If you recall, DC2′s wonderful daycare went out of business because they mismanaged a theft and couldn’t meet operating expenses. As a stop-gap measure, we enrolled DC2 at DC1′s private school’s associated daycare until ze hit 18 months and could enroll at the next youngest Montessori preschool in town. Doing this was nice because it was one stop shopping for both kids at drop-off and pick-up.
However, although the private school daycare was not a bad daycare, it was also not a great daycare. The kids weren’t mistreated, rules were followed etc., but it didn’t follow the guidelines for high quality daycare. It didn’t follow the minimum guidelines either, but instead of a 4/1 teacher ratio for kids DC2′s age, there was a 6/1 teacher ratio. And instead of involving the kids in setting up and cleaning up like Montessori schools do, generally there was one teacher cleaning up or setting up and the other teacher interacting with 12 kids all at the same time (or with just 1 kid at a time while the remaining 11 were on their own).
On top of that, DC2 went from 4 teeth to 12 teeth during hir duration at that daycare.
The lack of supervision plus the teething plus DC2′s personality… not a good combination. The main teacher often said it wasn’t a big deal and sometimes the other kid deserved it, which, of course, didn’t make us feel any better about the situation. They introduced DC2 to pacifiers (ironically at an age that most parents try to remove the pacifier). Eventually we got enough bite slips that we got called in for a parent-teacher conference with the preschool director and the school director. Ze wasn’t malevolent, they said, ze just bit when ze was protecting hir stuff or someone crowded hir too much.
The solution we came up with was to offer to pay for a third teacher in the room for a month during DC2′s prime biting hours. (DH graphed out the bites and discovered a pattern to the timing– mainly when the kids were least supervised.) $581.31 brought the student-teacher ratio down to 4/1. The head teacher for the room was ecstatic. DC2 only bit twice during that time period, once when the third teacher was sick and didn’t show up, and once at a non-standard time when there was a fight over a toy. DC2 was caught almost biting a few times in addition to that.
Having the third teacher there also made the room much more like a high quality daycare. The kids became more animated and less likely to stare and crowd any parent who came in. (Seriously creepy the way they did that, poor neglected kids.) DC2 also stopped screaming bloody murder when dropped off. It was tempting to continue paying for the third teacher after the time was over (and DC2 did bite a couple more times after that), but at that point we’d already put in our month notice for the change in daycare.
There hasn’t been a single bite at the new daycare. It is very much like the old daycare. There’s two main teachers and plenty of floaters. There are 10 kids and 2 teachers in the room and a third teacher (a floater) is usually there during the main hours. Kids don’t fight. When they disagree about toys, the person who has the toy has property rights and the other kid is reminded of that and redirected before a fight can occur. It isn’t accepted as something that kids will do (and that sometimes results in biting) like at the private school’s daycare. DC2 happily waves bye-bye when DH drops hir off in the morning, and for a week or so was having such fits when I picked hir up that I wouldn’t be surprised if the teachers thought I beat hir. (Though part of that was that ze wanted mommy milk right away, but their parking lot isn’t really big enough for me to feel right taking a space during busy pick-up times so we can nurse, especially given that home is less than 5 min away. DC2, if you weren’t fussing, we’d already be at home and you could be having as much mommy milk as you wanted! We solved this problem by having me pick up DC1 instead.)
My thought, though this is certainly no randomized controlled experiment, is that good quality daycares have only limited biting because the kids are busy and conflicts are managed before they really become conflicts. Some kids have greater propensity to bite than others, but it’s still really the daycare’s responsibility to take care of that. But who knows!