My daughter recently bit a child at nursery. It's a moment I've dreaded. There's something so carnal and aggressive about biting and the angry teeth marks left behind are awful. I hate to think of my 18-month-old doing that to another child.
My nephew was a serial biter when he was around two years old and I saw the anguish that my sister went through with him. It's seven years since there was last a biting incident and he's a loving, caring boy, but she still vividly remembers how ashamed she was made to feel by his behaviour. She felt he was labelled as 'naughty' at nursery, which also upset her.
On one occasion she was attending a toddler group at a children's centre when he bit a child who he was playing with. The injured child's mother shrieked, the person in charge demanded that an incident report was filled out, and my sister left and never returned. She got to a stage when she would avoid going to places where there would be other young children because she was so fearful that he'd sink his teeth into one of them.
Thankfully, the practitioners at my daughters' setting treated the biting incident with much more tact. I was quietly taken to one side and told sympathetically what had happened. The injured child wasn't named, much to my relief because I would have felt very apologetic and embarrassed in front of their parents. I was assured that DD2 (Dear Daughter 2) would also not be named when the other parents were informed.
DD2 had been playing in a tunnel with another child when she bit them. A staff member firmly told her 'no' and that she shouldn't bite and removed her from the situation. Unfortunately, the following day she had an altercation over a tricycle and bit another child. I was upset, but DD2's key person kindly reassured me that it's a common phase for many children and that they regard it as a part of child development.
She told me that with both incidents my daughter was biting out of frustration and that they thought it was a defence mechanism. They also wondered whether she was teething. I was told that they would react swiftly and distract her if they thought she was about to bite another child.
I called my sister for advice on how she had managed my nephew's biting behaviour. She had tried lots of different approaches - from time out to giving him a toy that he could bite if he felt frustrated. Another mother recommended putting salt in his mouth when he bit someone and my sister admitted that she was desperate enough to seriously considering doing so. In the end, she believes that it was a stage he simply grew out of after a few months.
I most certainly won't be reaching for the salt cellar, but I'm hopeful that this has been a short-lived phase for DD2. It's been over a month since there has been any reported biting at nursery. She's turned to love instead and has started cuddling people.