Saturday, June 28, 2008

Once Bitten Twice Shy

I had a parent ask me for advice this week on how to make her child stop biting her friends. Ahh, biting, an issue that is always fun, and not at all embarrassing for the parents, to deal with.

I remember the first time my oldest daughter was bitten in preschool. Being my first child, and not being a biter herself, I was absolutely horrified that this happened. What horrible child did this to my precious baby? What kind of parents bring up a child who bites? I could barely look those poor parents in the eye, I was so self righteous in my anger.

Because, karma has a way of getting you back, my son (and third child) was a biter. And boy, was it ever fun to face the parent's of my son's victims - some as self righteous and indignant as I was.

"Yes, my son was raised by wolves"

"Yes, my son does live in a pen in the backyard"

"Yes, my son does have all of his shots"

It was easier to face the parents who also had a child who was a biter. We could share solutions (muzzles, wiring the jaw shut) and techniques for curbing the biting.

What this experience taught me was that biting is a fairly common thing in the preschool world, and gave me some insight on how to deal with biters when I became a teacher. Every year, I have a biter or two. In general, the biting phase is a short one, and once the reason for the biting becomes clear, it can be stopped.

A lot of times, biting is simply an act of frustration. The child gets so angry that the only way to get his point across is to use his teeth. With this biter, I talk about using words, walking away, and other techniques to get the point across. Another good solution is to make the biter care for his victim. Have the biter help the bitee wash the wound, get the bitee ice, and then sit with the bitee until the bitee feels better. Sometimes, after seeing all the pain their bite casued, the biter will think twice about biting again.

One year I had a biter who bit for the sake of biting. This was harder. One day, I stopped him as his victim's arm was in his mouth.

"Stop! Why are you trying to bite your friend?"

"Because it looked like his arm would fit in my mouth"

I....had nothing. Especially when the victim also thought it was interesting that his arm fit in the biter's mouth. The genius words I came up with for this situation?

"We only use our mouths and teeth for eating"

I said this to this little guy several times during the year - I am happy to report that he currently uses his mouth for its intended use - most of the time.

As for my son? He is no longer a biter. What stopped him was a combination of a huge consequence ("no sleepover with your aunt next time you bite, young man!"), as well as getting bitten himself. ("Gosh, mom, it really hurts when a friend bites you")

The parents of my son's biter were absolutely mortified that their son bit mine. Poor things couldn't look me in the eye for weeks. It wasn't until I thanked them for curing my son of his biting that they actually made eye contact with me again. And they realized that although biting is never a good thing, for some kids, it is a normal thing. And, like most phases, it usually passes.


becky w. said...

My son was also a biter... and I ran a day care in my home! Imagine explaining bite marks to my clients as they came to pick up their children at the end of the day! Not a comfortable spot to be in. Thankfully, he seems to have out grown it long before starting pre-school!

Sarah said...

Im a 2's teacher and I have a biter and the bitee's mother was so upset today... I dont know what got in to her... I just dont know what to do with her and then when i tryed to talk to my director she was just as upset as i was... Being a teacher is not as much fun as i though is would be... It sucks when it comes to the parents. I love my kids but man....