So, you’ve got biters. What’s your policy? Do you even have one or do you wing it on a case by case basis? Do your volunteers and leaders know it?On of my Children’s Pastors sent me this great article from Childrensministry.com on biting. After reading this, we decided to update our biting policy to make it more clear and systematic.
We have a biting policy, but when put to the test this past summer, we found that we were all over the place. We had a chronic biter. This kid would bite anything that moved and he was a repeat offender. When first confronted with this situation, my first response to the Early Childhood director was, “what does our policy manual say?” We quickly came to realize that our policy on biting was a little lacking. It consisted of about 3 sentences. It was thorough enough to deal with the occasional bite, but not really though enough. So, we will be updating this policy this week.
The only thing this article doesn’t address is the chronic biter like we dealt with last year. What happens when you go through this procedure four, five or six times? We talked with some other churches to get their take and developed a plan that worked for us, but I’d be curious to hear what others have done or would do in that situation.
Join the Daily Dispatch!
If you're a kidmin content junky... submit your name and email and you will get the following:
• Daily updates from the blog
• Weekly blog summaries with exclusive content
• Access to amazing resources
ALL DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX!
From a special needs perspective, policies like this are important. Obviously there’s always the occasional mishap in the 2 year old room. But it isn’t quite so cute when it happens in the 5 year olds….or beyond! Unsafe behaviors have to be addressed regardless of the role of a child’s disability or difference (although lots of compassion and diplomacy is needed in special needs situations).
The first step in putting a stop to unsafe behavior is working to figure out what is prompting the undesirable “means for communication”. After determined obstacles have been removed and/or efforts are underway to promote acceptable behavior, the church may consider requiring parents to accompany their child. I am familiar with one church that requires parents to accompany their child in the children’s ministry setting for 3 times times after chronic or severe behavior problems have surfaced.
In my special needs research I’ve learned of the value of having expressly stated behavior driven policies & procedures. The church’s policies should be identical across the children’s ministry (typical & special needs).
I’ll be anxious to see what others have to say in this area as well!
— Amy Fenton Lee
Amy is very wise when she recommends that churches have policies for managing behavior. When church leaders and parents have shared expectations, kids fare better on Sunday mornings. Having clear guidelines removes some of the guesswork when it comes to handling difficult situations, and spares church leaders and volunteers from having to create a consequence on the spot (or respond to accusations of favoritism or inconsistency!)
I also agree that it is important to analyze the behavior. What happened immediately before the biting? What happened during and after? Itâ€™s important to be aware that even an aversive consequence (time-out, removal from the classroom, a physical prompt to move away from the â€œvictimâ€) might be very reinforcing for a child. For example, if a child is sensitive to loud noises, he/she might â€œlearnâ€ that a certain behavior guarantees time away from the classroomâ€¦just when the worship band begins to play! To remedy this, the teacher or buddy could offer a â€œquiet cardâ€ to the child, explaining that the card can be given to an adult when the child is in need of a break from the activities. By teaching a more appropriate behavior, the student receives a needed break without the stigmatizing social consequences.
Of course, this is just one possibility; myriad reasons for biting exist: sensory issues, avoidance, attention-seeking, even poor motor planning (I know one child who wanted to give a new friend a kiss on her hand, but bit her instead! He was both surprisedâ€”and crushedâ€”that his gesture was met with tears and anger, because he didnâ€™t realize the force he used.) Because this, or any aversive behavior can be so complicated, it will be important to work collaboratively with parents if it continues. As Amy mentioned, compassion and diplomacy are necessary when reporting such behavior to parents. If the child is a â€œfrequent biter,â€ the parents are quite likely aware of the behavior, and have either seen it at home, or heard about it from school teachers. Reporting only the facts, without added emotion or embellishment, will allow the parent to digest the disappointing news . Once this is done, reassure the parents that the child is a valued member of the class, and that he/she is welcome to return! Then, gently segue into a conversation about how this behavior can be managed proactively and positively so that the child and family can continue to enjoy coming to church.
Amy, why do you suggest the parents be in with the child for the following three weeks? Would another adult serve the same purpose?
I’m thinking the child might act differently if the parent is there. Plus it might feel like a punishment to the parents rather than the church being supportive.