I am the Parent of a Biting Child
Here I am, feeling extra vulnerable and completely defeated. For the last month I've started going to the gym 2-3 times a week and leaving my kids in the childcare center my gym offers. This week Turner, now 3 years old and short for his age, was written up for biting another child. This is a problem we've had before, and I thought he was past it until this incident. I had a long talk with him about how it's not okay to bite others because it hurts them. I told him we need to use our words to express how we're feeling, and if a child isn't listening to you to talk to an adult. I asked him to promise me not to bite anymore and he agreed that he would not.
Well, today I took them to the gym again, and we had another biting incident that Turner was written up for. I left feeling humiliated and frustrated. As I was strapping him into his carseat, I told Turner that behavior was unacceptable and that we need to use our words to express how we're feeling. As I tried to get him to understand me, I started crying. I hugged him and pleaded desperately that he would not bite anymore.
I was fuming the whole drive home with every range of emotion. Embarrassment, guilt, sadness, frustration, desperation, anger, defeat, confusion. I was completely at a loss of how to teach my son to express himself in a healthy way. I was thinking about how frustrated the other children, childcare employees and parents must be with my child and me. I've only ever seen him try to bite someone when they are taking something from him or making him feel threatened, but that doesn't make it okay. It's never okay. They told me that if it were to happen again, he would be suspended for several weeks.
Working out at the gym has become so amazing for my mental and physical well being. So much so that being suspended would be absolutely devastating to me. Turner doesn't understand that. I've told him that going to the gym means a lot to me and that I would be sad if we couldn't go anymore, but that doesn't really matter. I just want him to understand that it's not okay to hurt others.
I've been googling, you-tubing and researching all the ways I can teach my child to stop biting. I did a few role playing exercises with him where I pretended I was a child trying to take his toy from him, then walked him through how he was feeling and how to express it properly. I'm doing everything I can to teach him that it's wrong, and I feel like I am failing.
I messaged my husband to let him know it had happened again. He called me and we talked about our frustration and disappointment over the situation. We discussed different strategies like watching videos with him, reading books, and singing songs that teach him not to bite. He told me he knew we could work this out, and that we can get through anything together. <3
I spent the next two hours playing with Turner as the baby napped, and he didn't show any type of aggression. He was communicating in a healthy way, compromising with me when there was something I didn't want to do and sharing with me really well. That's when I realized how self centric I had been throughout this whole situation. I didn't really think about how Turner was truly feeling, but about how his choices were effecting me and the people around him.
I knew he was reacting out of anger or frustration, but I didn't really think about how he may have been feeling going to childcare in general. Turner has only started playing in big groups since I joined the gym, and he is not used to that at all. We usually stay home during the week where he deals with his little brother, a 10 months old who is just learning to crawl around and play himself. He also attends a nursery during church once a week for a couple hours that has about 15 children, but it's usually less than that. Other than that he doesn't get a lot of exposure to groups of children.
The childcare center, however, can have up to 25 children and 5 infants at the same time (30 total), while there are usually only 5-6 employees. That's about 5 kids per adult. I only have 2 kids of my own, and that's a lot for me to handle. The employees can't watch every child at all times. It's not possible. They are doing the best that they can to ensure every child is taken care of.
Turner really thrives on adult-child play, which he's not getting. He also thrives on one-on-one and small group interaction and I'm sure he's getting overwhelmed with such a large amount of children in the same space. He is trying to deal with it the best he can. And unfortunately that's with his teeth. I wish the 10 million times I told him that biting isn't okay was enough. I wish I could be there with him every second to reinforce his good behavior and guide him through proper emotional expression. But if he's not emotionally ready to be with a big group of kids without my constant supervision for an hour, then he's not ready. AND THAT'S OKAY.
I'm going to continue doing everything in my power to teach him what behavior is okay and what's not. That's all I can do. So if your child is biting, know you are not alone and that the struggle is real. Keep loving them and teaching them the best way you know how. Talk to your spouse, family members, friends, your pediatrician, and anyone else you trust for other resources to help you. And if you're child is the victim of a biting incident, or a childcare employee, please try to have empathy for the biting child, and their parents too. No parent wants there child to be hurt or to be hurting someone else. Let's all show a lot more love and equally less judgement. We all have our struggles, and right now this is ours.