first I thought she was just exploring but now I think she’s really being aggressive, and sometimes she gets a really determined frustrated look in her eyes, accompanied by a load scream…oh dear, I’m not sure how to handle this aggression. Nor the tantrums that follow if she doesn’t get what she wants. I’m a single mom and don’t have anyone else to play the ‘bad cop’…what do I do, and how much discipline does one give to such a young, relatively innocent being?  Graze! Anonymous

My Response

Dear Mum, often I’ve heard that we are supposed to be two persons to be “bad cop and good cop”, but I actually don’t believe it. I understand it must be very difficult and painful to be a single mum, above all for a 14 month old child. Quite a load on your shoulders (sometimes I feel my partner and I are not enough!). I think we have to focus not on discipline but on how does it make you feel. You see, she is trying the boundaries, and she will keep doing it. The asilo is a very good gym to learn how to say NO without biting. It is perfectly normal that a 14 month old uses still the mouth and the bite to express herself, in a short time words will come. Talk with the kindergarten workers (educatrici) about the bites.

At the house, there are needed a  few but very clear definite  no for things. Work on yourself to find support and fun moments so that you can be a strong mom. It is also normal that children who have had integration at the kindergarten make a step backwards, they need to be cuddled and reassured, it is transitional. I am afraid that the tantrum and the refusal you might get sometimes, you’ll just have to work through it. Try to choose your battles and set rules, and stick to them (I imagine it is hard and sometimes you’re feeling very very tired).

I’m also asking myself if this might be the very right moment to wean your child, going to the asilo is a very big change and she needs to be sure that home is still home.

Question “Moving, leaving friends and security behind”

I just read your answer about the 9 yr old who just transferred. As parents, we do have to make hard choices in life, and one on this is moving, leaving friends and security behind. I’d like to avoid my children (6 and 8) the trauma that this kid is living. My kids are aware that we will be moving thousands of miles away, we talk about it and they have actually visited the new school, which they loved and talked their friends about it. How can I prepare them mentally and emotionally for the move? Their father is staying behind, and tells them all the time he does not
want them to move. Anonymous

My Response

Hello Mom, you have to consider each family member’s different personality. Something that pops out immediately reading your post is that you have two children very close in age, and I am sure that they play together a lot and support each other. The 9 years old boy’s story is quite different. He feels lonely and has to bring on his own his “roots” weight, that makes him angry (remember it is a fantasy of mine). I believe that you have already done something really good getting them to be acquainted with the school and neighborhood. I would like to ask you; why is your husband is staying behind and telling them a different message? Are you separated? It is just my curiosity, given that on a general level it is good to give our children a clear and sole message.  I want to underline here that, I am not saying either message yours or his is the correct one, given that I am not aware of your situation.

Question “3 years old she has been rubbing herself”  

Hello, I would like to ask your advice about my 5yr old daughter. Since around 3 years old she has been rubbing herself between her legs. I have been told that this is common in girls this age and don’t have a problem as such with this. However, she goes through stages of not doing it and other stages of really rubbing herself sore, even in her sleep. I do not want to tell her that this is wrong, but am not sure what to do when she gets to the point of being sore. Recently she has stopped doing it, but could start again! My partner and I have explained that there is nothing wrong with touching herself, but sometimes I must admit I would prefer if she didn’t. Sometimes she lays on the carpet and her poor face is all red and sore when she gets up. I would be very interested in hearing any advice! Thank you.

My Response

Hello Mum, it seems to me that we are talking about boundary testing, or to state it better, leverage. Let me explain myself, I believe that your daughter is “simply” using her “power”. From the child’s point of view it is normal to discover her body and the pleasure, as you have already been told.  What seems to me when I read your lines is that you find her behavior embarrassing.  You and your partner find it very disturbing but answer it with not repressing such behavior.  So my thoughts are that she is doing it to annoy you, whether to get attention or to avenge herself for possibly something you have or haven’t done. I suggest you observe what happens in the family before and after she rubs herself, this might be a good hint about what she’s looking for (besides the physical pleasure). The observation could help in finding a way to be all comfortable, meaning for instance going somewhere private, and try to understand to what extent is she doing it to feel pleasure, and to what extent is to get your attention. This way you could get out of the disturbing situation and not reprimanding the girl for what she’s doing.

The points, in my opinion are these. What is disturbing for you (mom and dad)? The key is over there. What does the girl gain by behaving like this? What does she avoid? That is why I suggested close but not invasive observation about the pre and post behavior.

I can only dispute and imagine what might be the psychological aspect of the question. I am not a physician, I am a psychologist and so I allow myself only observations that are pertinent to my competences.

Submit your questions to Ask Paolo:

Dr. Paolo Molino, psychotherapist, Via Scialoja 68, Firenze. Cell 331-1064726 email: Website:

Disclaimer: All information contained herein is the opinion and view of the writer. It is intended to provide helpful and informative material on the subjects addressed and is not meant to malign any organization, religion, ethnic group, or individual. Readers should consult their personal specialists before adopting any of the recommendations or drawing inference from information contained herein. The writer specifically disclaims all responsibility for any liability, loss, risk — personal or otherwise — incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from the use and application of any material provided.

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