I received the dreaded phone call yesterday that all parents hate to get. Micah, my 21-month old great nephew, bit a classmate in daycare. Apparently he wanted the new toy in school. When he didn't get his way, he proceeded to bite the shoulder of one of his classmates. I'm thinking to myself, seriously, did he really just bite someone? I was asked if he was displaying biting habits at home and I said no. I have a nine-year old nephew at home but Micah has never attempted to bite him. He is in a "everything is mine" phase but he hasn't bit anyone. His teacher told me it was going on for awhile but this time he actually broke the skin and had to be written up. Aint that something.
Flashes of MSNBC's Lockup popped in my head. Was he turning into a delinquent? Was he going to have problems as he got older? So I asked his teacher, what can you do to curb biting? Tell him to stop biting and remove him from the situation was her best answer to the solution. She also had an assistant teacher shadow him for the day to make sure he wouldn't bite anyone else. Well he did bite another child later that day. Again, it was out of frustration.
I put the incident on Facebook and a lot of friends suggested, I bite him back, but not too hard to let him know that biting hurts. Some said that you should talk to him sternly. A friend suggested a book on how to stop your child from biting. To help me figure how to curb biting, I started Googling some sites for more information. In order to understand why your child bites, you need to figure out the reasons behind it. WebMD had a great informative article "Stop Children From Biting" that gave tips on how to curb those tendencies in kids.
Children bite for a number of reasons. They are frustrated, in pain, exploring their world, craving attention or looking for a reaction. Micah bit out of frustration because another child had a toy that he wanted. When the child didn't give up the toy, Micah bit him. Micah who is still learning how to talk is unable to ask for the toy. Most kids whose language isn't fully developed may use biting as a means of communicating their frustration. As parents we need to be able to recognize the frustration and use a calm and soothing voice and explain that its not OK to bite our friends. Encourage them to use their words and say "I'm angry or upset" to help them express their emotions. You can also find another toy and give it to them to play with. Or like his teacher did, remove the child from the situation until he calms down. Although some folks use the "bite him back" method, its never appropriate to bite your child. Sometimes it has the reverse affect and causes them to bite more.
I don't think Micah is headed to the "big house" but as parents we need to use our communications skills to effectively teach our kids right from wrong. Most children grow out of it.
Book: Teeth Are Not for Biting written by Elizabeth Verdick