Love Bites

By Meika Rouda

I had something shocking happen yesterday. Asha and I were in music class, happily singing “Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care”  in a circle with the other moms and toddlers. Asha usually meanders during class, dancing around in the center of the circle, walking over to sit on other moms’ laps, or to hug other children. During the middle of the song, just as we were getting into the crescendo chorus, Asha walks over to a little boy, younger than she, and gives him a big hug.  I felt a surge of joy in my heart watching her love this little boy. Her hug kept going and she started to squeeze tighter. The little boy was no longer enjoying the hug. Our song continued “Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care…” and by now Asha had wrestled the boy to the ground and he is lying on top of her. She would not let go of him. He was crying now but her hug continued; she was unphased by his discomfort. His mom and I jumped up, attempting to release Asha’s iron grip and just as I was prying her arms off him, she turns her face to his cheek and bites him. Yes BITES HIM. The boy started to cry.  His cheek was bleeding. I was in shock. “Did she just bite him?” I ask the other mom, as the song continues in the background, “Yes” she says matter of factly.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Asha is crying, livid that I have released the boy from her grip. I take her out of the class and into the lobby. The other mom is in the bathroom cleaning the boy’s wound. I tell Asha, NO BITING. She stares at me blankly. She is 16 months old and expressing emotion in any way is a top priority, even if it means biting. I calm her down and check on the little boy. The mom is nice and reassuring “These things happen, I know she was just trying to love him.” I sort of felt better but I was also embarrassed and I had to go back into the class with my daughter, the biter, and finish singing. Yikes.

The other mom returned to the room before me, with kleenex attached to her son’s cheek to stop the bleeding. After a few more minutes I return with Asha. I sit down, away from the little boy, and resume my singing, trying to contain Asha and keep her on my lap. She will not sit still; she needs to wander. She headed right back to the little boy. The mom picks him up to protect him from the biter -aka my child. Asha walks over to another little girl and the mom delicately picks up her daughter. “Shit”, I think to myself. Her reputation is ruined, no one wants their kid near the biter. I continue to sing and act as normal as possible. Whenever Asha wanders off I follow her and pick her up. I spend the rest of class monitoring her every move. After class I apologize again to the mom and boy. She is understanding but I also know she will never let her kid be near mine again. My only comfort is that the class ends in two weeks and I don’t think I will be signing up again. I see the teacher and apologize for the interruption. She assures me biting is a normal process of development and happens all the time. She reminds me that toddlers just don’t know what to do with all the emotions they feel. She also says Asha is a very smart girl and very loving and I shouldn’t worry at all. The bite was not malicious, it was just an emotional surge. I feel slightly better.

Our biggest job as parents is to protect our kids so how do we do that when you feel like they are being maligned? What makes it worse is that Asha can’t talk, she can’t tell me what she is feeling, she can’t directly apologize or acknowledge that what she did was wrong. I hope her biting isn’t a habit, it is hard to watch your amazing child physically hurt someone.  But it wasn’t on purpose and I know in her heart she wants to express her love, she just needs more tools for that. I am not sure what music class will be like next week but I am not going to worry about what the other moms think. If they don’t want Asha near their kid that is fine, I can’t say I blame them but I also think as a group we can do a better job of helping one another teach our kids and act like a village instead of alienating a toddler for acting like a toddler.


  1. says

    Biting is a hard issue. I remember when I taught nursery school and we had an active biter and since the mouth carries so many germs if you break the skin it can be more serious so after watching this kid bite day in and day out I decided I, as the teacher, would bite him back, not hard enough to break the skin but hard enough so he knew how it felt. I would be arrested today but back 35 years ago, the Mom loved what I did when she picked him up as I explained why he had a slight bite bruise on his arm. The kid never ever bit again in school and he actually gravitated to me from then forward until I stopped teaching. I would not do that today but looking back it was effective for this one kid. Sometimes, knowing how it physically feels is what stops the behavior. Weird, I just remembered that story from my past. I might also say in my defense, the kids were a lot freer back in the day so there was a different attitude to all that stuff then. Now with helicopter parents hovering, I see how it is easier to pick up their kids than try and diffuse the situation with some strong talk. I wouldn’t worry unless this is a new issue which gets out of hand. Space and boundaries is hard to teach and learn and even some adults don’t understand.:)

  2. Jennifer Thomas says

    Our oldest was a big biter. Coincidentally she was and still is a full body, strong hugger! We played a game about things we bite with our teeth. Ice cream? Yes. Little sister? No. Our blanket? Yes. Etc. it oftentimes would become a funny game. We also got a flip book called “Hands are For” (I think). It helped her begin to associate her emotions with actions.

    We eventually got past the biting but to this day we have to remind her to hug people gently. I am very self-conscious about her passion for connecting with others. But I have to remind myself that that is my baggage. Maya will figure out boundaries soon enough.

    Good luck!

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