Sunday, August 24, 2008

An Apple a Day!

Oh how our lives have changed in the past year. This is now what I hope to see at the end of each day. Not a beautiful sunset, not a chilled glass of wine, not a fresh newspaper. No, I look forward to seeing a tiny apple sticker firmly applied to the back of my Devi's shirt.

Accident reports are printed on bright magenta paper at Devi's daycare. There is no way to not notice one. They are used to report unfortunate events that may occur on any given day. The first few I had to sign for Devi, recounted a fall from a toy or bump on the noggin from another toddler.

Over that past few months, however, I've had to sign them with a little more frequency for infractions CAUSED by my princess. It turns out, Devi is the daycare bully. Biting is her pain of choice to inflict on the other children. I was reassured that biting is just a phase that many children go through - especially when they are teething. Lord knows Devi had 8 or more teeth erupt from her gums at the same time, so surely this must be what was motivating her to bite.

As the days progressed, however, I was arriving to pick Devi up, only to find stacks of bright magenta glowing papers attached to Devi's report card for me to sign. I was beginning to wonder if we would be charged for the extra filing cabinet required to hold them all.

In all seriousness, we were at our wits end. Trying to back up the daycare by reinforcing that "we don't bite people", "biting is not okay" and spending minutes in the thinking spot wasn't really working because she rarely, if ever, did it at home. Devi, herself, would tell you that we kiss people, no biting. And, I can't tell you how guilty you feel when you see another child holding an ice pack to their arm!

Finally, I was met one Friday afternoon by the daycare director who, realizing our frustration, was waiting for me. Yikes, sort of took me back to being called into the principals office in my much younger years. We discussed some possible options to help spare the other children's delicate skin and get Devi to move out of this "phase".

Whether our conclusions are true or not, we will never know, but it stands to reason that Devi, like many children who have spent time in an orphanage, don't have much of their own nor have they had much personal space. We know she had cribmates that she shared a small space with. Miss director told me she watched Devi attempt to bite anyone who got too close to the toy she was playing with - even if they didn't attempt to take it or share it. What we concluded is that she was "fighting" for what she thought was hers. We don't have the problem at home, because...well, ALL the toys are hers!

Miss director went on to explain that most kids Devi's age are still learning what is acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior, but Devi knows perfectly well that biting is unacceptable, but the need to keep the others away from what is hers is worth risking punishment for.

With this in mind, we devised our new plan. Knowing what a people pleaser she tends to be, we started rewarding Devi every day she did not bite, emphasizing being kind to her friends and causing no ouchies. Viola! It was that simple. She has never chomped on another kid since we started the reward system. It is a major big deal to her to have that sticker slapped on her back at the end of each day. "Momma proud?" she asks. Absolutely, good, kind girl!!

I am happy to report that our refrigerator is full of apple stickers and she loves to show them off. An apple a day, keeps this momma's gray hairs away! We've nipped this one in the bud (hehe)


Amy said...

I can't see precious little Devi biting! I am glad the problem is solved!

Pam said...

Whoa Julie! Great work on that one! This is the first type of "orphanage" behavior that anyone has written about. Thanks so much for sharing this with us, so we all know what to look out for!!

Rhonda Owens said...

Hi Julie! How's this for a blast from the past from your old Court Street neighbor? :-)

On the "orphanage" behavior... My niece, also adopted from India, never bit anyone, but she did (and still does, sometimes!) hoard toys. My sister-in-law finds 8 or 10 different toys beneath her pillow almost every night. And she doesn't have any siblings who might threaten to take them (although there IS a very sneaky cat in the picture, who, on occasion has been known to snatch a toy or two).

The Labontes said...

So glad the positive reinforcement worked for you. Maddie and Auri went through quite a biting spell, with no orphanage history to account for it. They would even, at times, draw blood. We started ignoring the biter and lavishing the bitten with lots of attention, and the biting quickly stopped :)

Anonymous said...

I am still learning that reward system and its effectiveness! Good for you for figuring it out at nearly 2!!! And good for that smart little cutie of yours for understanding right from wrong and responding appropriately!

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, that anonymous was me, Michele. :)

Peter and Nancy said...

We had a biter, also, with no orphanage history. :o) We did the same thing Kristy did -- he had to sit in a chair (boring!) while the bitten child received all kinds of attention. I'm glad she responded so well -- it's terrific that you know what motivates her.
-- Nancy

Cindy said...

Good work Julie!! I love a reward system.