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How to Handle a Daycare Biter

The Daycare Biter

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I have been following you and your family since I got pregnant with my daughter and I stumbled upon your Pregnancy Calendar. I feel like I’ve read darn near everything you’ve written (jeez I hope that doesn’t come off as creepy- your blog & advice column just provided a welcome distraction while I was suffering from pregnancy-induced insomnia and then, you know, the whole babyhood-never-sleeping-again thing).

So let me get right down to it: My 20-month-old daughter goes to a small daycare center, which we love. However, there’s a biter in her classroom. In the last 2 weeks, we’ve received 3 different incident reports that this child has bitten our daughter. He’s younger than her, maybe around 13 months or so, and it seems that the biting incidents usually revolve around toys (he wants one that she has, she takes one that he’s playing with, etc).

I understand that biting can occur at this age and it is a way for this child to express himself when he may not be old enough to figure out another way. What bothers me is that our daycare teachers are telling us that this boy’s parents don’t seem to think the biting is a problem. We’re told they often laugh it off when they receive their own incident reports, saying things like “oh haha, yeah our kid’s a biter haha.”

I get that kids can go through bad habits, and I’m not saying that my daughter is perfect (far from it), but isn’t it our job as parents to teach them right from wrong and redirect when we see behavior that’s not acceptable? I feel like I need to address this issue with the daycare and potentially address this boy’s parents, but I also don’t want to offend anyone (I think we all can get a little perturbed when other people try to tell us how to parent our children). In the end though, it’s MY daughter that’s coming home with bite marks all over her arms, which is NOT ok with me. Help!

Thank you in advance for any advice you can give.

I don’t think it’s your place or responsibility to talk to the other parents, which I doubt would accomplish much anyway. They know their kid bites, and while they may be saving face in front of the teachers by laughing it off, they could very well be mortified and unsure what they’re even supposed to do about it. I mean, they aren’t there at the daycare to referee his interactions with the other kids — that’s the teachers’ job! The child is only 13 months old and probably not very verbal yet, so for all we know they ARE doing what little they can do when they’re with him, but it’s just not translating to daycare yet.

(I mean, how many times have you probably told your daughter not to take toys from other kids? She still does it, even if it results in a nasty bite! Toddlers just be toddlerin’.)

I’m probably extra sympathetic here because I’ve gotten a lot of letters from the parents of the daycare biter/hitter/toy thrower/etc. who are like, OMG, I know it’s a phase but how do I make it STOP? Maybe these particular parents really aren’t all that concerned (because, well, biting IS a perfectly normal phase and not an indicator of future sociopathy), but again: It’s not like you can make a 13-month-old promise “NO BITING TODAY OKAY HONEY IT’S NOT NICE!” at the 8 a.m. drop-off and expect him to remember that at 1 p.m. when there’s a squabble over his favorite toy. There’s not a heap-ton you can do about this kind of behavior other than correct/redirect it in the moment. And correct it and correct it and correct it.

Which at daycare, is the teachers’ responsibility. And it’s also their responsibility to keep your daughter safe. Yes, stuff happens and kids get bumped and bruised, but I think you’re perfectly entitled to escalate your concerns to them the next time you get an incident report:

“Okay, I understand this is normal behavior for this age but three times in two weeks and multiple bite marks is a bit too much. What’s being done to correct the behavior when it happens?”

If they try to unload responsibility on the parents and their cavalier attitude about it, keep pushing. “I understand that. But they honestly could be doing everything they can at home and it’s just not translating here because he’s so young. So what is the center doing about it, and is it possible that his interactions with my daughter be a little more closely supervised so an intervention/redirection can occur BEFORE he takes another bite into her arm?”

That’s a reasonable ask, and that’s where I personally would push for some changes. It’s okay to NOT be okay with a known biter getting free rein to bite when there are (presumably) enough responsible adults in the room to intervene once in awhile. They may not be able to stop every incident, but since I’m guessing your daughter isn’t the only one who’s been bitten (THREE TIMES!) over the last two weeks, that’s a lot of incidents! The teachers really need to figure out a better solution beyond writing up reports and work more closely with this child to target the behavior.

More posts about child behavior:

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Photo source: Depositphotos/santypan

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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Chris Lyman
Guest

Perfect advice. As a parent I would be mortified if this was my kid and at the same time, I would know there’s almost nothing I can do to stop it. Redirection at the time is the only way. The teachers definitely need to separate the biter a little more until the phase passes.

Natalie
Guest
Natalie

My kid got bitten in the span of a month so many times until one day, it just stopped. I was worried that my kid would become the biter and learn that habit. That didn’t happen, but then, my son became the one pushing other children. We talked to him at home and the teachers but it was really hard to reinforce because he didn’t do it at home. Just food for thought that you can lecture a toddler until you’re blue in the face but we were at a loss of what to do because he wasn’t pushing at… Read more »

B
Guest
B

So I’ve been on both sides. My daughter got bit at daycare and I was FURIOUS. I too thought that the parents and daycare didn’t take it as seriously as I did. And then Karma made sure that I was put in my place and my second child almost got kicked out of a Mother’s Day Out program because he bit all the time. And like Amy’s other readers, I was mortified. I tried everything. And depending on the day, I may have nervously laughed it off around another parent. Because it is awful and you don’t know what to… Read more »

DL
Guest
DL

Agree! We’ve had a biter and I knew the parents personally, and knew they were doing everything possible. I mean they had books, they had a song, they had immediate consequences at home that were super appropriate and made it clear that biting was not okay, and that kid still bit a handful of kids at daycare and on a few play dates. He just got superrrr frustrated and maybe was a little overstimulated in care and just…bit. And it did pass, but in the meantime the daycare was constantly talking to them about it and learned their songs and… Read more »

Holly White
Guest
Holly White

We had a biter when my middle son was in the 1-2 year old classroom at daycare. He would sometimes get bitten multiple times/day. The teacher in the room was young and inexperienced and wasn’t sure how to manage it, so the Director stepped in and trained her on how to basically shadow the biter all. day. long. and learn the signs of when she was about to bite. I wasn’t too bothered by it – I know it’s a phase, and it’s hard to stop. But we found that the right training and the right teachers really could rein… Read more »

Liz
Guest
Liz

Our youngest was the classroom biter, though we were mortified and did everything we could to get it to stop. We were the ones who had to have a Come to Jesus talk with our center director because it was VERY clear that the teachers were not taking it seriously enough and not doing everything they could to prevent incidents. By the time it escalated, there were several biters in the class (monkey see…) and it was out of control. They finally instituted shadowing of the biters as much as possible, basically never letting a known biter be near another… Read more »