Biting is good when you are trying to eat a sandwich. Biting is good when you are at the dentist office and they want to take a mold of your teeth. Biting is bad when you are chomping down on a fellow human being, such as your daycare classmate.
My daughter, only 15 months old, already has a few biting battle wounds to speak of. The worst of them, in fact probably the worst in the history of the daycare, occurred recently. The baby biter wanted whatever my daughter had in her possession, and my daughter who is as stubborn as her mother, would not hand it over. The method of coercion? A big, convincing bite to my daughter's face.
The staff at the daycare quickly applied ice to my daughter's cheek and immediately called me at work to break the news. My daughter was not crying and apparently her skin had not been broken, so I didn't worry about it or give the incident much more thought. Isabella had previously been sent home with a few "boo-boo" grams which reported her injuries from previous vampire-esque incidents, and each time the wound healed before she came home. I was of the mindset no mark, no harm, no foul.
But this time, there was a mark - a huge mark - and there was definitely some harm done. When I saw Isabella after daycare, my eyeballs - which bulged out of their sockets in a show of disbelief -must have resembled that of a cartoon character that you see on T.V. My daughter's beautiful little face contained a big, ugly bulbous red lump and immediately underneath the lump was the imprint of the assailant's bottom teeth. I went to kiss my baby to make it all better but her face was sore that she vehemently shook her head in protest. I instead enveloped my daughter in a big hug and hoped that my embrace would take away her discomfort.
My husband and I, who are usually pretty laid back when it comes to the daily trials and tribulations children must go through to learn about life, were very upset about this incident. We discussed the biting incident during dinner, spoke about it a little later while getting Isabella ready for bed, and talked about it once again before we retired for the night. We could talk and talk, but the reality of the situation is that some kids are biters. They may be teething, tired, bored, or frustrated. Whatever their reason, biting is how their discontent manifests itself.
At 15 months old, it is impossible to make a child understand the rationale behind their behavior and difficult for them to comprehend the consequences of their actions. Sure they understand the word "no", but at this age that word usually results in a game of "let's see what I can get away with." By all means, I believe the child who is the biter should be corrected, but it is not a behavior that will correct itself overnight. That being said, I can only be upset that my daughter was hurt, but cannot be angry at the child or his/her parents. I can only hope that the parents are taking the appropriate steps and making honest attempts to curb their biter's behavior.
In addition to my concern for any future biting episodes that could occur, I am also worried about my daughter picking up this chomping trait and making it a bad behavior of her own. Though I don't want her to be a pushover, I also don't want her to become the aggressor. The best that my husband and I can do at home to instill a non-aggressive demeanor is to firmly and calmly correct Isabella when she tries to bite or hurt us. We praise my daughter for her thoughtful deeds, like giving us kisses, but reprimand her when she tries to do harm. While Isabella is learning right versus wrong, we act in the interim as her moral compass until she can begin to make these decisions for herself.
Upon my daughter's return to daycare following the biting incident, she found herself in yet another tug-of-war over a beloved toy. I was informed that my daughter held her own - sans any biting, hitting or pushing - from either child involved. In a toddler's world, that is a dispute ended amicably and in my world, that is evidence that my girl is learning what we try to teach her about being nice to others. Isabella may have been bitten, but unlike in the movies, she herself has not turned into a biter.