Biting Mom

Newparent writes on July 14:

I hope that my daughter does not begin to bite others. She only bites me(mother).

Do you have advice for me? I have bruises on my arms, stomach and legs.

Thx.

You don’t tell me the age of your daughter but you do give the impression that she is still an infant because you call yourself newparent. Even with an infant it is important to make it clear that biting is not acceptable. When your daughter bites you move her away from you and clearly let her know that you don’t like being bitten. My then-infant son bit me on the shoulder once as I held him. I reacted putting him down and saying “ow!” While not being punitive, I made it clear that that behavior would not win him friends.

Change in care: 18-month-old now bites

On July 12, a grandmother writes:

My husband and I took care of our 18 month old grandson since he was 3 weeks old every day. He was easy to care for and we got along very well. A few weeks ago, my son-in-law became angry with my husband and within 3 days they arranged for my grandson to go to day care full time. My grandson became a biter. In daycare and outside of day care. He goes from child to child, grabs their arm and bites hard. He doesn’t understand “time out” and is rejected by others. It is truly sad since he was a compassionate child, who played well with others.
We are heartbroken. We would appreciate any help and suggestions.

Developmentally, a change in caregivers at 18 months can be very distressing to a young child especially when that shift is sudden and the child has not been prepared for what is going to happen. (In an ideal world, children would stay with the same caregiver until age three.) A change from home-based care with a loving relative to center-based care is a significant and major change. My guess is that not only is your grandson grieving the days he spent with you, he was unprepared for the kind of new environment that he is now facing. Child care centers tend to be louder, have less flexibility in schedule, and require specific social skills that your grandson has not yet developed.

The good news might be that if your grandson is in a professional program (perhaps one accredited by NAEYC) with teachers who are sensitive and nurturing, who are patient and knowledgeable about child development, and who have skills working with families, they are already working with your daughter and son-in-law on helping your grandson in his new environment.

My child has been biting.

A mother writes in an e-mail on July 12:

I have read what you had to say about toddlers biting.

However I have a 2 year old that is very smart. She speaks in full sentences and can sing her ABCs and count to 20.

She has started to identify letters and numbers. My issue is that one of the parents said that she fears that her daughter might start to become afraid to attend school.

I am not happy that my daughter is biting I am unsure how to handle this with the daycare center. Today alone she has had 3 biting issues and one yesterday. We are under new management as of a week ago. My child had stopped biting and is at it again. She is still teething and is awaiting surgery for 2nd set of tubes and her adenoids to be removed.

Any ideas you can give me would be great.

A couple of thoughts and questions:

Has the change in management at the center caused any changes in the day to day routine of the children? Has the change in management caused anxiety in the teaching staff? It may be that this has influenced biting behaviors in a couple of ways: 1.) your child may be sensitive to the anxiety staff are feeling; 2.) the staff may be less focused on the children—despite their best efforts–because of the anxiety they are feeling; or 3.) the changes in the daily routine in and of themselves may be causing your daughter to feel anxiety and revert to inappropriate ways of dealing with her feelings and with classroom conflicts.

The other thing—which seems quite possible based on the limited information you provide—is that her continuous ear infections have had an influence on her biting behavior. Children with frequent ear infections can sometimes act out of the discomfort or pain. Think about yourself when you have a nagging pain; are you as kind, gentle, and patient as you are at other times? That may be part of what is happening. Children with frequent ear infections also sometimes develop bad communication habits. That is, when they were having trouble hearing and language was somewhat delayed, they found coping strategies that worked for them. For example, children with ear infections sometimes require that you look at them face to face so that they can understand you. Even when they are between infections and hearing, they sometimes require this. This example of a poor listening behavior may be something that you accommodate for automatically but do the other children? Do the teachers in her classroom? Unfortunately, even though your daughter has excellent verbal skills now she may still be relying on old habits.

You may want to use her excellent verbal skills as a tool to overcome biting. When does she bite? If she is biting in conflicts with other children, you can help develop several phrases that she can use with the other children rather than biting. You may want to discuss with her teachers what phrases could be helpful.

Unfortunately, despite the information you share, I don’t know your daughter, I don’t fully under the context in which she spends her days, and so my responses are at best educated generalizations. I hope that I have provided some insights that will help you with your daughter.

My child is being bitten.

Bitesmom wrote on July 10:
Hello.

I am very interested in your response to the 6/6/06 and 4/6/06 4:38pm comments. Our situation is similar. Our child has been bit by the same child in the past 5 weeks ~ 4 times (this particular Dracula’s syndrome was thought to have been fixed, but has recently started biting again). One bite was on my child’s face and broke skin not too far below her eye. The next morning we went to speak with the owners of the child care center. They were supposed to get back with us regarding their plan of action. It’s been 2 weeks and 2 additional bites since we spoke with them. The center has confirmed that they are aware of this Dracula. It is really tough when Dracula loves to bite my child. And, I can see that my child understands that she has been bitten and that bites are not good. Any suggestions on how we can deal with this Dracula at day care? Thank you.

Unfortunately, since you are not present when your child is bit, it is nearly impossible for you to actually do anything directly about the biting behavior. However, you may be able to assist your child in dealing with the child who bites. You don’t share the ages of the two children. Depending upon verbal skills and personality, it is possible that if your child is beginning to use words to express his or her opinion that you can help your child to know what to say to the child who bites. A strong, “I don’t like it” can sometimes work. If nothing else, it will alert the teachers that a conflict is in progress. If the children are as old as three, your son or daughter may be able to recognize when s/he is at risk of being bitten; you can talk about how to react or and get needed assistance.

What concerns me the most in your comment is that the child care center owners promised to get back with you and even after two-weeks have still not spoken to you about their plan of action. After three days, I would have asked again unless they specifically said something like, “We will let you know our plan of action on Thursday.” Two weeks is a long time for young children and parents to wait for action. Do not be afraid to be outspoken in your need for information. It may simply be that the owners are busy and have assumed, wrongly, that you are feeling patient where you are not.