The Bite Club

The Bite Club.My phone vibrated in my purse as I pulled into a parking spot at work one recent Monday morning. I parked my car and checked the message, not at all expecting to read the words in front of me: “Sorry to report news like this so early in the day … your daughter bit another child … the child has a purple bruise as a result.” For a moment, my husband and I (who were both copied on the text from our in-home daycare provider) were speechless. I was filled with mixed emotions: disbelief, anger, frustration, disappointment, embarrassment, and confusion. MY daughter bit someone? My happy-go-lucky, smart, sweet girl chomped down on the skin of another child with such force that it left a purple bruise?!

Moments later, a flurry of panicked text messages followed from my husband and I: Is the other child OK? Did the bite break the skin? Was there something that prompted her to bite? Did she know that what she did was bad? Did she apologize? Do we need to come get her? How was the situation addressed? How do we fix this issue?

What if it happens again?

As the story unfolded, we learned that our two-year-old daughter had been playing with a toy from home that she occasionally brings with her to daycare. The other child sat down next to her toy, and in defense of her toy and her personal space, our daughter bit the other child. We learned that she immediately knew what she had done was wrong, as she quickly hugged the child and said “sorry.” Our daycare provider worked with her to understand that she had hurt her friend, that biting was not acceptable and that as a result of her actions, her toy would be taken away. She was instructed to put her toy in her backpack for the day, and cried as she did so. When I picked her up later that day, our daycare provider asked our daughter to tell me what had happened that morning. Through tears, she simply said, “bite Johnny. Sorry mommy, sorry! Want baby back now. Sorry!” (Note: real name not used.)

When I became a mom, never in a million years did I think I would have a child who is a “biter.” The “bite club” is not a club any mama aspires to be a part of. As I have talked with friends about this topic over the last week, many have said that they don’t know what they would do if their child was bitten at daycare. Truth is, I am not sure what I’d do if my child was bitten, either, but believe me when I say that being on the other side isn’t a walk in the park either. While my child didn’t experience physical pain inflicted by another child, she is experiencing the pain of having to learn the consequences of her actions very early in her young life. While I haven’t experienced the heartbreak of my child getting hurt by another child at daycare, I am experiencing disappointment in my own child for her actions and frustration throughout this intense discipline learning experience — and of course, I feel terribly sorry for the child who my daughter hurt.

So, after many messages, emails, and conversations with our daycare provider, here are a few things I have learned:

This happens. Regularly. With many toddlers. If it’s not biting, it can be pushing or hitting. Toddlers and small children often lack the verbal skills to give voice to their feelings, and/or the cognitive skills to understand the result of the actions they take before they take them.

You are not a bad parent. The other daycare parents most likely don’t hate you. Most parents know that things like this happen. Most parents know that you can’t control your toddler every second of every day (or much at all, sometimes). Most parents know that toddlers don’t get into fist fights (or in this case, biting incidents) because they hate one another or want to harm one another.

Ask for advice and/or support. One of my co-workers has a son about my daughter’s age who has also bitten his friends at daycare, so we have shared advice, perspective, articles, and have also simply said, “hang in there, mama” as we learn how to handle this situation. Who knows, this is such a common issue, maybe there’s an official support group for moms of kids who bite? 😉

Your first reaction to “solve” the problem isn’t always the best. My first reaction was, “I’ll come and get my daughter right away.” Our daycare provider was quick to explain that picking her up could actually be seen as reward for her actions: “If I bite my friend, I get to go home and play with Mom.” Um … truth.

Having a daycare provider who has experience and education in children’s behavior is invaluable. Our provider has a Masters Degree in early childhood education and coursework in child psychology, in addition to over 15 years of experience as a teacher and daycare provider. She has been an excellent partner in helping us navigate these rough waters and we’ve partnered together on a plan to correct this behavior. She has reassured us many times that this is part of our daughter’s development process and has pointed to many things that give her (and us) complete confidence that our daughter will learn and outgrow this issue.

Correcting a negative behavior is a process. So is your child’s learning. Whatever method you and your daycare provider choose to take to correct the behavior, be consistent at daycare and at home. Our daughter can only bring her toy back to daycare when she has been incident free for a few days in a row. So she is not allowed to take any toys from our house to daycare, and at home the toy that caused the incident sits on our mantle as a reminder to her that she can earn it back by being incident-free. It sounds far-fetched, but we believe this is actually working: on the first day she was incident-free, we gave her praise when she got home and she immediately pointed to the mantle and asked for her toy back. We’ve told her “two more days of kind and gentle touches with our friends” and then she can have it back. We’ll see …

Tomorrow is a new day … so is the next day. The day after the aforementioned incident, our daughter bit again. This time, it was a different child for a different reason. I felt all of the anger, disappointment, and embarrassment all over again. I cried at work. Twice. But you know what? The next day was incident-free … and I hope most of the days to follow are, too!

Is your child a biter? Do you have any additional advice to share? Or, has your child ever been bitten by another child? What was your reaction?

Hi, friends! I’m Erin and I've called Kansas City home for over nine years. I am the girl who always thought I’d have kids by the time I turned twenty-five and swore I’d never meet my husband in a bar. I moved to KC right after college and lived it up for several years as a single, working woman for a wee little greeting card company here in town. Not only did I not have kids according to my self-imposed timeline, I ended up meeting my now-husband Eric at O'Dowd's on the Plaza! I have lived all over the metro and have explored the city as a single gal, a married woman, and now as a mama to my daughter, Lilly (born October 2012) and Baby #2 (due June 2015). This city has something for everyone—artists, musicians, farmers, athletes, technologists, families, innovators, and more—which is why I love it! I now live in western Shawnee, KS where my husband and I tend to a 500 square foot vegetable garden, host barbecues on our deck, cheer for the Chiefs, and pray for the day when Glacé or BRGR open locations that are closer than thirty minutes away.

3 COMMENTS

  1. The first rule of bite club…is you don’t talk about bite club….Sorry….I couldn’t resist. If you have no idea what I’m talking about…ignore me:)
    One of my children was a biter….he only bit me and his brother. Thankfully, he never bit anyone at daycare or school. But his biting was a huge problem! It was how he expressed anger and frustration before he had words. We tried everything everyone suggested. Nothing worked. At my wits end, and after he bit me so hard it broke the skin…I bit back. Something I NEVER thought I’d do. Ever. I didn’t bite him hard, but I made sure he felt it. He never bit anyone again. I’m not advocating biting your child, not at all. I had a friend suggest this to me early on, and I thought she was crazy! But, it worked. For us anyway.

    • Cali-oh I TOTALLY get your reference. 😉 And if your method worked for you, then it was a great method! Glad your boys have made it past that stage… Hoping Lilly will soon, too (no incidents this week!) 🙂

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