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When your child is the biter?


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#1 aztecblue

Posted 11 December 2012 - 02:41 PM

DS is in daycare 3 days a week. Last week I received a call advising that he had bit another child on the leg. It was the first time it had happened. Today I got another call, saying he had bit another girl on the arm. I'm really mortified and embarrassed as its happened twice now in a very short space of time.

The staff said they sat him down and tried to explain to him what he had done wrong. But DS's language skills is not that good (hes 21 months, but I think his speech is a bit behind the norm, we're on waiting list for speech therapy early next year). So they're not really sure whether he understood.

At home he does bite us sometimes, usually when he's really excited and gets a bit hyper when he's playing with us. So I guess he thinks its a game and its fun? We speak very sternly to him when he does it, to the point where he cries as we're raising our voice, but I guess it hasn't really gotten through because he's now doing it in daycare.

Has anyone been through this? Any advice, and did the phase pass relatively quickly? I really feel so bad.

He has also been on the receiving end, and has been bitten a few times before too at daycare.

#2 uniquelyme

Posted 11 December 2012 - 04:34 PM

Don't feel bad, usually the kids who bite or hit, do so because they aren't able to communicate effectively. If he is getting particularly frustrated, if one of the other kids is taking things or even if he wants something someone else has...all of them are common reasons.
My child was not a biter, but he had some horrible bites from another child while at daycare. I never complained, until my son started whinging that the other boy kept hurting him all the time. This particular time the bite broke the skin through 3 layers of winter woolies :-/ I would never blame the child.
He will get through the phase, but get onto the speech as it should help things along quite a bit!

#3 michellew68

Posted 11 December 2012 - 04:44 PM

Oh its so awful isnt it! My Ds is now 15 but I remember how embarrassing it was.
I believe it is all about being frustrated. Once they can communicate better it stops. People always told me to bite him back but I couldnt do it. I was quite strict on bad behavior so he was disciplined in an age appropriate way.

He hated everyone though and would deliberately step on a baby at playgroup or kick a grown up at the supermarket. He has turned out not at all psychotic!

#4 IVL

Posted 12 December 2012 - 02:23 PM

We have been there. Our second DD went through an intense biting phase at the around the same age as your son. Although she was not at daycare she was home with our nanny and also went to playgroup and other places where there were lots of other kids she interacted with. Our nanny had some prior experience and suggested that when we saw this we immediately withdraw any interaction or attention from DD. So if we were holding her and she bit us we were to place her on the ground immediately and walk away or turn our backs to her. If she bit another child we could pick her up tell her no and move her away from the action again turning our backs to her.

This worked really well and we followed this approach consistently. Even if it meant putting her on the ground in the metro station in Hong Kong. It was all over within a few weeks and has not come back again.

Good luck.

#5 SeaPrincess

Posted 12 December 2012 - 02:33 PM

QUOTE (IVL @ 12/12/2012, 12:23 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Our nanny had some prior experience and suggested that when we saw this we immediately withdraw any interaction or attention from DD. So if we were holding her and she bit us we were to place her on the ground immediately and walk away or turn our backs to her. If she bit another child we could pick her up tell her no and move her away from the action again turning our backs to her.

This is what we did on the few occasions that each of the children bit us and it didn't last long.  The daycare thing is more difficult though, and DD did bite for a short time (the same child 3 times, unfortunately - the parents wanted her to be asked to leave!).  The carers indicated to me that each time it was because the other child took something away from DD so her reaction was to bite.  Their response was to remove DD, explain that we don't bite, biting hurts, and encourage her to say "STOP! I don't like it" (which they used for any unwanted interaction).  Once she started speaking better, it stopped.

#6 Cranky Kitten

Posted 12 December 2012 - 02:42 PM

*raises hand* Another parent of the local piranha-baby here - DD would bite when frustrated at around that age and yes, it had a LOT to do with not being able to adequately express their feelings. It passed when she started talking more and being able to tell people what she wanted or how she was feeling.

But I boy do I remember the embarrassment seeing it on her day sheets!

#7 feralisles

Posted 12 December 2012 - 03:13 PM

My DD2 used to do this between the ages of 2 and 4.  I was mortified, and worried she would be expelled from preschool.
I still don't know why, it certainly wasn't frustration at being unable to communicate as she was an early, very articulate speaker.  I think possibly over excitement was a factor.

We tried the time out, explaining appropriate behaviour, isolating her from others when it happened and lots of other things. Nothing worked.  In the end, out of sheer desperation, I bit her back one day after explaining that I wanted to show her why it was wrong.  

Not politically correct, I know, and not what you want to try first up but I think for her she needed to experience the pain to realise what she was doing to others.  She never did it again!

Biting is quite common in toddlers OP.  There's a good chance your child will be on the receiving end one day.  Maybe you could have the preschool staff on the lookout, and take advantage of the situation to try to get him to understand why it is not acceptable.  At least then you won't have to bite him yourself!



#8 Bluenomi

Posted 12 December 2012 - 03:23 PM

Lack of language skils is a common reason but when they do learn to talk it doesn't always fix the problem as the massive bite mark on my DD's arm will prove  mad.gif

Whatever you do keep working on it. We have a serial biter at daycare and it's gotton to the stage none of the parents like our kids playing with him and tell them to avoid him. It's not nice for him but safer for our children that way.

#9 Tree Sage

Posted 12 December 2012 - 11:07 PM

QUOTE (Bluenomi @ 12/12/2012, 04:23 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Whatever you do keep working on it. We have a serial biter at daycare and it's gotton to the stage none of the parents like our kids playing with him and tell them to avoid him. It's not nice for him but safer for our children that way.


That's terrible. Imagine how you would feel if that was your child everyone was talking about and telling their children not to play with.

There is always a reason for biting and its up to the adults to figure out that reason and help teach the child different strategies.
Sometimes biting has absolutely nothing to do with frustration or anger, some children bite as a way to interact and show their willingness and desire to play with another child. They call this the "social biter".

At 21 months a child does not have the capacity to understand that biting hurts. They have not developed the understanding of empathy or compassion and are incapable of linking the act of biting to the crying child infront of them who they just bit. Have you ever seen a child who has bitten and the quizzical look on their face as they try to understand why the other child is crying?
Then they figure out (depending on the reason why they are biting), but say for example they are biting becuase someone keeps taking things off them, that when they bit the other child dropped the toy. Still no understanding that they are actually hurting someone or that is not socially acceptable, but they have certainly figured out how to get someone to stop doing something.

Children are not born with social understanding, they need to learn it and that takes YEARS, sometimes adults still havent learned how to act in society.
A child who bites is not mean, nasty, horrible, a bully, and certainly does not need to be ostracised or punished. How are they ever going to learn to socialise if no one is teaching them or if they are being removed from other children.

OP, dont be embarassed your child is biting. Talk to the educators and ask them the scenarios. Maybe they need to look at the set up of the room..is it too crowded with toys? children? maybe the group can be split to be smaller. Can they focus more on small group interactions led and encouraged by an educator (this works wonders for biting and we use this where I work as our most valuable tool for teaching a child how to socialise), maybe they can play turn taking games in these groups and model acceptable responses and behaviour.
Its not your fault your child is biting...he is just trying to find his place in a situation he probably has very little control over.

Edited by beansidhe, 12 December 2012 - 11:08 PM.


#10 Tree Sage

Posted 12 December 2012 - 11:10 PM

Oh, and please dont bite him back! thats the worst thing you can do. You are only reinforcing to him that its ok to bite and he would have no idea why you bit him and still would not be able to link you biting him to the fact that he bit you. (He wont develop that understanding until he is about 3, sometimes older)

#11 Bluenomi

Posted 13 December 2012 - 10:53 AM

QUOTE (beansidhe @ 13/12/2012, 12:07 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
That's terrible. Imagine how you would feel if that was your child everyone was talking about and telling their children not to play with.


I know it's terrible but so is the fact most of the other chldren have been constantly bitten for 2 years!

DD has a scar from one bite and just last week had a perfect set of teeth marks, upper and lower, on her arm that are still clear a week later. Nothing daycare does helps, his mother has given up on doing anything about it so all that is left is for us other parents to try and keep him for having a target.

Would you like it if your child was being injured constantly by another child?

#12 Tree Sage

Posted 13 December 2012 - 09:35 PM

QUOTE (Bluenomi @ 13/12/2012, 11:53 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Would you like it if your child was being injured constantly by another child?


No I wouldnt like it. But I wouldnt like to see another child ostracised either. That is a terrible thing for an adult to do to another child. If it was in school and older children were ostracising another child and telling others not to play with him it would be called bullying.
Think about what you are doing for a moment.

And due to confidentiality no one should even know who the child who is biting is.

Edited by beansidhe, 13 December 2012 - 09:37 PM.


#13 poss71

Posted 13 December 2012 - 09:53 PM

QUOTE (beansidhe @ 13/12/2012, 10:35 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
And due to confidentiality no one should even know who the child who is biting is.

laughing2.gif try explaining that to a child who says "mummy, x bit me". I can see it now, "darling, let me explain the issue of confidentiality..."

My kids were bitten at childcare, rather than being biters. I found the carers' methods to be pretty ineffective. The children seemed to sort it out themselves, in a slightly Lord of the Flies manner, but some parental direction was required to ensure that the biter (or scratcher) wasn't excluded from friendship groups.

Edited by poss71, 13 December 2012 - 09:59 PM.


#14 Tree Sage

Posted 13 December 2012 - 10:28 PM

QUOTE (poss71 @ 13/12/2012, 10:53 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
laughing2.gif try explaining that to a child who says "mummy, x bit me". I can see it now, "darling, let me explain the issue of confidentiality..."


I meant if educators were the ones who told all the parents who was biting, not a child.


#15 poss71

Posted 14 December 2012 - 03:14 AM

QUOTE (beansidhe @ 13/12/2012, 11:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I meant if educators were the ones who told all the parents who was biting, not a child.

I figured that's what you meant. However, by the age of 2, it's quite possible the kids involved have the capacity to tell their parents what is going on.

Carers are usually very well trained by their employers in respect of not mentioning the name of the biter/scratcher.

However, they can be less able to recognise that the child who is the biter may not be the aggressor, but rather the injured party who just happens to have a physical response to another child's actions.

I know in at least one situation, my child was being scratched by another child (hence my inclusion of that method) because when the two of them played, my child would take the toy the other child preferred. It wasn't until I personally intervened and did a very basic "we don't scratch, we pat. We don't snatch, we offer something interesting with one hand and take the thing we want with the other" (also known as toddler sharing), that the scratching (and unreported snatching of toys, which was the true cause of the injuries) ceased. Completely.

There are limits to what carers can see is going on in a room with a ratio of 5 or more children per carer, and as a result, what they can act on. Unfortunately, all too frequently it is the physical action that is noticed, not the true precursor to the incident.

In such circumstances, once the biter/scratcher can respond verbally, they will have a less obvious/more socially acceptable way of fending for themselves and the problem resolves itself, as far as carers and parents are concerned.

This is simply one of the realities of the limitations of childcare, that is managed by carers and their employers as best they can.

#16 iwanttosleepin

Posted 14 December 2012 - 04:44 AM

If it continues to be a problem I would seek professional help.  Whilst it's not likely that your kid is a long term menace it could turn bad at daycare.  Previous posts show the possible outcomes but I will tell you about another one....

I was on the committee of a community run centre so I was privy to information that not all parents were.  We had a biter in our 2 year old room.  One of his main targets was a child who's mother was also on the committee.  This mother was thankfully a very calm, thoughtful person who approached it in a very professional manner.  At no stage was the committee given the name of the biting child but it was no secret TBH.

Firstly, the usual was done.  Reports to both parents and some actions taken to prevent further biting.  This didn't work.  And the child being bitten was able to tell the name of the other child - hence why it wasn't a secret!  After months of problems and numerous instances and nothing working a Department of Communities worker was approached to help with the situation.  Initially she came in a couple of hours to implement some strategies.  This also didn't work.  Eventually the only solution was a full time aide to supervise this child.  Something our centre could not afford as we were a not for profit entity.  Some subsidy was provided via the Department.  In the end the biting child's parent removed the child.

Maybe if the parent had sought outside assistance from a child psychologist the situation may have been avoided but it ended up being a right mess.  Despite everyone's best efforts at the centre they just couldn't find a way forward.

I would get on top of it ASAP.  Speak to a professional, maybe first starting with your child health nurse.

#17 2 Gorgeous Girls

Posted 14 December 2012 - 05:02 AM

My DD was bitten on the arm at daycare yesterday. I was standing right next to her at the time. It was by a young toddler and my DD had started playing with a toy that was next to him.

Yes she cried, it broke the skin slightly but after  a bit of pandering from her favourite carers all was fine. My reaction meh, it happens. I was offered an incident report but declined.

My child has been the biter. Like others it was before she could effectively communicate with words. She's still a terrible sharer even at daycare but now she just uses words instead!

When she was the biter I was naturally horrified and followed all the hints/tips at home to encourage her to stop. Now she is being bitten I understand its just one of those things and she will be ok original.gif

#18 Tree Sage

Posted 14 December 2012 - 05:46 AM

QUOTE (poss71 @ 14/12/2012, 04:14 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I figured that's what you meant. However, by the age of 2, it's quite possible the kids involved have the capacity to tell their parents what is going on.

Carers are usually very well trained by their employers in respect of not mentioning the name of the biter/scratcher.

However, they can be less able to recognise that the child who is the biter may not be the aggressor, but rather the injured party who just happens to have a physical response to another child's actions.

I know in at least one situation, my child was being scratched by another child (hence my inclusion of that method) because when the two of them played, my child would take the toy the other child preferred. It wasn't until I personally intervened and did a very basic "we don't scratch, we pat. We don't snatch, we offer something interesting with one hand and take the thing we want with the other" (also known as toddler sharing), that the scratching (and unreported snatching of toys, which was the true cause of the injuries) ceased. Completely.

There are limits to what carers can see is going on in a room with a ratio of 5 or more children per carer, and as a result, what they can act on. Unfortunately, all too frequently it is the physical action that is noticed, not the true precursor to the incident.

In such circumstances, once the biter/scratcher can respond verbally, they will have a less obvious/more socially acceptable way of fending for themselves and the problem resolves itself, as far as carers and parents are concerned.

This is simply one of the realities of the limitations of childcare, that is managed by carers and their employers as best they can.


Was great to read your response here as too often it is the educators who get blamed.

I have been working with babies and toddlers for 10 years. I currently run the toddlers room and have been doing so for 5 years. We have had our share of biting so I hear exactly what you are saying.
Fortunately over the years through implementing proactive strategies and communicating with all parties involved we have been able to minimise these occurences to the point where they are now the rarity.

I get really sad and frustrated when parents 'blame' the biting child and try to teach their children not to play with them. These feelings come from 10 years of experience working with children in the 'biting age group'.

This book is absolutely brilliant.
http://www.amazon.com/No-Biting-Practice-T...s/dp/1933653566
Highly recommended for parents and educators.






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