Stories about: Biting toddlers

Biting babies

Meaghan O’Keeffe, RN, BSN, CCRN, is a registered nurse at Children’s Hospital Boston. As a pediatric nurse, counseling worried mothers is a big part of her practice, but when it comes to her own daughter, she admits that following her own advice isn’t always easy.

Sophie poised to strike?

My daughter Sophie has always been strong-willed, or “spirited”, as my husband and I prefer to call it. It’s a quality we try to embrace because we feel it’s important to set limits for our kids without dimming their light, and accept our children’s innate personalities for who they really are. It sounds like a great parenting technique, doesn’t it? It took our first major challenge to realize that progressive child-rearing principles are easy to implement when the sea is calm, but maintaining those principles when the going gets rough is a different story.

One day, out of the blue, Sophie started biting. The victim was our nanny’s son. This was a problem on many levels; it was terribly embarrassing for us as parents, but we were also terrified of losing our very wonderful (and affordable) nanny.

Fortunately our nanny agreed to tough out Sophie’s biting phase with us, and we’re lucky she did because it turned out to be quite a battle. We tried all sorts of methods to get Sophie to stop, but nothing seemed to work. The more we failed the more desperate for a solution we became. It’s amazing how quickly we can forget everything we know professionally when faced with our own personal challenges. If one of my patients’ mothers asked me about biting, I would have reassured her that the behavior is natural. I also would have suggested a few coping strategies and tell the mom not to expect the behavior to disappear over night. But when my own daughter was the biter, I felt frantic, powerless and desperate for a quick fix. It was almost as if everything I learned as a nurse had gone right out the window.

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