Wednesday, 16 March 2016

A toothy subject...

Nope. It's not 2-year-old molars. It's actual biting.

Jimmy being bitten to be specific.

Yeah. Not. Cool.

After work yesterday, Michael and I went to pick Jimmy up from daycare school*. He was happily playing in a different room with a few of his classmates** and he was happy to see Daddy. I was chatting with one of the teachers, picking up Jimmy's things.

I looked over the wall that separates the two class rooms*** and Jimmy saw me. His face light up and he was excited to see me. I asked if he was ready to go home. He said "YES!" and stood up.

Now, while this was happening, the only other child in the room was trying to close the door, but it's tricky. It's a little bolt (there are bolts on each side - because toddlers), so he was fiddling with it.

Jimmy rushed to the door because he was ready to go home. He stood next to this child and I heard him say:

"No, don't..."

Now, it was either "don't go out there" or "don't! I'm going out there"...

Jimmy brushed the child's hand away and then Jimmy screamed.

He bellowed! He clutched the inside of his right elbow and cried.

The teachers quickly asked if Jimmy had been bitten. I told them that I hadn't seen any biting, that I'd seen the other child's face the whole time. It was probably a nasty pinch.

Michael scooped Jimmy up into his arms and we all saw the teeth marks. Totally not cool. The appropriate fuss was made over Jimmy and he was given an "ice pack", a small, wet square of sponge in a ziplock bag that had been frozen.

Everyone made a suitable fuss over Jimmy and I expressed understanding because these things happen. They shouldn't, but they do. The biter was taken out of that room and set down in front of the playground door****.

It took Jimmy about 30 mins to really get over it and then he was back to his usual self.

But this is the second time this has happened in the last week and Jimmy has been a little clingy at drop off since that event. And he was clingy at this morning's drop off. The teachers have been really good about this, but it's sad that a place Jimmy has felt safe at is now somewhere where he has felt unsafe.

And it's not his fault! Ok, so he can be bossy assertive and he is bigger and older than the biter, so the biter may have felt threatened, may have been tired, but violence is not acceptable and is never the solution.

The biter has recently started at the school and is not coping. There are any number of reasons the biter did what they did. I'm not trying to excuse the behaviour, I'm trying to understand it. These are children and they are learning so much, it can be tough and when they are overwhelmed they act out.

It might help Jimmy if he understands why the biter acts out the way they do, not so that Jimmy can tip-toe around them but so that Jimmy might help the biter feel safe at school and be less likely to bite other students. If Jimmy and the biter were a few years older, it would be possible to explain to Jimmy that making friends with the biter would help the biter settle into their new normal.

I want Jimmy to understand that the biter might have felt threatened but I don't know how to do this without it coming over as victim blaming. I want Jimmy to understand that if the biter did feel threatened there might be better ways to interact with them (without tip-toeing). And I want Jimmy to understand that we all deal with stress and perceived confrontation in different ways - and that some methods are more acceptable than others.

As the biter is younger than Jimmy, making both of them 2 years old, I think the situation requires understanding and compassion towards both parties. As parents though, we are fairly removed from what happens at the school, we have to leave the majority of the conflict-resolution to the teachers. The current status is "keep them apart" and Michael and I told Jimmy that he can avoid the biter.

I would be mortified if Jimmy bit another child and I don't know how we would address it, especially after the fact, which is usually how it happens with school. It's easy enough to explain things in the moment (yes, Jimmy has bitten me, but I'm his mum, it's not cool but it's different), but at 2 years old, talking about things that happened a few hours ago can be tricky.

Fingers crossed this situation blows over and the biter settles in (and loses that title). In the meantime, any advice would be greatly appreciated.

*They call everything from daycare to university "school". It creates a little confusion. Oh well.
**We roll with this "school" theme.
***There are three classrooms in the one room, separated by chest-height barriers, i.e. storage, shelving, and change tables. There are little, hip-height doors between the different classrooms (and a security door as the main entrance) and Jimmy's classroom has a door to the playground.
****A "sit down" is what they call it. It works best when the classroom is full and the naughty child has to sit out on the fun activities until they show an understanding that they have shown something to upset one of their classmates. It's good because the naughty child is missing out because of something they did, it's very gentle yet still makes the naughty child upset. In an empty classroom the biter was not put out.

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