To the mom of the biter, I have just four words for you:
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
I know it’s hard. It’s hard to know why your child is doing this. It’s hard to feel the stares from other parents and teachers. And to make matters worse? Parents get so upset (and become very unforgiving) when their child is bitten.
My first experience with biting came when my son attended daycare. He was bitten by other children on multiple occasions. Each time, we brushed it off. We realized that young toddlers bite. And it is not the end of the world. And even though our son was getting bitten occasionally at daycare? My husband and I remained pretty smug about our son and how we must be doing the right thing because OUR child did not bite people.
Then, our daughter was born.
Everything was peachy keen with her until she reached the 2.5 yr mark. I remember the first time I received the call from “the principal’s office” at daycare to discuss her biting. It was December. I work a lot in December, so I offered that excuse to the teachers. “Maybe my stress is affecting her. I’ll talk to her.” That held me over for the rest of the month. But the New Year came, and the calls kept coming. In the old days, I would worry when the school called because it meant one of my kids was sick. Now, I myself got physically sick when the school called—because I knew why they were calling.
Along with the calls were meetings. And with each call and meeting, more excuses:
Aren’t there new teachers in her class? Maybe the transition is causing stress for her. We’ll talk to her.
I think she just has a hard time expressing her emotions. We’ll work with her.
So that girl took her toy and she bit her? Well… I mean… Oh no, you’re right. We’ll talk to her.
But here’s the thing—how do you talk and reason with a 2.5 yr old? That’s a serious question people. Someone, please tell me.
I had to keep thinking of excuses to tell the school. Because, honestly? I had no idea why she was biting. Her brother did not bite, and it’s not like my husband and I went around biting her. So she was not learning this behavior at home. We were not in the middle of a move. There was no marital strife at home. Nothing had changed in her life. So I would try to get more information out of daycare. Was the other child trying to take a toy? Were they both trying to do the same thing? What was happening before she bit the other child? They never had insightful answers for me. They would simply say “she just does it—with no warning.”
Thanks. That’s a lot of help. NOT.
We eventually did catch her trying to bite her brother a few times, and we stopped her immediately. Timeout became our go-to discipline to let her know biting was wrong. We showered attention on her brother in those situations instead of her. That’s what all the books say to do, right? And we kept talking about it at home. “Biting is wrong” and “use your words” and “we don’t bite friends.” One time, we bit her back. (I know, I know.) It was wrong, but we were desperate. And frankly? We didn’t know what else to do. And let me just tell you, of all of the things we did, NONE of them worked.
I was ashamed and embarrassed. I dreaded walking into the daycare to pick her up. Seeing the parents of the kids in her classroom in hushed conversations with the Preschool Director struck fear into my heart. I felt like all eyes were on me and everyone thought I was a terrible mother. I had no idea what to do. And along with the shame, I felt a little betrayed. I had never once complained when my son had been bitten in daycare. I realized it was a part of childhood, and I gave those kids and parents grace. And now that we needed that same grace? There was none. I was also angry! Angry that I couldn’t change the situation, angry at the other parents, angry at the daycare, and angry at my daughter. Just stop biting people already!
The daycare moved her up to the next class with the older kids. That helped for a bit, but then the calls started again. It became evident that the school was not going to tolerate her behavior much longer, so we found a new school and moved her. I felt like we were walking on eggshells for the first couple of months at the new school, terrified that they would find out they had just accepted a biter. About a month into the new school, one of her teachers stopped me to tell me she tried to bite a friend that day. “Oh really??? That’s so not like her. We’ll talk to her.” I went home and cried. I could not do this again! Not again at another school! I was a wreck.
And that was the last time anyone ever said she bit or tried to bite. Seriously. Crazy, right? It really just stopped. I think part of it was the new school and a better environment. Another part might be that she had grown a bit and it FINALLY got through her head that biting got her into trouble. I do not know the exact reason that she stopped. But she did. Now she is a caring, giving, loving five year old. She gives hugs freely and to anyone. She cares about everyone. And she is one of the sweetest people I know.
So to the mothers out there who have a tiny vampire on their hands, my advice is to simply hang on. Keep talking to your child, keep drilling it into their little heads that biting is not right. And take a closer look at their environment. Once we put our daughter in a new school, her biting pretty much came to a screeching halt.