Ah, the child who bites. It's a constant problem in childcare centres. It's a terrible worry for parents.
You can read all you like about biting just being a phase, the result of frustration, an attempt to communicate emotions the child can't deal with... all that doesn't make it easier when a child actually bites you, or when the teacher has to tell you that your child bit someone today.
That is so, SO hard for a parent. And so, SO challenging for a carer.
When the child is nearly 5 years old and that bite can pack a real punch... well, it ups the ante. And 'Katie', who bit me yesterday, is nearly 5. She was in a wild rage, her teeth got into the skin on my wrist, I felt the pressure increase, and just before she jammed her jaw shut...
...I managed to stop her in her tracks. How on earth did that happen?
It was instinctive for me, what I did. I didn't have time to think about it. But I'm thinking about it now. If your child bites, or you have a biter in your centre, this might be interesting to you- possibly VERY interesting.
Let's talk about who Katie is, first, because you need to know your biter before you can act at all. Without empathy and understanding of your individual, you're not going to get anywhere.
Katie was slow to talk and to meet other milestones. Perhaps her global delay was due to parenting problems, as is the case with many indigenous kids. Lots of these parents had no parenting model themselves, because their parents had no parenting models, because they were part of the Stolen Generation- taken from their parents by force or deception, and put into homes and missions as babies or young children. There, many of them were used and abused by mostly well-meaning (but sometimes downright wicked) white people; certainly they had no competent mothering (or fathering, for that matter). So my empathy starts with Katie's parents. If she has a background of confused boundaries and possible substance abuse- I don't know for sure- I have to consider that, as well as her past communication issues, when she tries to bite me, and not judge or blame anyone. Anger isn't helpful.
And let's talk about the relationship, 'Katie and me'. Because without having a positive relationship with the child, you won't be able to do very much to help a biter gain control.
I've spent a lot of time with Katie- piecemeal, because I'm a casual worker who only attends her centre intermittently, but I've made an effort with her. I've consistently sought positive interactions with her, showing interest in what she's doing, taking roles she's assigned to me in play, always getting down on her level to speak with her. I've educated myself about indigenous culture. I've sung songs from her culture, and watched her light up like a firework. We've done a lot of laughing together. I've sat with her through rest time, quietly engaging her so others can sleep; Katie and daytime sleep haven't had a relationship at all for a very long time, and Katie's volume control is set to LOUD, so this has been quite a challenging task. I've stuck with it.
And Katie's shown trust in me, and affection towards me. Sometimes she just wanders over and throws herself onto my lap, or throws her arms around me, or almost strangles me by climbing onto my back laughing when I'm down talking to some other child. If you haven't reached that stage with your biter- well, start building. If they don't trust you yet, their ears will be firmly closed to you in that moment of frustration and rage.
So, what happened? Katie was demanding another child give up a toy, quite unreasonably. That's Katie. Her impulse control is, um, still developing. I intervened at the point where she was about to king-hit the other child with a spade, removing her from the situation without warning by picking her up from behind so the spade didn't connect with the other kid's skull. She screamed blue murder, thrashed around and started to sink her teeth into my arm.
Now let's add the back story. It was already built into my reactions to anything Katie did. Love, trust, empathy, understanding, cultural awareness. And that all led to me giving her a big cuddle, even as her teeth gripped tighter, and whispering in her ear in my most affectionate voice 'Hey, what's this, a little goanna biting me?'
That's one of the local indigenous totems here, the goanna.
Katie giggled. You can't giggle and bite at the same time.
I gave her a good old snuggle and continued to whisper to her about what had just happened... yes, you're angry, but you're a little girl, not a little goanna... little girls talk instead of biting... now what did you want? Let's try that again...
Here is a wonderful checklist to help you get that sort of result with your biter. I found it on the fabulous blog, Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond.
Discipline with l-o-v-e and c-a-r-e
Give it a try, hey? But remember, it's not a quick fix. Your biter is a long term project.