Guest blogger Debbie Bruemmer, parent counselor, has been getting a lot of calls lately from parents whose children have been expelled from their centers for reasons you might not believe!
If I were talking about baseball, this might be appropriate, but I’m not! Some child care centers actually have a three bites and you’re out policy, which means children who need help learning appropriate behaviors are instead being expelled from those programs that could be teaching them to respond differently. Biting is a very typical behavior for toddlers, and it’s the duty of teachers and parents to help children learn how to respond to their feelings in a way that hurts less!
I can see where it’s an issue for some centers, that it’s a liability for the other children and a source of exasperation for a teacher that is sometimes caring for as many as ten children. One center that has this policy, however, is a star rated center, and if they don’t know how to help the children who are biting, who does? Children bite for many reasons: feeling frustrated, a limited ability to communicate with words, experimenting with their senses, or testing their limits. If a child is biting, teachers and parents should pay close attention to what is happening around the child when they are biting. Is the child hungry or tired? Is there some stressful situation in the classroom, like a thunderstorm outside, or their parent is late in picking them up?
When a child bites, intervene immediately between the child who is doing the biting and the bitten child. Stay calm and don’t overreact: adults should use their voice and their expression to show that biting is not okay, and should let the child who did the biting help in comforting the bitten child, like getting an ice pack (asking the bitten child first, of course, if they are okay with this).
If you know your child is at the developmental stage where they are biting, talk to the director at your program, talk to the teachers. Make sure that they’re aware and know what to expect, and that they’ve had training in positive discipline techniques. With the right positive reinforcement of desired behaviors, children can learn that biting is not appropriate. If they’re getting expelled after three bites, they’re not being given that opportunity!
Resources: Fact Sheets for Families: Biting