How to Talk to Another Mom About Disciplining Her Child

Updated on February 16, 2010
J.V. asks from Wheaton, IL
17 answers

There is a serious biter in playgroup. Most of the kids are 21-32 months. The biter is older, about 30 months, while my daughter is 23 months, The first time we saw this kid recently, he really took a bite out of my daughter. She was going after his toy, so I calmed her and then told her to not take things, how to ask, etc. The other mother just said, "we have to share" but continued to let the kid do what he was doing. The next time we saw them, my daughter almost got bit again. I prevented it and reprimanded her for trying to take something from another kid. The other mother said nothing to her son, and just concerned herself with the object of concern, since neither of them should have had it.

We are suppose to go to a playdate with this kid tomorrow, and I want to say something to this mother if her son attempts to go after my daughter again with his teeth. I really feel like she needs to take the situation more seriously, because from what I can tell, this kid has learned that biting is an effective strategy and he has no interest in not using it. Since she doesn't tell him not to use it, he isn't going to learn to not do it.

So, how to you discuss discipline issues with another mom without starting a major conflict? I am not friends with this mom, and I've only seen her at playgroup 3 times --every time another kid has gotten bit hard!

What can I do next?

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answers from Austin on

I'd find another play group. Most kids (not all) go through a biting phase. If the mom is not going to discipline or leave when the kid bites, then you talking to her isn't going to help. I would call the one or two other people that I like to hang out with and explain that you can't deal with the "biter". Ask if they want to do something one on one. Or. Find another playgroup.



answers from Colorado Springs on

That's tough. I'd probably just pick my child up and redirect her to play with someone else. I like the idea of having the playgroup organizer say something to the other mom. People can be so protective of their kids, I have found it's really hard to say something to another parent about their child's behavior. I'd probably gently scold by saying "No biting" if the child attempted it again. Good luck and let us know what happened!

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answers from Seattle on

I guess I am a bit different than some of these mamas! While I understand trying to be tactful and whatnot...that's not me when a child is hurting my kid. 30 months...that's 2 1/2...PLENTY old enough to know not to bite.
The first time your daughter tried to take a toy and got bit, I would have said something to the boy. yes, your daughter should not have tried to take the toy, but he MAY NOT bite.
Here's what I would say. We will call said biter John. I look over and see John taking a chomp out of my daughter.
"JOHN (nice and loud) we do NOT bite. That is not okay. That hurts Suzie!"
If John's mom looked at me or said anything than I would say, "This is the third time that John has taken a bite out of my child. I didn't hear you say anything so I wanted to make sure that he knew that when I am around biting is not allowed."
I don't think that is going to hurt anyone's feelings, and you already said that you are not friends with that woman, so IF it does upset her....oh well.
I have found that moms groups are very hard to get along in. There are so many different ways of parenting, and most are not going to be to your liking. I just feel like I am my childs only advocate, so I am going to speak up if someone or a child crosses the line.
Good Luck, L.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I had a biter. Turned out he had sensory processing disorder and being in groups was overwhelming for him (sensory overload). I had to limit group time (and make sure it was only when he was well rested and fed) and when we were with a group I had to sit right next to him all the time to catch the biting behavior before it happened. I do think that someone should speak up and whether that is the leader of the play group or a couple of concerned moms is dependent on how formal this group is. Feel free to use me as an example of "a friend had a similar experience with her toddler and here is how she handled it..." What is the worst that can happen? The mom gets mad and leaves the group...

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answers from New York on

I would start off speaking to the other moms in the playgroup, the ones whose children have been bitten. It feels much less intimidating to approach someone if there is a group of you rather than just you. I would also approach her not when her son is biting but at another time, to let her know that he has bitten however many kids in however many get togethers, and that while everyone has different ways of disciplining, he needs to be stopped from biting.
I would also change your approach a bit - not reprimanding your daughter as if she was wrong, but if the boy goes for her, hold your hand up to stop him, tell him that he may not bite your daughter and remove her to a safer area while telling her "Let's play with children who dont bite." While you can't discipline him for biting your child, you certainly have the right to tell him that he is not allowed to do it.

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answers from Gainesville on

If this is an organized playgroup with an organizer/leader, then it's that person's responsibility to take the mom to the side or contact her beforehand and let her know that the child's behavior isn't compatible with the playgroup and that she needs to correct his behavior when it occurs or even before (meaning she needs to watch him very closely) and if his behavior continues he won't be allowed to continue with the playgroup. You and the other parents have a right to have an injury free playgroup. Or if you aren't an organized group then you and the other moms need to all watch this kid and when he goes for one of the children gently correct him with something like "we don't bite" and then take him to the mom and say "johnny was biting/attempting to bite sue and we wanted to let you correct him".

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answers from Columbus on

Ugh. This is why I quit playgroups altogether(and my kids grew out of them). I ended up feeling bad, cuz I would end up over-disciplining my own kids, because the other moms wouldn't discipline theirs. But, what I've learned over the years is that YOU are your child's only advocate. If this kid goes to bite or does bite another kid, you'll have to tell him gently, "There's no biting in playgroup. That's a rule" or something like that. Yes, if there's an organizer mom, this is her duty, but if not, it's yours and the other moms. My daughter once bit a friend and it ended up getting infected! I felt horrible! It was a one- time thing and it was a good friend of mine who's daugther she got. I couldn't apologize enough and because I wasn't there to see it (they were at her house, playing in the bathtub together), I would have absolutely expected my friend to let my daughter know that was not ok. If this mom gets upset, too bad. She will learn that no playgroup is going to sit back and let her kid bite the others.
Good luck!

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answers from New York on

I really do not think you can talk to her about how to discipline her child that usually never goes well. However, you can certainly get her attention if he tries to bite your daughter again. You can simply say something like "Can you please keep a closer eye on Joey while he is playing he has already bitten my child once and is attempting to bite her again!!! You can look at Joey and simply say "No Biting" or you can approach the person who organizes the play dates and have her address the matter. I own a preschool and children taking toys away from each other is all a normal part of learning how to share, however teaching them proper ways to handle it is a whole other ball game. I have been fortunate to only have one serious bitter and we were able to stop it quickly with a very firm voice, and removing the child from the situation for a minute or two and simply getting down to eye level make eye contact and repeating "No Biting" I would also let the child know that they have hurt their friend, which they can clearly see when a child is crying. I also had a staff member shadow him and when a child took something from him and he was ready to bite we would stop it before it happened and repeat "No Biting" This mom needs to monitor her child carefully so she can catch him before he reacts and stop him. Eventually when they are shown a different way to handle their frustration it will stop, but I agree with you it is not to be ignored. I am sure it is difficult to enjoy a play date for your child when you have to constantly watch monitor your child and someone else's child.

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answers from St. Cloud on

I wish EVERY mom was as conscientious as Kris S! To her I say, great job! I am dealing with a biter in our church nursery and the parents were horrible about it! We are still dealing with the aftermath.

J., I feel for you! I really do! Based on my experience, if you see the child bite you can say NO BITING to the child and someone has to tell the mom that she either has to be hyper vigilant to keep him from biting or leave until the phase passes.
Your daughter is not in the wrong. Kids that age are in the process of learning not to take things from others and are learning to share. You are doing your part to help her learn, now this other mom needs to be held accountable.
Biting is a serious offense. It's dangerous. If he broke skin on another child they would have to go to the hospital. It needs to be dealt with.

As far as not starting a major conflict, the way my pastor and I dealt with the mom from the church nursery was with compassion, understanding, and kindness. She STILL went through the roof and got super offended, even though she has been made aware of the problem for almost a year. You can intervene in all the right ways and still have the other person get fighting mad. It doesn't matter, though. Her feelings are less important than the safety of the kids at your play group.

Good luck to you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

You're unfortunately seeing the hard way that there are a lot of good and bad parents out there. I honestly don't think that having a talk with her is going to change anything. She's observing the same things as you, and she's choosing to focus on the object as opposed to the action of her child. I don't imagine it will get much better as time goes on - even if you do say something.

If you said something to her kid, she'd probably be irate that you were disciplining her child, but she isn't aware enough that her child is invoking physical hard upon another (a girl at that).

If it happens again, I'd just stop participating in that play group. It's not worth the stress. If you're more of a direct personality, you can certainly say something. Perhaps your absence will speak louder than any words.



answers from Portland on

How well does this child talk? If he isn't a good talker this may be a way he is communicating his frustrations, anger, etc... He may need some speech therapy. The leader of your group, or several of you together should talk to the mother with concerns. My son bit when he was small because of communication problems. He got better with therapy, but took years to rewire the no biting.



answers from Los Angeles on

you've gotten great advices here...

just my little two cents:
it doesn't matter who provoked what...TWO WRONGS don't make a right!

Lets parent our children, please!!!



answers from Washington DC on

If no one in this playgroup speaks up and tells this 30-month old that biting is wrong and not allowed, you are all effectively telling every child in the playgroup that it IS OK to bite.

You have to say something. Don't cop out. Be strong. Stand up for your child. Don't teach her to run from her problems and shrink from confrontation.

Show your child that you are looking out for her and show her how to stand up for what is right. This other little kid probably does have a sensory issue and the other mom is struggling with what to do.



answers from New York on

i would not expose my children to a biter. instead of worrying how to tell that mom to open her eyes as biting is a serious problem, which could lead to serious health problems, i would remove myself and my children from the situation.



answers from Pittsburgh on

No good solution. Don't say anything to her OR the other moms. Fond another playgroup OR keep a super close eye on your daughter (s I'm sure you are already doing!).



answers from Fort Wayne on

I wouldn't say anything. If you do, you may find that SHE is getting upset at YOU for not teaching your daughter to not take toys away from other kids. The two situations are not close when it comes to danger, but I'm just saying that I know moms who don't discipline their children, and therefore the other kids suffer from it, and I've SEEN other moms say something to these mothers, and it NEVER goes well. Either the mom says something that she thinks your kid is doing to provoke it, or she flips out about you trying to tell her she's a bad parent. It isn't our place to tell other mothers how to or how not to discipline. If you don't like the way her son acts towards your daughter, I would just find another play group to escape the issue. It sucks, I know because I've been there.....but I decided to just not hang out with that mom anymore because of the unfairness to my children.



answers from Tulsa on

I would ask her why she thinks he bites, what she does at home, she may use postive reinforcement and ignore the biting and praise him when he's not biting. It sucks being the recipient of a bite like that. She amy be oblivious to your concerns, she may just not care and think it's perfectly normal. She may think all kids bite like going through a stage.

You can't make a biter stop biting by telling him not to. It's like talking to a wall. Time out won't work, he'll just be mad when he gets out and take it out on the first kid he comes across. It just takes time and figuring out WHY the behavior is happening, the kid doesn't know why, the adult needs to figure it out.

If it continues then just stop having the playdates and reorganize it without inviting them.

Next question: Child's Friend Is a Biter

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