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Teachable Moment: Don't Bite Your Friends

I took JD to the local park over the weekend. My friend Jane from our building and her two daughters happened to be there. Perfect, I thought—JD and the girls get along great. I sat down next to Jane on the bench and watched the kids play together in the little cutout house under the slide. That’s when a mom and dad drove into the park on bikes. The dad’s bike had a cool, caddy on wheels his child was riding in. I smiled at the family and turned back to JD and the girls who were now climbing on the jungle gym. “Careful, bud,” I called out. “I a big boy, Mommy!” JD said. The little boy jumped…

Out of the caddy with a truck in his hand and ran over to JD and the girls. “A new friend, Mommy!” JD said running over to the child, eager to show him his Matchbox cars. The boys exchanged toys and began ramming them into each other. I turned to Jane and we started chatting again. Every so often I looked up to find the kids playing nicely together and smiled at the mom and dad, asking how old their little boy was. He was JD’s age. That’s when Jane’s four-year-old daughter ran over to us and whispered something into Jane’s ear. “What?” said Jane. She turned to me and said, “That little boy bit JD.” I looked at JD who was playing fine and didn’t seem upset, but I walked over and checked on him, nonetheless. I kneeled down to his level and grabbed his right hand. Fine. Then left—DEEP BITE MARK. Whoa! I couldn’t believe he didn’t yelp or cry or…something. “Did someone bite you, bud?” I said. JD looked up at me with his big brown eyes. “That boy hurt me,” he said. MELT.

And then I had a moment where I froze. JD’s chubby little hand was in mine, but I didn’t know what to say. I looked at the little boy, then his parents who were in a deep conversation. I was shook back to real time because Jane nicely asked the little boy, “Did you bite him?” and pointed to JD. The little boy shook his head yes. “Go tell your mom and dad, we don’t bite our friends, OK?” The little boy said “No!” and ran away. I told Jane it was OK. JD wasn’t bleeding—wasn’t even crying. But, Jane walked over to the parents and told them, nicely. I felt weird. It was my kid and he was fine. At this point, I was talking to JD telling him that if someone bites him, hits him, hurts him, he needs to tell me. He said, “OK, Mommy. I want my juicy.”  I was basically downplaying the incident. (My brothers keep telling me, I made JD a baby because I always coddle him and make a fuss over a stubbed toe.)

As we were walking back to the bench, the little boy’s mom said to Jane, “Well, did he break the skin?” Jane was stunned and just stood there. I pretended I didn’t hear anything. I was going to get the juice, the juice, the juice. I don’t like confrontation and again, JD was fine and we talked it out. The mom stopped me and took JD’s hand in hers. “He’s OK,” I said. The mom examined JD’s hand and saw the deep, pink bite mark. “Yeah, he didn’t break the skin,” she said, and leaned back into the bench, not calling her son over or anything. I walked to the bench and sat with JD on my lap as he drank his juice. I looked over at the parents through my sunglasses and I was admittedly ticked they didn’t even tell their child to say sorry or even something easy like, “It’s not nice to bite your friends.” Will this child think it's OK to bite--and bite again!? Read When Toddlers Bite, here.

Trust me, JD is no angel. While he’s not really a biter, he is a shovel stealer. A line cutter on the slide. A little too possessive of his crackers. Sometimes, he'll be eating something, like an ice pop and say, "My ice pop, not Katelyn's!" but Katelyn isn't even over/no where near him--I tell him, it is his pop, but if Katelyn was over we'd give her one, too. When he pulls an unkind move, I make a point of telling him it’s not cool, to give the shovel back, to share a Teddy Graham with his friend…The mom didn’t see the bite—hey, neither did I, but she did see the bite mark. I kind of think she should have said something, but that’s only because I would have. 6 Solutions for Kids that Bite.

Do you think the mom should have said something to her kid about biting JD? Would you have made it a teachable moment? Was my friend wrong to take the lead and tell on the kid? Please share.