The Family Project: Two-year-old’s biting
Q. My two-year-old daughter has a huge biting problem at her day-care. I get a note almost every other day that she bit someone. We have contacted her doctor, who says it is normal at this age. But I don’t think it is normal if it happens this often. We have done time-outs, talked to her, and spanked her, but she doesn’t understand that biting hurts and she should not do it. What can we do?
The panel began by talking about what not to do.
“The first thing to do is to stop spanking her,” panelist Mike Daniels said. “The concern here is that the two-year-old is using biting aggressively. If the parents give an aggressive response back they are increasing the aggression within the relationship unnecessarily. Do something that doesn’t increase anger.”
Panelist Pam Wallace said that the response to the biting needs to be immediate. “Waiting until she gets home to use time-outs or spanking doesn’t work because the child no longer makes the connection between the biting and the punishment.”
“I would encourage the mother to work with the day-care staff to resolve the problem together,” panelist Denise Continenza said. “The mother needs to know what happens before the biting, whom she [the daughter] is biting and how the staff responds.”
“Biting is something that gets a reaction every time from everybody, and those responses provide reinforcement,” said panelist Kristy Bernard. There should be some planning with the day-care center about how to deal with the biting, Bernard recommended.
Panelist Chad Stefanyak said he would like to know more about the child’s language skills, and her ability to express herself: “With limited verbal skills, it is not unusual for two-year-olds to bite.”
Addressing the problem short-term, Daniels suggested bringing out some old teething rings, and while playing, talk about what biting is for and what it does. “Never ask why she bites because that assumes she is doing something wrong,” Daniels added.
Long-term, the mother and day-care staff should work on better ways for the daughter to express her communication frustrations, Stefanyak urged. “Using some form of baby sign language might help the child get better at expressing herself.”
The panel suggested contacting Unconditional Child Care, Allentown, which provides assistance in dealing with classroom behavioral problems, bay calling: 610-433-3919.
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS; Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, educator and former school administrator; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Kristy Bernard, Northampton County CYF program specialist and training coordinator, and Denise Continenza, extension educator, Pen State Extension.
Have a question? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child. The Times News, Inc., and affiliates (Lehigh Valley Press) do not endorse or recommend any medical products, processes, or services or provide medical advice. The views of the columnist and column do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Lehigh Valley Press. The article content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, or other qualified health provider, with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.