I was at a conference one day when I saw I missed a call from my daughter’s daycare center. My heart stopped, as it always does when I see daycare’s phone number come through my phone. In addition, I saw that the daycare director had sent me a text message detailing the gruesome event that required my immediate attention. Apparently, my daughter had bitten another child, not breaking skin (phew, no rabies!), but leaving bite marks. I called the director back immediately and apologized profusely, promising to do whatever we needed to do at home to stop this from becoming a habit. Over the next several weeks we made some changes at home – we stopped pretending to try to eat our daughters’s fingers, no more blowing zerberts on her belly, and we scolded her any time she tried to bite us. Problem solved! Or not…
Four months later I am still getting texts that my daughter is biting other kids at daycare. It’s not every day and it’s not consistent, but it’s also something that I am seriously struggling to correct, especially since most of the biting takes place at daycare (although I have been on a few playdates that made me wonder how these kids don’t bite each other all day long). I had thought my daughter would learn to share in daycare, and eventually I am sure she will, but for now it seems that these kids with their toys are like “Lord of the Flies”. Their survival entirely depends on holding on to that ONE toy, and only THAT toy. It’s a jungle in there.
I’ve done extensive Google research on biting, and in most instances toddler biting can be narrowed down to a few reasons – teething, exploring, wanting attention or frustration. In my daughter’s case, it seems she is biting out of frustration. That is, she mostly bites other kids when they try to take toys away from her. I get it – sometimes I want to bite people too! But my wise old age, fear of germs, and general good judgement prevent me from doing so. I must admit, it is a bit embarrassing when your child is “the biter” at her school or daycare. But, if I’m being totally honest, I’m also glad that she’s “the biter” rather than “the bitee”. I’m hoping that this is the first demonstration that my daughter has the assertiveness that I have been working on my whole life (whoa, that was deep). Or maybe she just wants her toys back…
So what are parents supposed to do when their toddler bites? It’s not like this is behavior that is learned at home… one would hope. Depending on the perceived cause of biting, there are a few recommended options which include ensuring your child’s needs are met, disciplining, and encouraging the use of words instead of biting. In my case, I have apologized to the victims’ parents, given time-outs, and now we’re trying to teach my daughter to verbalize her frustrations. At home we joke that perhaps a “F- you, give me my f-ing toy back” is all we need to teach our toddler to make this whole biting thing go away. But on reflection, I am not so sure the people at daycare would prefer that to biting.
Right now we’re in a place where it seems like everything we do to stop the biting is for naught. Ultimately we probably need to wait this phase out just like any other phase my toddler has gone through and keep doing what we’re doing to correct the behavior. I mean, I have to imagine that my daughter won’t be biting people when she is a teenager, right? Right??? So this past weekend, when my daughter tried to bite me, I said “No! We don’t bite” and gave her a 30-second time-out. She sat there pouting with her lower lip sticking out, and I have to admit that she was so stinking cute, it kind of made me want to bite her.
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