Dealing with Biting at School

Updated on January 27, 2013
A.G. asks from Boca Raton, FL
6 answers

I have a 20 month old son who recently started going to preschool. I originally had him with a babysitter but he is very curious and social and really needed more stimulation. He loves his new school and cries all weekend and night to go there. I am very happy with his teachers and their academic program. I start work really early and since his school opens at 7 and is close to my job I am able to get to work on time. Additionally, since money is really tight these days they gave me a really great scholarship. So now the problem....
My son was bit on the face about three weeks ago. I took it as typical toddler behavior. The following week he was bit again on the hand on a Wednesday but of course they won't tell you who is doing the biting. Thursday morning I saw a kid in his class with a book about biting so I figured out who it was. Friday that week he was bit again on the hand. By the third bite I was furious and met with the director on Monday. According to their biting policy, after 3 bites you get a shadow for 3 days. I knew that the child had bitten other students too so they waited until it was more than 3 bites and finally put a shadow on the kid that was biting for that Monday through Friday. Personally I felt the director was unsympathetic and tried to make light of the situation saying the bites weren't that bad considering they didn't break skin (even though the bruises lasted for a week). I also know that the mom works in the summer camp there, the dad does plumbing work for the school, and the mom's family is good friend's with the assistant director's family. I thought this was the end. Thursday and Friday were fine. Monday of this week was fine. My son was out Tuesday and Wednesday and half the day today, but when I went to pick him up I was told he was bit again on the shoulder and of course the director wasn't there. I will probably talk to her on Monday but I really don't think that she is going to do anything. They do not expel kids from this school. I really don't want to switch schools because of all the reasons listed previously but I can't have my son getting bit on a constant basis at school. His teachers think that this happened today because one of his teachers were called out of the room and a sub was put in place who was not familiar with the situation.
What do I say to the director on Monday? Do I say anything to the mom of the son who bites my son? How do other schools typically handle this kind of situation? Can I legally force the school to do anything? Can I file any kind of charges against the other boy to make sure the school separates them. I want them to put the other boy in the other class which I HIGHLY doubt they will do but that doesn't take care of them being together in morning care. I know kids bite but this is out of control and I am afraid that this kid is going to do real damage to my son and take a chunk out of him one of these days. Who is going to be liable for that? Any advise or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I'd love to know if there are any laws for protecting my son are being violated here. And just to add one more thing, my son is deathly allergic to peanuts, milk, and eggs which is a concern if this kid is eating those things and goes to bite him on the mouth next time. Help please.

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answers from Miami on

Dear A.,

Sorry to hear that your son is constantly getting bit by the same child. That's just not right. Is the daycare center a National or private one?

First, I would go first thing in the morning and explain that the biting child's behavior is unacceptable and if she doesn't take actions to get this child out of the center or help. You will report the daycare center to the appropriate authorities.

I blame the parents of this child. They are not properly dealing with the biting. They need to bite this kid's finger and tell him that biting another kids is wrong.

My daughter use to bite her brother, I bit her finger lightly once and then she stopped.

I hope I have helped.

Happy Holidays to you and your family.


G. H.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

My husband refuses to put my daughter in daycare until she can verbalize to us if she is being abused, neglected or mistreated in any way. She is 18 months and we are torn, because she loves seeing other little kids and I feel she needs the interaction. My husband and I will "revisit" the convo when she turns 2. However, your question popped out at me as one of the "discussion" points in my family is what if another kid hits or bites her? I looked at some other sites and found this convo that may be helpful:

My fave was one that included the below e-mail that was sent out from the teacher to all the parents of that room. If somethign like this was done in your daycare, it may force the parents of the little offender to take a closer look at their son's behavioural problem and help deal with it in a constructive manner. The answer can't be to make this child someone else's problem.

"As happens every school year, since it's common in children this age, we had an incident of biting in the classroom today. Not surprisingly, it occurred during a transition time in the day (clean up), since transitions are more stressful for children (and adults).

We will handle class dynamics after Thanksgiving break with this tried-and-true method:

1. For the child who experimented with biting, we will use a "shadow." I will switch the "shadow" (parent in this case) into the floater position for a few class sessions so that the shadow can be present, down on the floor, and immediately available to reach an arm out and protect/ guide the child to more positive responses. Biting behavior happens very, very quickly and children who are experimenting with it need undivided and close supervision.

2. For any child experiencing someone biting him or her, we want to acknowledge that it really hurts and is not okay for someone to touch your body that way. Coach children that they can move away if someone's getting too close. A sign that biting may occur is very close contact-- contentious play in tight quarters, a "hug" tightens up, many people close in line together, etc.

3. If biting occurs, keep it low-key and don't show if you yourself are upset since that's part of the cycle that feeds biting behavior-- the shocked reactions of onlookers. We also (at this age) don't "punish" a child experimenting with biting (by time-outs or other disciplinary measures) but instead focus on anticipating stressors that increase likelihood of the behavior. If biting occurs, have the child who engaged in biting help the other child by getting an icy, a band-aid, etc. Give more attention to the child who was bitten, but not too much-- keep low key.

4. If a child has experimented by biting, at a later, calm time, reiterate that "biting hurts. I can't let you bite. Teeth are for chewing food."

4. Children who were present for a biting incident are far more likely to experiment with this behavior and try it on for size. I ask all of you to closely observe / be present for your child's interactions over the coming days and be ready and able to intervene. This means that at playdates, family functions next week, etc., it will be crucial to have an adult down at child level and observant of interactions.

5. A tool to decrease biting is to (during calm times) coach your child on vocabulary that applies to emotional states, both positive and negative feelings. This can be done not only by acknowledging the child's own feelings, but by pointing out / observing feelings in others the child witnesses. Another tool is to serve chewy, crunchy food. Children experiencing an oral need respond well to "tough" snacks. A recent study found the the incidence of biting in daycares went down when chewy/tough foods like carrots, celery, sourdough bread were served as opposed to soft breads, crumbly crackers, etc.

6. Please let me know ASAP if one of your children experiments with biting since it will be crucial for us to implement shadowing.

Recently in class we have been saying the Space Bubble rhyme:

I have my very own space.
It's my body's very own place.
My space bubble is all around me.
It's not something you can see.
But if someone gets too close, I can say,
Stop, I need space.

We may use unique strategies to respond to certain behaviors, but the bottom-line goal is the one (parent education teacher) and I have discussed with you-- self-regulation, one of our big goals in Pre-Threes (alongside sensory exploration, such as today's foam painting, water play). We will continue to support each other through the occasional challenges we encounter along that road. What a great group of parents and kids alike. This might be a good time to add that today's circle time had lots of amazing self-regulation and creativity alike! The children are really growing in this direction."



answers from New York on

You are so rude ! Don't you think that schools deal with this everyday! I am a toddler teacher and just bc a child bites doesn't mean they are bad kids! You should be ashamed of yourself. It sucks to get bitten but the parents of the biter are embarresed too!



answers from Miami on

oh my gosh! I was reading about your problem and it sounds exactly like ours! Even the allergies. It took my husband being threatening before anything was done (and yes, you CAN take legal action, but if you like the school maybe you want to avoid that). My husband went in with a suit and just acted very professional, but intimidating, and they decided to switch my son to another class. (He was previously in the younger twos, now he is in with the older twos, alhough he just turned two). I had the same problems though. There were even a few bites they didn't catch. I couldn't have my son in that environment. I hope that at least helps. Let us know what you do. Hugs



answers from Miami on

This is abusive behavior and the school is legally responsible for expelling this biter. A call to your lawyer should settle this. There is no way your child or any other child has to suffer. Do not be afraid to stand up and defend your son.



answers from Miami on

I had a similar incident with my son. I called him the human teething ring as it was really out of hand. We were forced to take him to the emergency room twice because of the severity of the bites. There is a great deal that you can do. If you are interested, send me a private email and I can pass on to you the information that I received. Also even though the school can't tell you who did it, you can ask your son to point to the child who did it. My son was always very good about telling me who bit him. Your rights are being violated and the daycare can be shut down for not providing adequate supervision.

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