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When Your Child is the Biter

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The first time I saw my son bite someone was in music class. I looked over as he took a nibble on this kid’s arm. Granted, the kid had taken his drum, but still, I was surprised. The child caught my eye and seemed to say, are you just going to let him bite me? The moment quickly passed. 

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My son was around a year at the time, and as a new parent, I didn’t know how seriously people took biting. Fast forward a year later, and I’ve come to realize that no one likes the toddler who bites.

This became even more obvious to me when I invited the other toddlers from my son’s daycare to his second birthday party. I always feel badly about handing out invitations to other parents. I know that an invitation to a birthday party for some is irritating, and the last thing they want to do is attend yet another party. I realize that I judge a birthday party by its cake, which is pretty much the only thing I look forward to.

One parent friend told me that he and his wife split the birthday parties. One goes with his daughter to the party, and the other gets to hang out in the car drinking wine and watching youtube videos. So, when I handed the invitation to Ron, the parent of three-year-old Sophia, I added, “I know it’s another party, but I hope that Sophia can come. My son really likes her,” though I had no idea if he did.

Ron looked surprised. “Really,” he said, “Sophia doesn’t really like him because he bites.”

I covered my face in embarrassment.

“I was afraid of that,” I said, horrified. “He hasn’t bitten in a while. Usually only when provoked,” I added. Someone had to stick up for my son.  

It wasn’t until I was in the car on the way to work that it occurred to me how rude Ron’s comment was. Sure, my son does bite sometimes, but he’s been bitten plenty of times. We get weekly ouch reports from his school. I also knew that Ron was protecting his kid. Still, I decided, he was being a jerk.  

About a week later, I attended a birthday party for another child from school. Most of the parents and kids from the daycare were present. None of them had RSVP’d for my son’s party. I was starting to become alarmed.

Then, my son went through a bad week of biting. His daycare provider reassured me that children always act up around their birthdays. She explained that most of the time she can tell when my son’s about to bite. And most of the time it’s because someone takes his toys.

What toddler likes to share?

Sally, who’s the daughter of a friend of mine’s son, gets bitten the most by my son. My daycare provider commented that thankfully, Sally’s mom is a good sport about it.

This prompted me to apologize to my friend.

“I hope that my son biting your daughter isn’t upsetting to you. He’s only done it a few times, but still.” I completely expected her to say, “No worries, Sally is always bothering him.” Instead, she said, “It’s mostly okay.”

Hmm, I thought, mostly okay.

So, it’s mostly okay that your daughter is always coming up to my son and whacking his head with a sand shovel or stealing his toys or taking his drink. Yeah, that’s mostly okay.

Parents want to believe their kid is perfect and that it’s the biter who’s solely at fault. Now, I’m not saying that biting is okay; I’m saying, ask yourself why your child was bitten.

Of course, we’re working on his biting. We read the book, Teeth are Not for Biting by Elizabeth Verdick nightly. Each time it says (and it says it a lot) ouch biting hurts, my son repeats the words. Granted, the first few times he laughed a little.

When I drop him off at daycare, I tell him, okay three things. First, if someone upsets you, then go find a grown up. Remember, “ouch biting hurts.” He repeats ouch biting hurts. Second, don’t resist naps. Third, have fun. Reminding him of these things seems to help.

We also give him time outs (really long timeouts), make him apologize, and anything else we can think of to stop the biting.

According to the American Psychological Association, biting is quite common and a normal toddler behavior. Toddlers bite out of frustration and anger. They bite because they don’t know how to handle their emotions, not because they’re disturbed.

Still, no-one from the daycare has RSVP’d for his birthday, except for another kid, who bites my son. 

At first, I took the lack of RSVPs personally. It’s a small daycare of only eight kids, and we should support each other. But, then I know that after awhile, birthday parties are more of a chore than something you want to do on a Saturday. Still, if they’re not coming because my son bites occasionally, then they can bite me.

Ouch, biting hurts!

Bonus: Download you FREE PRINTABLE: 16 Writing Activities for Kids. Next time your kiddo bites, sit the little snapper down and write about it!

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Do you have a toddler that bites? What do you do to stop the biting? I love to hear about in the comments below.

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When your child is the biter you fear that he will be stigmatized at school. But there are normal reasons why your child or toddler bites. Click through to discover tips of how to help your toddler or child to stop biting and reasons why they do it.

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