Many wonderful things happen during the days your child spends in child care. Socialization, education, love and nurturing all take place throughout the day. One of the things that parents dread about child care is biting. Here are eight things that your child care center staff wants you to know.
- We hate it as much as you do. We love children. That’s why we work in this business. It pains us to see a child bite or get bitten. When it does happen, we work very hard to change the habits of the biter and to give the victim as much comfort as possible. We realize it’s traumatic to be hurt by someone you think of as a friend. So, we give lots of hugs and love along with first aid.
- For every bite that occurs, we’ve probably prevented about a dozen. Our teachers have eagle eyes when it comes to biting. Good teachers can see a bite about to happen and can often stop it before it does. We wish we could prevent them all but sometimes it’s just not possible.
- The parents of the biter are often as devastated as the parents of the victim. No parent wants their child to be the one inflicting pain on others. We all want our children to be nice to their friends. Many times, the parents of the biter show even more remorse than the parents of the victim. It’s just a no-win situation and everyone involved regrets when it happens.
- Disenrolling a biter is a last resort. We are in the business of keeping children. We don’t want to have to kick children out of our programs. If we ask a family to leave because of a biter, we have exhausted every effort to get the child to stop. Sometimes, all it takes is a change to a new environment and the biting stops. It doesn’t mean we weren’t a good place for your child. It means your child felt very comfortable with us and could safely express himself through biting. So, please don’t badmouth us because we did what we had to do. We really didn’t want to do it.
- You can help us stop the biting. Please don’t think there is nothing you can do because you aren’t there when it’s happening. Talk to your child about it. Tell him that it’s not ok to bite his friends. Tell him to use his words. If he’s under age two, you can use shorter sentences such as “No biting.” while you are in the car on the way to the center. There are books on the subject you can read to your child. Teeth Are Not For Biting by Elizabeth Verdick & Marieka Heinlen and No Fighting, No Biting! by Elsie Homelund Minarik are two good ones.
- We aren’t going to tell you which child bit your child. Doing so would just create ill will between our families. We don’t want you to have hard feelings against a child just because he did something that came naturally to him. And, we don’t want you to dislike his parents, either. What really matters is how we handled the biting, not who did it. We can assure you that the biter faced consequences for his actions and that’s what is really important to you, isn’t it?
- There are reasons that children bite and it isn’t always random and it usually isn’t ‘violent’. Usually, when a child bites, he is trying to communicate. Maybe another child has a toy he wants and he doesn’t have the vocabulary to ask for it yet. Perhaps he’s hungry and doesn’t know how to tell his teacher so he bites her. He could be teething and, therefore, mouthing things because it soothes his painful gums. The best thing a center can do when a child starts biting repeatedly is start a ‘Bite Log’, listing the time of day and circumstances surrounding the bite. Often, we can quickly see a pattern and resolve the issue. (i.e. Lisa bites someone frequently right after lunch but before nap. This may be because she’s excessively tired so we will make sure she is the first to get cleaned up after lunch. We will put her right on her cot for nap afterwards so she can get to sleep.) As a parent of a biter, the best thing you can do is communicate with us. Have we started a Bite Log? Are we seeing any patterns? And then reinforce at home with the ideas suggested previously. As a parent of a biting victim, the best thing you can do is comfort your child, let them know that their friend didn’t mean to hurt them, and communicate with us. Are we making progress with the biter? What steps are we taking? Be patient while we try to resolve the issue and know that we will disenroll a habitual biter but we owe it to the child to try to resolve it first. You would want that for your own child, right? Remember that getting angry really makes the situation worse. We want it to end as much as you do and will do everything we can to keep your child safe.
- Biting is a normal and typical occurrence in a group situation. Almost every child bites or gets bitten at some point. We do a lot of things to prevent bites. We have duplicate toys so that children don’t have to fight over singles. We give children frequent meals and snacks so they aren’t hungry. We teach children to communicate with language so they don’t have to bite to send a message to their teacher or friends. No matter how much we do, however, some bites are going to occur. The important thing to remember is that nobody wants the bites to happen and we are going to have to all work through it with teamwork.
I hope this helps you understand biting in a child care setting. Note: I said ‘understand’, not ‘accept’. It is unacceptable behavior but, together, we can get through this phase and move on to a much more enjoyable phase in child development!