Suspended

Yesterday, around 10:30am, I got the call: my son had bit yet another classmate–the third biting incident this week–and was being suspended for two full days. 

My husband picked him up yesterday morning. He can’t go back until Wednesday. 

At the meeting with the director we will discuss how to proceed. Part of that discussion will focus on when they have sufficient grounds to kick our son out.

I really don’t know what to do. He knows he shouldn’t bite. He can recite the text from “Teeth are Not for Biting” verbatim. He is constantly telling us that teeth are for eating, not friends. He KNOWS all of this, but when his friend won’t hand over the ball he’s asked for on the playground, my son bites.

The last time we had a problem with biting at school (when he was suspended for one day), he was also biting at home. We could watch when it was happening, intervene and help him through his big feelings. Now we don’t see any biting at home, even though he gets frustrated plenty. I have no idea why all of the sudden he’s biting every day at school.

This was already such a hard week at work, to be worried about getting a call to pick up my kid because he bit someone compounded my stress exponentially. Now I need to take a day off next week to stay home with my son.

I really don’t know what to do. I don’t agree with the preschool’s policy on biting, and I recognize that we should seriously consider finding another care provider (or that we may have to if we get kicked out), but there are so few quality daycares in the city, I doubt we could find a spot for him on such short notice. 

I’ve read enough to know that the next step is assigning our son a “shadow teacher” to watch him closely and interven when he bares his teeth. I don’t know if the school has the personnel for that kind of one-on-one attention, or if they will allow us to pay someone to do it. I want to believe they will be willing to support us, but I’ve seen them come to logger jams with the families of other boys who are having “issues.”

I hate feeling powerless and helpless, and potentially totally fucked. Sometimes being a working parent is so incredibly complicated. Between the guilt I feel for having to put him in care because I work, and how thoroughly we depend on our daycare to provide that service, I don’t know how to think about this rationally. The whole situation is crazy making, especially when I have no idea how or when it might be resolved. 

19 Comments

  1. Sorry you are going through this. I try to be measured in my advice regarding childcare but I would start looking for a new daycare as soon as possible. It makes no sense to suspend an almost 3 year old for biting. The punishment is completely developmentally inappropriate. Suspension will accomplish nothing and if anything will incentivize more biting because he gets to stay home with his parents or grandparents. This response angers me so much. I really want to know their justification.

    1. “if anything will incentivize more biting because he gets to stay home with his parents or grandparent,” <-- This is exactly what I am thinking and I've already stated as much in an email. Our meeting is Monday afternoon. I can't imagine they'll have an explanation I find acceptable.

    2. Agreed. This policy is ridiculous and it would make me question the quality of the daycare if they suspend a 3 yr old for biting. Hope you get some answers and find another daycare soon. Not great timing as you just start your school year.

  2. I’m sorry you’re facing this. I don’t really have any advice either, though having worked in a daycare where the director didn’t suspend for biting, I know first hand the reaction of the parents to find the culprit and it got ugly quick (like parents removing the biter due to threats from other parents). Biting is such a hard one and it hits on primal fears.

    I think looking into another daycare, though hard, is sound. But what about a nanny? He may need more one-on-one time as some kids struggle in larger group settings. Nanny shares are common and can often be a lot more affordable.

    What ever happens, I’m thinking of you. This stuff is just plain hard.

    1. Nannies in SF charge $25/hr+. Even with a nanny share we can’t afford that, even if we’re splitting it with someone. We still have three more years of day care ahead of us, so unfortunately we need to seriously consider the financial aspect. Most good day cares have long wait lists, so I really worry about getting him in somewhere good.

      1. I not familiar with SF’s childcare situation, so I can’t comment on what nannies charge. The reason I suggested it is I’ve actually found nannies to be a cheaper option both in Boston, Seattle, Washington DC and Portland. Especially with the nanny shares, where you split the cost with another family. We didn’t go this route for a number of reasons, but others we know have even just for transitions.

        But yes, nannies can be very expensive. We knew of one that made $90k a year, but she did housekeeping, cooking and general family maintenance. It was truly impressive to watch her in action.

      2. Maybe look into an in-home daycare. Those tend to be cheaper. I’m sorry you are going through this. I don’t think you need to leave immediately — I’m sure he is safe and well cared for. But if this continues to be an issue, you will want to have another option. Since finding child care takes so long, you may as well start looking now.

  3. Matthew went through an aggressive phase and every single time I’d get him out of the gym daycare, I had to sign an incident report. It was so incredibly stressful that I quit taking him. And it was always over something stupid, like pushing back HARDER than the kid pushed him first. Many times, the director said it was the parents requesting the reports, and my kid had come home bitten several times and I never requested a report because, “kids bite,” I’d say as we left. It was soooooo stressful. And that was just the YMCA child care. So I truly, truly feel for you.

    Kids bite, they push, and their punishment is insane at your daycare. Unreal.

  4. Whoa. I can’t believe this- what an inappropriate consequence for something totally developmentally normal. I’m so sorry. I hope the meeting goes well and you will have a clear picture of how to proceed from here- I’m so sorry an already stressful year has started with yet another stressor.

  5. Let’s be clear. At that age suspension is punishment of the parent not the child. And, it is not effective in changing child behavior if the parent is already doing what you are doing about biting. Do tell the school what you have been doing and ask for concrete additional steps you can take. Ask if the biting has occurred in similar situations that are identifiable, if son needs to be within 1 foot of a teacher at all times during such activities. Ask the school what proactive steps they are taking to help son not be alone with any ‘bite-ee child’, and if ‘bite-ee children’ are sharing or taunting or excluding your son … this doesn’t make biting ok but it is identifiable as a situation that your son is triggered to bite in. Also if the bitten child is different each time or always the same child. Ask if parents of bitten child would allow you and son and the bitten child to practice playing together on weekends; perhaps they could also be present at the practice play time at a playground. Does it happen at about the same time of day, could it be tired or hungry interrupting son’s self-control? It is a tough problem.

    AND, as the parent of the one being bitten I’d want the school to be really pro-active to protect my child. Because sometimes children bite others on the face or small appendages like ears or nose or fingers and can really cause damage. I KNOW YOU UNDERSTAND THIS ALREADY and YOU ARE TRYING TO TEACH YOUR SON TO NOT BITE. But he is anyway. So the school is under lots of pressure; which I also know you already understand.
    Any chance your in-laws can help? Or is that cost even higher than the nanny (which doesn’t mean just $ cost)? What I heard about nanny rates in SF makes the 25+ be really really on the PLUS side of that number.
    Above all I send support and understanding and wish that helped more.
    Please let us know what ideas the school has. THANK YOU. HUGE good wishes!

  6. Discipline of kids that age is the worst. Little Monster started being bitten then would bite the biter if he even hinted she might get bitten so I have been on both sides with childcare. We had in home licensed care and neither kid got suspended although there was talk of the biter getting released from care in month 2 or 3 of frequent biting of all the other kids when nothing was improving it. I felt our childcare provider did a great job managing the whole thing, so maybe there’s a sane childcare provider near you who luckily has an opening? This time of year with new kindergarteners there are more openings than other times of the year. Little Monster was wait listed for 8 months and then dropped from the wait list in July, but we signed her up again 2 weeks ago and she starts at the big center tomorrow.

  7. Shaming or punishment doesn’t solve anything and in my opinion, probably doesn’t reduce it happening again. I wish you luck my friend and hope the school can help you and explain wth is going on.

  8. Two of my kids were each repeatedly bitten for a while. I can tell you that it is very frustrating to pick up your kid 2-3 times a week with visible bite marks. I know I wished for the little girl who repeatedly bit my youngest son to just not be there any more; it certainly didn’t contribute to my empathy that the little girl’s older brother bit my older kid 4 years prior. I knew it was developmentally appropriate, but when your kid is getting hurt, you just want it to stop. It didn’t seem like they could do anything about it, because my son kept being bitten for several months, and I was getting ready to move him elsewhere, which was infuriating on many levels. The daycare-center director was adamant about not punishing the biter for what is developmentally appropriate behavior (they were 1 at that time), so there was never any talk of suspension of the little girl, even though she bit many kids and repeatedly so (my son was her favorite target, presumably because they played together a lot).

    What finally helped is that they moved my son up a little early (moved him to the class with 2-year-olds the second he turned 2 as opposed to at at the end of summer, as originally planned), so he and the little girl who bit him were separated for a while. She joined him several months later, which filled me with dread, but fortunately the biting never resumed. It seems that, in the first classroom, they just were unable to keep tabs on her well enough, to see on time when she was starting to get frustrated and going to bite; I think that the next classroom simply had better teachers, who were more skilled at anticipating issues and redirecting the kids’ attention when conflict arose. Also, the first classroom was really small and honestly felt claustrophobic; maybe the little girl was feeling uneasy. The new classroom had better layout and a better chance for redirection of a frustrated kid’s focus.

    Does your son bite only certain kids? There is something or someone in the classroom where he currently is that causes him lots of frustration. I would try moving him to a different classroom if possible. Good luck!

  9. Oh man I’m not sure what to do. Suspension is clearly OTT but if I was he parent I would be upset if it was My kid. Funnily enough we’ve been on the receiving end of a kid scratching Molly’s neck two weeks in a row and causing her to bleed. This post has helped me not get to irate but you know what i would like would be to know the parents are being proactive about it – maybe you could offer to speak to offended parents to let them know you are aware of it and have taken steps to teach him to stop??? That would be all I need.

  10. I’ve been on both sides of this, and while it is hard to have your child come home with bite marks, I have NEVER heard of a daycare suspending a pre-schooler for biting! What could they be hoping to accomplish other than appease the other parents/get a break from watching your kid?! I agree its a punishment on YOU and will do nothing to deter him from biting in the future. I don’t think a daycare with that policy is going to right for your son long term.

  11. Being a childcare provider, I may have a differing opinion on this, but I had a child I watched that was a biter. She often bit other children on the face, arms, and had broken skin and caused other kids to bleed. It was a really rough situation, and the girl’s mom and I were really close friends.
    Every incident of biting, I documented it and then would try to talk the little girl through her feelings. At the time, there was a lot of stress and tension in her home life (they just had a new baby sister!) which her mom and I believed both attributed to her acting out and biting at daycare.
    That being said, we both came to a mutual agreement that it would be best if her mother (the girls grandma) watched her for the remaining 3 weeks of the school year. That way, the grandma could give 1 on 1 attention and really focus on what was going on. It really was an attention and adjustment issue, and the biting was the girls way of figuring her place out in daycare and place in her new family. The decision to have grandma come, not only saved our friendship and we are still friends, but I still love this little girl (who did outgrow the biting) and is one of my sons favorite friends to play with.

    I do understand the day cares position on biting and the suspension. They can’t be liable or have children biting other children. It’s one thing if it’s a one time deal, but when the behavior continues and becomes a pattern, the daycare is forced to act. They have to keep the daycare a safe place for all students, and unfortunately that results in some children being removed. Another perspective is in classroom settings: when you have a student being disruptive and you’ve tried everything to get them to refocus and refuse, often it can be helpful to have them take a break, or remove them from the situation/classroom because their behavior is causing other students to be unable to focus and learn.

    Do you feel like your son is getting quality care at this daycare? It may be worth trying to find someone else to watch him, then to continue to battle the biting at school. Maybe he is using biting as a way of showing you that something isn’t right with the daycare/class/kids there? Is he being bullied at all there or treated differently by the teachers because he bites? Kids can sense so much, maybe that’s part of what’s going on?

    Just a different perspective on this. Not trying to cause problems or anything at all. I feel for you and your son. This is such a difficult decision for you all.

  12. I would definitely start looking for another daycare, even if you can’t get in right away. We had a similar issue (not biting but same idea) and it happened to fall at the end of a school year so I volunteered in the classroom to see what was happening and whether I could help find triggers or as it happened. What I saw really appalled me about how the daycare managed the kids and I didn’t want my son there. They had the same track record of running off little boys.

    Basically they staffed to the minimum level required by the state and didn’t provide enough activities and toys for the kids. Since they weren’t encouraging them to do anything constructive or positive, all the interaction between the staff and the kids was telling them “no” to all the things they didn’t want kids doing. With nothing better to do, of course many of the more active kids defaulting into pushing other kids or taking toys. It was a beautiful daycare, but seeing the day-to-day interactions made me wish we had pulled my son much sooner. We were much happier with the replacement daycare we found, it wasn’t as bright and shiny but we appreciated how caring and involved the staff was with the kids a lot more than we would have without the negative experience!

    One of the red flags was that the art projects were all gorgeous but completely age inappropriate (there’s no way 2 year olds did most of the project, they each did 10 seconds at the end maybe). I’d say age inappropriate discipline could also be a red flag.

  13. I’m sorry I didn’t respond to this earlier. I agree with everyone that the suspension is ridiculous and will teach your son nothing. I do think that you should start looking for another daycare. You may find one you like better, but it will also ease the stress of knowing he may get kicked out of this one if you know you have other options.

    What strategies have they tried with him to get him to stop? I understand that it’s normal for them to want you to work on it at home, but they need to be doing something too. Maybe figuring out patterns of when it happens, keeping him away from particular kids, a sticker chart for bite-free days. What do they do at the time when he bites, aside from calling you? Does he go in time-out, lose some kind of privilege?

    I was so stressed during the time that I thought we might get kicked out of our old preschool (and eventually were). I didn’t like them at all, and part of me probably subconsciously wasn’t following the rules because I wanted the decision to be made for us instead of having to make it myself. It took a LOT of research, but we ended up with a new preschool that I really like! I am really happy there. (interestingly, in support of Dana’s point, the old preschool had lots of cutesy art projects that the teacher probably did 80% of. At the new preschool, C comes home every day with scribbles on a piece of paper).

    So anyway, it’s taken me a long time to get rid of the cloud of feeling like this was my problem. At the new preschool, I am not a problem parent. Just a regular parent. I wish this could happen for you, too.

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