If you child bites do you bite them back?
How is this still a thing, it sounds like advice my grandma would give. “If she’s biting, bite her back.”
But what does biting a child for biting teach them? For one, that it’s not only okay to bite, it’s also okay to bite in return. How confusing when on the playground those rules don’t apply. That children are taught if you are hurt by another child it’s still not okay to hurt them back.
I think also as a child carer if at work I bit a child as discipline I would lose my job and probably be charged with assault. Could you imagine? It would make headlines. It would fill Newsfeeds with outraged. It would be utterly disgusting if a carer was to bite a child.
So why is it when a mother (or father) says that her toddler has been biting her often the advice pops up that the way to handle the situation is to bite back. Why would the experience for the child be any different if they are being bitten by the parent they love and trust as oppose to a teacher or carer?
Then the other question I’d raise is how hard would one need to bite their baby to be effective? Because my baby bites so hard she leaves a bruise and can break skin (see picture). Now if I was to bite her back, simply to demonstrate that teeth hurt, and if I responded with equal force then I’d leave a bruised and bloody mark on my beautiful babies skin.
But I’m sure that people saying you should bite your baby aren’t suggesting I bite her so hard that it leaves a mark? Right? Surely?!? Surely nobody is suggesting any adult bite a baby so hard that they cause harm? It doesn’t take much to leave a mark on a baby or toddlers precious skin so really you couldn’t bite them with any force. No I haven’t tested this but I can imagine. Will that even get the point across? Aside from a demonstration that biting doesn’t hurt or cause harm. I suspect that’s going to achieve nothing.
So then finally you’ve taught your baby or toddler what precisely? That biting is a reasonable form of communication for when we have no words to communicate what it is that we are experiencing. How about as an adult being the bigger person? If you are feeling frustrated that you cannot find a way to explain to your baby or toddler that biting isn’t acceptable, what about extending some empathy to your child because now you understand what it feel like to not be able to communicate in words and that they are only biting because they have no better way to express themselves.
Sorry I have no answers, my baby is biting me frequently too, and its painful and frustrating. I don’t think I can MAKE her stop, but I’m trying to distract her, redirect her and also starting to learn how to anticipate getting bitten so I can dodge! And we are slowly getting some improvement over time – I’m hoping its simply a phase she will outgrow.