Rationally, I knew this day would come, in some form or fashion.
By the time they’re in preschool, most children have bitten someone at least once, as well as been on the receiving end of an unfriendly chomp.
I mean, toddlers are toddlers. They get frustrated. They push and hit and… bite. And it’s not mean or aggressive or bullying. It’s just toddlers being toddlers.
But emotionally, when the day came (TODAY!), I was unprepared. I felt irrationally guilty (that MY child hurt someone else) and shocked (that my sweet little cuddler could lash out in such an aggressive way) and sad (both for him, that he was so frustrated he felt the urge to bite, and for the little person he chomped down on).
Owen’s teacher: Hi, Kate. I wanted to let you know we just had a little incident at school today.
Me: Ah, ok. Another one? (I was thinking we were talking about Owen jumping off of something or running into a counter and getting a big bruise or a bloody lip, like the calls I’ve gotten in the past. The kid is a bruiser.) What happened?
Teacher: Well, Owen bit one of his friends today.
Me: He did what?! He BIT them?! He has never bitten at home before. Umm, I’m so… sorry… what happened?
Teacher: Owen was playing in the play kitchen with a friend and he wanted to use the sink. He tried pushing the friend to move them out of the way, and when they didn’t move, he bit them.
Me: Oh my goodness! What do you do, in that situation?
Teacher: We treated it the same as if he had hit someone. We lovingly let him know that biting was not ok, and that he hurt his friend. We acknowledged what he wanted to be doing (“I see that you are frustrated because you want to use the sink”) and offered him words to explain his frustration, rather than actions. He comforted the friend with us and could tell they were sad because of what he had done. It’s completely developmentally appropriate and is something we will continue to work on with Owen and his friends.
We went on to discuss tactics we can use at home to curb this behavior and help him express his frustration with words rather than actions. Despite knowing how normal this is, man, I felt overwhelmingly guilty.
So MY KID is the biter.
I didn’t really know how to react. When I called Benjamin after hanging up the phone with Owen’s teacher, I couldn’t stop laughing. I don’t know, maybe it’s like laughing at a funeral. I felt emotional about what had happened, but I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to do. So I laughed.
I take comfort in Babycenter.com once again:
Many preschoolers bite once, get help with it, and never do it again.
This article has some great suggestions on how to react when your kid is the biter.
One thing I can definitely do immediately is stop “play biting” at home. When I’m putting Owen in his pajamas at night, I often play at biting his feet and “eating” him all up. He thinks it’s hilarious. He giggles until he can barely breathe. He’ll often ask for my elbow (he thinks elbows are hilarious too) and pretend to bite it. I pull it away, mostly out of fear that he might actually bite me, but it has turned into a game. And Lord knows he bites when we floss his teeth. But this article (and a particularly hilarious Modern Family episode) notes that even play biting can encourage kids to bite in other situations. See? Guilt. “I did this to him!”.
We’re going to work on it. While I know biting is not ok and is something to address with Owen in a variety of ways, I can also see, quite clearly, that it is just misplaced emotions. Here’s hoping we can get those emotions expressed in different ways, though. I don’t want to raise a bully!
Has your child acted aggressively toward another child? What did you do? What did the other child’s parent do? Generally I tend to be more in the “leave kids alone to figure out how to work things out” camp, instead of intervening at every turn. However, when hitting and biting are involved, I think I need to take a stronger approach.