On preschools and biting: Part 1– the story

DC2 is a biter again.

To catch new readers up, DC2’s wonderful daycare went out of business because of financial difficulties stemming from a theft.  Ze learned to bite at a second temporary daycare at DC1’s school that had too high of student/teacher ratios.

Then we moved to another daycare that was great.  DC2 stopped biting.  Ze started saying “STAHP!”  There was re-direction, conflict management.  It was great.

Then DC2 aged into the next room.  The room where the two main teachers had been fired a few months previously because one of them claimed the other one disciplined a child with hitting, but waited to make the complaint longer than required by law (which would be immediately).  The replacement teachers… aren’t as good.

DC2 started crying at drop-off.

And eventually, ze started biting again.  And being bitten, though not quite as much as ze bites.

Every incident report was the same.  Other kid tried to take the toy DC2 was playing with, so DC2 bit hir.

They tried pacifiers.  They tried tylenol.  The assistant director, who is a huge bully, called me back to the front desk one day before picking up DC2 to sign the latest incident report and loudly quizzed me about the problem in front of a bunch of other parents.  She actually did that twice.  The third time I yelled at her… but more on that in a few paragraphs.

Eventually we decided it wasn’t teething that was the problem.  We noticed that ze had stopped saying “Stop” at home and had stopped putting hir arm out to indicate to stay away to DC1.

We also noticed my colleague’s kid was no longer attending the daycare, and asked why.  Turns out their kid was kicked out for biting.  At the new place, my colleague said, hir kid bit once and then hasn’t since.

When DC2 got an incident for biting another kid because ze wanted the other kid’s toy… that’s when we put two and two together.  All of the previous incidents involved someone trying to take what DC2 was playing with.  Why weren’t they addressing this extremely common children’s problem.  Why didn’t they have property rights or sharing or trading or some system of management so kids knew what the rules were about playing with toys?  What happened between the first room and the second room?  Why didn’t they address the root of the problem?  Why were they just focusing on bandaid solutions after the incident and then yelling at me (note, always at me, never at DH, despite the fact that DH does 80% of the pick-ups and something like 98% of drop-offs, because the assistant director is a sexist bully) about it?

DH started observing carefully in the morning and afternoon and would report to me that the main teacher in the mornings didn’t notice kids unless they were crying.  The other teacher was a little bit better, but neither of them were any good with incidents.  They moved from disciplining one kid to another, always disciplining the kid first and ignoring the kid who was crying.

So I mentioned to the daycare director (while signing another bite report) that my husband had been observing the room and he’d noticed that the teachers didn’t seem to be as experienced as the ones in the 18 mo room.  I mentioned that DC2 didn’t bite in the 18 mo room.  I asked what their culture was with regards to property rights– did they do sharing or let the kid who was playing with the toy keep playing… she said they did taking turns so the teacher would let the kid who had it keep playing and then come back later and give it to the other kid if she remembered.  I requested that she observe the teachers and see what she thought.  She asked which teachers, and of course I didn’t know (since DH does the majority of drop-off and pick-up), so she went on and on about how two of the teachers were extremely experienced and on and on and I said, well, maybe it’s the college kids, and she got relieved and thought I’d been talking about the morning teachers.  Of course, it turns out that the college kids are the afternoon teachers who are doing fine and the “experienced” morning teachers who are terrible.

The last straw for me came when the assistant director accosted me again while I was signing an incident report and started going on and on about how at least this time, for the first time, DC2 had shown some compassion for the kid ze bit.  As if DC2 was some kind of sociopath.  UGH.  (Note:  this was NOT the first time DC2 said sorry and hugged or kissed the kid after, no matter what the assistant director thinks– in fact, ze has been doing that a lot because ze thinks that makes it ok to bite!).  So I repeated to her the things that I had told the director, only far more directly and far less diplomatically.  Readers, I may have spoken with her quite strongly. (As with many bullies, she backed down once I politely and firmly showed some spine.)

When I repeated many of the things DH had said specifically about the morning teachers, she got upset and went on and on about how one of them has 8 years experience in special ed.  As if special ed and 2 year old management have anything to do with each other.  Which I told her.  She also told me that the school’s version of conflict resolution is not taking turns, but sharing, which is something completely different!  She and the director don’t even agree on what the school’s policy is.  In any case, the teachers in that room aren’t doing EITHER.  I repeated that all I wanted was for them to observe and train.  She said since I was getting my information from my husband, would it be possible for me to observe?  I said I trusted my husband and have to work.  She ended as I was walking out the door saying that she *does* regularly observe the classes.  I rolled my eyes and bit my tongue, remembering how much the teachers in the 18 month room think she’s clueless (not that they said that in so many words, but they apologized profusely and left things unsaid because she “doesn’t really understand that accidents happen when you switch to underwear for the first time at school, bless her soul” when she was a bitch about DC2’s first day of potty training and sent us an email as if we hadn’t worked things out with the teachers ).

On the plus side, she hasn’t harassed me since, which is nice.

In fact, when DH went out of town this past week, for the first time the assistant director didn’t come up with some ridiculous excuse to keep DC2 out of school. (I don’t know if I complained here about how last time DH was out of town, she essentially accused me of faking a doctor’s note that DC2’s eczema wasn’t contagious and then called the doctor’s office and wouldn’t let DC2 in school even when they told her over the phone that it was ok so I had to spend a huge amount of money on last second childcare so I could teach and had to cancel a class and not get any work done for three days.  Even though my kid wasn’t sick!  It was awful.),  So I was able to view the classroom in the morning myself, briefly in a heart-breaking way on Tues and Wed before taking DC1 to school, and at length on that Monday because DC1 had an in-service day.

It was like lord of the flies.  Seriously.  Kids grabbing things from each other, screaming, hitting, pushing, the teacher trying to do a dozen things and giving up.  Punishing kids but not, again, getting at the root of the problem.  Each new kid crying woefully once getting there.  No wonder DC2 didn’t want to be dropped off.  It wasn’t a safe environment.  Now, DC2 loves the afternoon teachers and loves the second half of the day.  But it is easy to see why ze complains about the mornings.  Even DC1 commented on what a horrible job the teachers were doing once we hit the parking lot.

I talked to the third person who is occasionally in charge at the front desk– the director’s grown daughter.  She was sympathetic, but then said she didn’t know what their policy was on sharing/trading/kids grabbing toys.  She didn’t think they had one.  And she didn’t think that kids could learn conflict resolution at that age because they weren’t verbal enough.  I mentally face-palmed and told her she was wrong– after all, they communicated just fine in the 18 month room(!)

In the mean time, they haven’t done anything about the morning teachers.  They haven’t observed (unless the incompetent and unobservant assistant director has, but she’s an idiot with no childcare knowledge or background).  The director gave DH a print-out of the WebMD webpage about biting, which A. is woefully incomplete and B. they aren’t following anyway(!).  Drop-off continues to be painful and we wish I didn’t have morning classes and DH didn’t have a morning conference call he has to make.  Ze’s always playing happily in the afternoon though and claims to love daycare and her teachers… in the afternoon.  It’s not bad enough to pull hir out without a back-up plan yet.

DC2 doesn’t bite because ze’s a biter.  Ze bites because it’s the only way ze can protect hirself and the only way ze can get what ze wants in a badly run situation.  Biting is a symptom.  Biting is not the problem.

So we’re visiting other day cares (it took a while to get appointment times to work out).  Hopefully we’ll have a new one very soon.  If we do, we will probably pay two daycares in November while ze transitions, but it will be well worth it.  We’d been planning on doing a meeting with the director armed with knowledge, and the suggestion that they have their 18 mo teachers observe and train their 2 year teachers, but at this point it doesn’t seem worth it.  Especially since they’re not receptive to being told how to run their business, and it isn’t our job to tell them what to do.  Even though what they’re doing isn’t what they say they’re doing and what they’re doing isn’t working.  They must have just gotten lucky with that 18 month room.

Part 2 [which will post weeks from now] will detail some suggestions for what preschools should do to prevent biters from happening, emphasizing environmental factors, based on extensive reading and experiences with well run daycares and less well run ones.

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: , , . 24 Comments »

24 Responses to “On preschools and biting: Part 1– the story”

  1. Leah Says:

    I would be livid! I am angry on your behalf. How frustrating.

  2. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    Poor kid! I hope you find a daycare that suits your needs better. It seems like some environments are just toxic for certain kids for some reason. I know my sister switched daycares 3 or 4 times due to bad teachers/ biting/being bitten, etc. She eventually found one where there is no drama for some reason.
    My three-year-old bit for a while and finally stopped. We never pinpointed the cause or the reason so finally cut it out. It literally just stopped one day. She bit me on the shoulder so hard once that I thought she was going to take a chunk out. But, unlike your child, her biting incidents weren’t because we were taking something away from her. She was just being mean.

  3. hypatia cade Says:

    Once you get your child out, a call to whoever in your community regulates daycares might be appropriate?

  4. hypatia cade Says:

    Also – there are good and bad special ed teachers just like there are good and bad daycare providers. Special ed tends to pay more than daycare so I find it curious that this is where that “experienced” teacher landed.

  5. bogart Says:

    Oh, oof. I’m sorry you (all) are dealing with this and hope you are able to find something better soon.

  6. Cloud Says:

    Sending good vibes for a spot in a better day care to become available soon! Worrying about day care SUCKS.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      January! But we filled out the 10 page form and wrote a check and everything. As I noted in the comments on your post, ze’s currently been moved out of this room into the older kids’ room and things are temporarily better, though not perfect. (No biting since ze moved and no more screaming at drop-off.)

  7. MutantSupermodel Says:

    Ugh that is seriously shitty I am sorry. Hope you get out of there soon and into a better place.

  8. xykademiqz Says:

    Sorry to hear this. My kid was one often being bitten by a little girl when he was between 1 and 2. She was biting others as well, but he was her top choice perhaps because they played the most together. I have to admit I was getting exceedingly frustrated. It wasn’t until later that I realized how much of it can be curbed by teacher attention and proper space.
    The 1-year-old room was, I still think, too small for 8 kids. I think the little girl was getting stir-crazy.

    They moved my son up the second he turned 2, and he did great in a new space. Then a few months later they moved the little girl tin the same room as him, and I thought the biting would resume and was wondering what the hell they were thinking. It turns out, it happened once or twice but then became a nonissue. The teachers were better, more attentive at catching conflicts before they escalated. The classroom was larger and better structured, so there was always something else to do to diffuse the situation. And they were very good about promoting clear rules about toys and assertive behavior. My kid learned to say “No! No biting, C!” when she approached, and that was often enough to stop the biter.

    Good luck!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Being bored is one of the things they say in one of the books on biting that we got. That’s definitely a small component of DC2 here, as we’ve found out recently with her in the new room. But it’s really about the rules and culture and getting kids to communicate and knowing what to expect. There’s a post on this coming that’s as lengthy as this one, but with more of the things we’ve learned part of the experience.

      My DC1 was also always the bitee, never the biter, but it happened very infrequently! The culture was so very different at the two pre-schools ze went to.

      (DC2 is both the biter and the bitee, but more often the biter, though we think they don’t catch all bites since ze’ll occasionally tell us that one of the other students bit hir arm but we won’t have signed a form to that effect.)

  9. Sarabeth Says:

    That sounds pretty bad. I’m sorry. We just switched daycares this week for somewhat similar issues (management that just didn’t seem to be very good at what they do) and it is already so much better. No more having to stay late at drop-off while they hunt up another teacher in order to meet the legally mandated ratio. Once my husband was dropping our kid off in the infant room and she was the 7th kid with one teacher! The legal ratio is 1:4. That was the day we started looking for another center.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Ugh! This place is very zealous with rules, so that’s never been a problem (though to be honest, it was a problem with the daycare where DC2 learned to bite). We just know it can be so much better, you know?

  10. becca Says:

    My kiddo bit a couple of times, and I felt terribly horribly guilty because I did a lot of play-biting (like “OM NOM NOM your feet are so DELICIOUS!”). I stopped modeling it and it passed, but I would be pretty freaked out if my kid started biting because of stress like this. I feel bad for your DC2 and all the kids in hir class! :-(

  11. Revanche Says:

    Poor DC2, how horrible to have to go to basically an open season safari every morning, so glad you’ve got a new daycare to go to. :(
    While I am *really* glad you (and Cloud) are posting about these things now, I have to say it’s definitely got me extra worried about our daycare search. We identified a handful to look at more closely but eeesh….

  12. Beth Says:

    Oh man. This is the capital-W Worst. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I went through it a couple years ago with my first and it was awful – http://www.funkyassmonkey.com/rantsraves/2012/11/8/so-angry-i-could.html. The “let’s pretend it’s teething” thing just makes me stabby. You already are doing your best – trying to work with daycare and looking around at other options, so crossing fingers that it will all be over soon. We switched our biter at 17 months and it was the best thing we’ve ever done. The new place has exceeded all our hopes & expectations about understanding toddlers and the biting and the working with parents and the simple, clear, consistent rules. It has made a world of difference. It will get better!

  13. I don’t think I’d find reading about my life to be very interesting | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] I admit, the daycare saga may be interesting to some, but it’s just depressing to me!  My poor little DC2.  Similarly […]

  14. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    Wow. That sounds seriously f*cked uppe.


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