It's OK to Bite Your Kids

biteEvery once in awhile, a mom crops up in the news for biting her kids. And we all gnash our terrible teeth like Max from Where the Wild Things Are and roar some terrible roars about what a terrible mother she is.

We get it. To borrow a phrase from kiddie cult hit Yo Gabba Gabba!: "Don't bite your friends."

But is all mom on kid biting created equal?


Take Catherine Beth Applegate. She's a Pennsylvania mom who police say bit her two sons on the face, back, and arms because money was missing from her purse. She was arrested. Which makes for a pretty clear case of crazy Mama with no clue how to handle her temper (or her kids).

She's probably the worst case scenario. Which means there's a best case. Let's call her Mom Number Two.

She's every mom. She's the woman whose kid is a biter of the first degree. He's been sent home from pre-school. He's been dubbed the kid to keep away from on the playground. And now he's turning those teeth on the family.

So she bites him. Once. On the arm. Not hard, but just hard enough. She doesn't do it again, because there's no need. The shock value was enough.

Is there a difference between these two women? Sure, there is. Enough that even this non-spanking mom has a pretty easy time saying Applegate was dead wrong, but finds herself hemming and hawwing when it comes time to condemn Mom Number Two.

She's no saint, but she's not a child abuser, is she? The U.S. National Library of Medicine identifies child abuse as "doing something or failing to do something that results in harm to a child or puts a child at risk of harm."

Surely leaving your child to bite everyone is putting them in harm's way. You might as well count the days until another kid on the playground snaps and throws sand in his eyes. Or worse. And what if the biting is being inflicted on a younger sibling? If that's not "harm to a child," what is?

I'd like to gnash my terrible teeth and proclaim biting your kids a horrible indignity. In black and white, it is. But we don't live in a black and white world. For every Applegate, there is a Mom Number Two.

Are these moms committing the same sin?


Image via AlishaV/Flickr

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