Who is Disciplined when Bitten?

I ran across a post on a parenting network the other day regarding biting. This parent was understandably upset that her child had been bitten at "day care". (I won't go into the whole I-work-in-child-care-days-take-care-of-themselves aspect)

I do sympathize with parents when this happens. However, the story that was told that she was so upset about really rubbed me the wrong way. In a nutshell, her child (child A) had reached across to another child's (child B) plate during lunch. Child B bit Child A. She was then upset to find out that Child B was allowed to sit next to her child in the next meal.

Now, let's get into a toddlers mind, shall we? I am child B, I am sitting here enjoying the company of my classmates (and really, in my development, I don't care that there are other toddlers around, what I am really enjoying is my meal) when something reaches across my face (it is awfully close to my plate) and grabs the piece of bread I am going to put into my mouth (man that looks good). I don't have the words language development yet to quickly think, "I need to let that adult there know that something is getting in the way of me and my food so I need to tell you and say stop"; so I do the next best thing...BITE! After all, that hand is in front of my mouth and I AM eating anyway; what's one more thing in my mouth?

Remember, toddlers are still egocentric. They have no idea that this hand actually belongs to another human being!

Now, is what Child B did inappropriate? Yes. But wouldn't you do the same thing in this scenario?

I wouldn't have gotten mad at either child (it's really my fault for not seeing this about to happen, but then I can't see every little thing, I may have been stopping child C from biting child D in the same scenario across the table). I would have spend more time disciplining (remember, that means to teach) child A, though, rather than Child B.

Why? Because the whole thing started with Child A. If Child A hadn't reached across and taken something from Child B, he never would have gotten bit.

From the story I was reading, I got the feeling that the parent of Child A would rather have had Child B not invited to the table after such and incident as this; as a teacher, I would argue that really Child A would not be invited back.

Why? Because it is apparent that Child A is not yet ready to eat at a table with more than one child; he is still too curious at what's on other children's plates.

One thing we have to remember as adults is that Biting is developmentally appropriate but socially unacceptable. Children, especially toddlers, are still learning this.

There are many reasons that toddlers bite. I'm not going to discuss that here (but you can go here if you want to know reasons). How we react is really dependant on the situation.

In this scenario that I layed out today, I would have done nothing more than calmly turn to Child B and say, "Oh, you bit Child A. Tell him, my food. That hurt him." Then I would calmly move to child A, scoot his chair over a few inches (so he is further from Child B's plate) and say, "You're food is here. That's Child B's food. He's not sharing with you." All the while, I would be tending to his bite, rubbing it making sure he was okay (no broken skin, etc...). My support staff would also be bringing me a wet, soapy wash cloth and ice pack so I can tend to the first aid portion.

Neither child did anything that was out of order. There is no reason to get mad at either child in this situation; they both did exactly what is expected of this age group!

I might continue this discussion, while sitting close to these two children, about how biting hurts and we need to eat what's on our own plates and all that; but in no way would either child be in any more trouble. Child B did nothing wrong; Child A got a better consequence than I ever could give. He'll probably think twice about eating off that other plate next time!

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