Open Letter: To Parents of Toddlers who bite...

Dear [PARENT NAME]:
I definitely sympathize with your situation, as my 20 mo old daughter, [INSERT CHILD'S NAME HERE], went through a biting phase as well. At first we thought it was teething, and then analyzed the circumstances under which she was biting other children and teachers and parents and it definitely seemed to be a way for her to act out frustration over a toy or being denied something. We worked on ways to handle the situations with her teachers at daycare and the incidents have stopped, although it's moved laterally into scratching, although that is diminishing.

Here's some of the things we learned from our experience:

  1. This is a very, very common occurrence. Your child is not by any means unusual. I can not stress this point enough. I would urge you not to change her daycare situation, if possible. If anything, it's better to work through these issues with consistent reactions and behavior with the teachers, so that your child knows it's not ok, whether it's at home or out in the world. Often times, these are phases that pass.

2. It's the responsibility of the daycare professionals to also recognize situations where this might happen and prevent them. I know this may be a sensitive area, but they should be used to this behavior and must have policies to govern them. For example, at her daycare, their protocol is to try to prevent or be aware of a situation, so they can react quickly, and first stop the child, and then focus their attention on how sad or in pain the victim feels.

3. Model good behavior throughout the day, by emphasizing actions that make you feel "happy" when your child is being gentle. That way, you can reiterate this message over and over again.

4. Be very consistent with the way you or others react to the biting and the language you use. It definitely has to be zero tolerance. You can't have friends of the family over who playfully bite her or vice versa. I am definitely guilty of this as I love to rough-house with my child, but it can come back to haunt you when your child thinks its ok to be rough-house with peers. You have to be pretty firm about this with family and friends, we found.

5. With toys and sharing, we found it was easier to communicate it as as taking turns, as the concept of sharing is pretty hard for youngsters to understand. If you build on the idea of taking turns around other activities at home, it can be a good shorthand to help your child understand a toy is not being taken away forever.

I know it's hard to hear, but it's definitely a phase. Be patient. We try to think back on her early phases of teething, napping, etc. as moments that seemed pretty bleak at the time, but finally passed.

Good luck!