Published Date: 02/10/20
Dear Paper Pinecone,
My son is 2 and goes to a daycare we’re generally very happy with. The teachers are very caring, they have a play-based curriculum, and we really like the other families.
However, there’s one child who has bit him three times in the last few weeks and it’s getting to be a problem. I spoke with the teachers and director and they said they’re addressing it, but I’m not sure how. They won’t tell me which kid is the biter, only that my son is on the receiving end. I feel like they have an obligation to protect my child and they’re not doing it. Do I pull him out over this? I’m not sure what to do.
Bitten in Birmingham
Dear Bitten –
Ugh! As parents we want to protect our children at all costs and we send them off to daycare assuming they’re safe.
And then there’s a biter. Or a hitter. Or a pusher. And you feel helpless.
I’ll tell you that I can sympathize personally. When my daughter started preschool she was on the receiving end of a hitter.
But the question is what to do?
First, understand that this is perfectly normal, age-appropriate behavior. The offender didn’t learn the behavior at home because he or she is a victim of it. It’s expected that many kids will go through this phase.
Second, the frequency of the biting (or other violent behavior) matters. Three times over the course of a few weeks doesn’t strike me as a problem. It sounds like your daycare is aware of the problem and taking steps to mitigate it. But, of course, you don’t want your child bit at all.
You should consult your parent handbook, as sometimes providers lay out specific policies about biting. If they’ve provided their steps to addressing biting, see if those procedures are being followed, and if not, discuss that with the director.
Also, it’s important to realize this is often more traumatic for the parent than the victim, assuming it is occasional and is a minor injury (doesn’t break the skin). Children learn to navigate the world by being exposed to unpleasant things, and if your child has the verbal skills, this is a great opportunity to teach him about setting his own boundaries. Give him the tools to say, “Stop! I don’t want to play with you if you bite me!” or “I won’t let you put your hands on me.” Work with the teachers so they can keep watch of when your son enforces these boundaries and separate them if the other child does not respect them.
Next, speak with the director about next steps and get (ideally in writing) a timeline for them. If the next step for them is to bring in a behavior interventionist or a shadow for the child, find out what the threshold is for requiring that. Is it ten bites in a week? A month? While as I said earlier three bites over the course of several weeks sounds fairly normal, as a parent you should feel confident that they have plans to further address the biting, if needed, and they should be able to define when they believe it’s a problem.
Lastly, realize that teachers simply cannot see all children 100% of the time. Nobody has eyes in the back of their head and biting or other aggressive behavior can happen in an instant.
More likely than not, if the teachers are working on correcting this behavior, it will be resolved in a short time period. It’s rare that children continue to bite once they have the language skills to communicate effectively.
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