Before we get to today's letter can I just say one thing? People should not be walking around hungry in America. So in this morning's San Francisco Chronicle there was a bit in the Leah Garchik column about Replate.org. So I'm just passing it along. Just one little thing you can do. Maybe it won't make the problem go away but maybe one more person will eat a burrito tonight. 'Nuff said.
I know that this is not a parenting advice column, but I thought you might be able to give me some objective, non-biased advice. My son is 2 years old. He goes to day care part-time (20-25 hours a week). The day care is part of a large national chain. We have generally been happy with the day care, its curriculum and its teachers. Our son seems to like it there, loves his teachers and enjoys playing with the kids in his class. The issue is that there are a couple of biters in his class. In the past year (basically, since his classmates have had teeth), he has been bitten at least a dozen times.
I think it's one or two kids who are doing the majority of the biting (he is old enough to tell us that he was bitten, and who did it, but not old enough to be a completely reliable witness). Each time, the center fills out an "incident report," but I don't get the sense that they are doing anything serious to address the problem. I have mildly complained, to the teacher and to the director, and felt that I was getting brushed off ("She's teething").
My question is -- should I start looking for a new day care center? I hate to pull him out of his current center, where he is comfortable and knows and likes the teachers and kids. On the other hand, does my son have the right to be in an environment where he doesn't have to worry about getting bitten? A lot of the biting is (according to his teacher) completely unprovoked -- he's even been bitten on the back on occasion. It doesn't seem to bother him; he's a tough kid (doesn't even cry when he gets his vaccination shots), and the teachers say he never cries when he is bitten, just says "ouchie!" I don't want to make a big deal out of nothing, and I know that children bite and toddlers are too young to understand that they are hurting others. On the other hand, I don't want to be a negligent parent, allowing my child to get bitten over and over without remedying the situation. What should I do?
Once Bitten, Twice Shy
Dear Once Bitten,
You're right that I'm not a parenting advice columnist and as a matter of fact I don't have any kids myself. But I did find some good resources on this issue and I'm sure the readers of this column have some good advice as well.
My general take on it is this: If anybody has to get fired from day care, at least it shouldn't be your kid. It should be the biter. Biting happens, biting has to be managed, sometimes there are limits to how well it can be managed, sometimes somebody has to leave. If it gets to that point, it's the biter who ought to have to leave, in my opinion. It's the biter's parents who ought to have to bear the burden. That just seems fair to me. But maybe nobody has to leave. Maybe the folks at the day care can manage this.
Kids are primitive, no? I'm glad adults don't bite. Imagine you come home from work, your husband says, Hi, Honey, how'd it go today? and you say, Oh, it went OK, but I got bitten again, darn it.
Anyway, check this out. I found this bit from KidsGrowth.com to be very sensible.
So there's the sensible adult parent approach and then there are the feelings. You're likely to be having all kinds of feelings about this and I am all about the feelings. So about the feelings I suggest that you recognize that this is something that happens among young kids, that it isn't great but it does happen and it just has to be managed. And if they can't get this kid to stop biting your kid and it comes to somebody having to leave then it seems like it's the biter who should have to go find another day care.
What? You want more?