My son is a biter. I know he’s a biter; his day care knows he’s a biter. Why, then, was he set up to fail? By day care. Here’s what happened.
We’ve been seeing some real improvements on the biting issue. My son, for his part, was elated that he’d found deep within himself control mechanisms he didn’t know he had. On the occasions that he really wanted to take a chunk out of something (or someone), I could see those common sense pistons firing away, which prevented him from giving in. When asked if he used his teeth to bite, he’d enthusiastically confirm “no!”
Great control, my son!
Then, his day care did the illogical.
First, some context. I live in Spain and the people here have what I think is a totally absurd playground custom, which involves making toddlers give one another besitos (little kisses) for any and all behavioral infringements. Like, “Oh he pushed you? Besito.” Or, “Oops, she tried to take one of your gusanitos? Besito.”
It’s very sweet to see two adults in miniature pucker up for an “I’m sorry” kiss, but it’s a gesture that has nothing to do with the toddlers themselves. It has everything to do with the parents not wanting to look like total barbarians in spite of their children’s behavior. Trust me, the charade is totally awkward and the kids end up looking at each other like:
“What happened, man?”
“I don’t know. I think I’m supposed to be offended or something.”
“Oh. Sorry. I guess. Uh ... ¿besito?”
It makes me cringe every time.
Last week my little guy was involved in a typical toddler altercation. All the kids in his day care group were having lots of fun rolling around on the floor until one little girl decided she should be the only one rolling around on the floor, so she chased off everyone else ... my son stood his ground ... she pushed him, he fell, hit his head, and subsequently cried.
Then, seconds later his day care provider tried to enforce the besito rule! What do you think happened? My son, the biter, reverted when this little girl came within biting distance for a kiss. It was like he was channeling Hannibal Lecter, I’m told -- a complete disaster.
It gets worse. The parents of the little girl who was bitten were told, “It was that curly headed foreign kid over there,” and word quickly spread. Now, the day care woman pointedly tells me the parents are making threats to the tune of “it’s either our child that goes or him.”
It’s an extremely humiliating situation, but looking at the sequence of events, the day care is completely at fault. I’m in no way condoning my son’s biting problem. Biting is bad, and, boy, does he know it. His biting has resulted in abandoned trips to the playground, lost treats, stern reprimands, and beyond, each time doled out with exacting consistency. For a while “Ezra, No. Biting is bad!” was like his formal name with a giant exclamation point attached.
But, this whole besito thing fails to take into account that there are feelings behind toddler pushes, kicks, and even bites. These are feelings they cannot express with words and no amount of kissing is going to alleviate those frustrations. Simply put, toddlers are allowed to be pissed off! They’re people, too.
What the day care provider should have done was given the girl time to calm down and respected the same need for my son. By not doing so, she put the girl in harm’s way and set up my son to, well, fail at all the hard no biting! work we’ve been doing.
Not only that, by pointing him out for all the parents to see, she’s given him a reputation he’s going to have a hard time living down. It makes me mad.
That is why I’m dressing my son up as a vampire for Halloween. If they don’t get the irony, maybe they’ll get the point.
What do you think? Should the day care have given both kids some time to calm down? Would you dress your child as a vampire if you were in my situation?
Image via pasukaru76/Flickr