Once bitten, twice shy

Last night, I yelled at my daughter louder than I’ve ever yelled at her before. Possibly louder than I’ve ever yelled before.

First, a little background…

Earlier in the week, after picking my daughter up from Big Girl School, I was emptying her lunch bag. I came across a note, and opened it up.


Oh, crap.

Apparently, she had bitten one of the kids at school. And left a mark.

I asked her about it, and she told me she bit the child’s shirt. I told her no, she bit him, as well. And left a mark. And hurt him. After a bit more talk, she said she understood (a) not to bite, (b) not to retaliate, and (c) the possible consequences, such as being asked to leave school (which I think scares us more than it scares her).

I thought we were good.

(Find out if we were after the jump… though I think you parents already know the answer)
Then, last night, as I was carrying her up to bed, playing our usual “zombie game”, and she bit my shirt. “Uh — no biting,” I told her. She bit again. This time, she got more than shirt.

Oh… my… God… that hurts. I set her down. I was actually shaking a bit. I couldn’t believe she bit me. I couldn’t believe she didn’t listen to me (okay, I don’t know why this always surprises me). I couldn’t believe how much it hurt.

I would never hit my child, so all I could think to do was scream. I couldn’t believe how my voice sounded. I yelled at her to just get in timeout. I think I even allowed a few mild-ish expletives to escape my lips.

My daughter looked scared. I walked away.

Ms. Kaz came up to finish up doling out the time out. Afterwards, my daughter came in to apologize. I tried to explain how much it hurt. My voice was more controlled, but still somewhat loud. We showed her the mark on my shoulder. Ms. Kaz asked my daughter to promise she would never bite again. I know it is foolish to expect a 3 year old to understand promises, but my daughter refused.

Being slightly angry (and still in a little pain), I walked away again.

After a little bit, I took over the “putting her to bed” duties from my wife. “Are you sure?” I was sure.

My daughter at first didn’t want me there. I think some of that was still being scared of me and my loud voice. Finally, things settled a bit. I asked for a hug, she gave me one. I explained to her that even though I get angry, I still love her and always will. I explained again about not biting anyone. She promised never to bite again.

Just before story time that night, my daughter said, “I love you, daddy.” I told her I loved her, too. She then told me, “And I’ll never bite you or hit you or kick you again.”

I feel a bit bad I yelled and made her scared. But I want her to realize the consequences of her actions. And, did I mention it really hurt? I guess it is those “fresh” teeth that haven’t been worn down from age and years of biting stuff, like our adult teeth.

Just before our bedtime, I told Ms. Kaz that I thought it was important for me to finish putting her to bed. I thought it was important that my daughter and I work this out together. Again, I don’t know if it will stop her. We’re a little scared we’ve got a Biter. We never thought she’d be one. And now we have to figure out how to make it stop.


7 Responses to Once bitten, twice shy

  1. That’s tough, very tough. But I don’t think you should feel bad about letting her know how angry you were. Dudelet had a very short biting phase when he was two and we instituted an utterly zero consequence “naughty corner” as a result. Recently, he went through a shoving and pushing phase – quite hard, aggressive behaviour sometimes with other smaller children – which culminated in a shoe flung from the top to the bottom of a staircase at (definitely at) supermum which caused her a lot of pain. That generated a long talking too and a lot of discussion. Supermum shut herself in her room in floods and that really scared him. No pushing since then (well, not anti-social pushing).

    All you can do is what you do – keep on about it if it happens again, work with the teachers. “Nobody said it was easy…” (I can’t believe I’m quoting bloody Coldplay!!!)

  2. Dan says:

    I think you made the right move. Sometimes kids have to know that something is completely unacceptable. If you were shouting at your kid every day then it wouldn’t work, but as you don’t it was a real shock.

    We had a next door neighbor when i was growing up who used to bit my siblings and me all the time. When we complained to her mother she used to say in a very gentle voice “Now Lucy, don’t do that it might hurt someone”. Bloody hippies.

  3. Darren says:

    Dan’s right; you did the right thing. Sometimes yelling is the only thing they respond too and remember…especially when yelling only happens rarely. I think it may still be a couple years for you until your daughter really starts to understand her actions and show some self-control…we’ve just reached that this year when Clare was five.

  4. shel says:

    When I was a small child, of about 4 years old, I bit a friend-on her face. Apparently I had a biting problem, but I remember no previous incident prior to this particular one, which was also the last time I ever bit anybody.

    My mom had finally “had it”, this was the last time her child would bite another individual. In response to the screaming in pain kid I bit, and the childs mom’s screaming about the spawn of the devil kid I was-my mom took my hand and said “want to know how this feels?!!! Of course I didn’t – since my friend was in obvious pain-so I started screaming “NO-MOM, NO-MOM…and believe it or not my mom BIT ME! right on the soft fleshy part of my hand, between my thumb and index finger! WOW, not one of my better memories. However, I can report her method of resolving my biting problem was successful-50 years later and I can happily report I have still never bitten anyone since!

    I am sure my mom was traumatized by this event as well, since she also has never forgotten it.

    Sometimes it hurts to be the grown up, but in order to raise responsible, moral, children we need to make them realize there will always be consequenses equal to their actions. And, the sooner they learn this the better. I would rather learn this lesson from someone who loves me, unconditionally, rather than from a stranger, who is only interested in doling out a punishment-not a lesson.

  5. paula says:

    I think you handled the aftermath really well … understanding anger and then how to “make up” afterwards is a crucial skill for her to learn (and not an easy one, by any means). Well done!

  6. Henitsirk says:

    I’m there with you! Some of the loudest yelling I’ve ever done has been when my kids have hurt me. After, I felt really bad about it, but then I agree that they need to see clearly that it hurts and must not happen again.

    I also think your instinct to finish up bedtime was right on. As long as you feel you can control yourself (sometimes parents need time out too) then it’s good to show that you can forgive and still be loving. That’s what we want them to do!

    One thing about biting: some kids do it because in the moment they are overloaded with emotion and don’t know how to let it out, which could have been the situation at school. Other times I think they just do things like that to test out social situations, which could be what she did at bedtime. Around here we’re working on “use your words instead of hurting,” which doesn’t always work with the 3 year old, but it’s starting to work incrementally.

  7. aalize says:

    This parenting gig is HARD. All the best. 🙂

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