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Little Vampires: Toddler Bite!

When my oldest son was a toddler, he was a biter. In fact, he bit one little gal so many times in the same spot, she had a permanent welt on her arm. I am still completely embarrassed by his biting all of these years later.

At the time, however, being the reflective educator that I am, I tired every trick I could think of —, or research — to stop the biting. In fact, I was so desperate to find a solution that I went to that year’s annual early childhood conference, hoping to hear ideas that I might have not considered.

The mom of the little girl whom my son preferred to bite above everyone else went to that early childhood conference with me. We would go to separate workshops, but once we found each other during breaks she would announce what she had learned. “Spray lemon juice in his mouth! The presenter said that lemon juice works!” “Hang a teething toy around his neck and put it in his mouth every time he bites something.” These were just some of the ideas she wanted me to try. I did not try some of them for many reasons, including that I just did not agree children should be treated like that, and because early childhood providers cannot and should not use these types of discipline techniques.

The truth is, toddlers bite. Toddlers, especially preverbal toddlers in group care settings, often bite each other. The problem is that my son was in my daycare. The parents expected me to be the expert. They did not understand why I could not get his behavior under control. Biting stops when toddlers have language and when they are done teething, especially their painful molars. Until then, toddler teachers must remain vigilant by shadowing the biter to stop any attempt before it happens. More importantly, teachers must reassure the parents that this behavior will stop with time and maturation.

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