Kicking Kids Out for Biting?

In most of the comments and e-mails I receive about children who have bit, the parent expresses a worry that the child will be “asked to leave” or “kicked out of child care”. The parents often proceed to tell me of the multiple programs the child has been asked to leave.

Removing children from child care settings for biting troubles me. It represents our failure as adults to meet the needs of the children in our care—all of them. I don’t like failure as the end of the road; I like failure as an opportunity to grow and improve. Removing the child is the end of the road for the educarers but not for the child or parents. They still have to deal with the behavior and oftentimes the change of settings and the breaking of attachments actually worsen the biting. Early childhood educators are ethically obligated to help children and families.

Educarers and administrators recognize their obligation to the child who bites, the child who is bit, and to the families of all the children. This sometimes puts them in what feels like a no-win situation. And, yet, removing the child at the behest of the other parents often results in harm to each and everyone of the children. Life is full of challenges in dealing with others who do not have appropriate social skills. Removing the child who has bit does not improve the social skills of the child who bit or the skills of those who have been bitten. I have too often seen removal of a child as an easy-out for educarers and administrators especially when under pressure from the children who have been bit.

Please don’t misunderstand: biting is a serious issue which must be dealt with effectively and quickly. Working with children is an art. Working with children effectively requires a thorough understanding of child development and behaviors. Dealing with biting is very difficult, aggravating, and frustrating and every day that biting is occurring in a classroom seems like an eternity to the educarer. And, yet, it is the job of the educarer to meet the needs of all of the children in care and it is the job of the administrator to support the educarer in educaring the children.

The administrator can support educarers by problem solving the biting with them. Sometimes, simply rearranging the room so that adults can better monitor the children or so that the area of the room where biting occurs frequently is removed can solve the problem. Sometimes, it requires finding ways to adequately meet the needs of the child who has bitten. The child’s behavior is a form of communication: what is s/he saying to you? Through careful listening and knowledgeable questioning and comments, the administrator can help the frustrated educarers use the child development knowledge that they possess to solve the problem.

Sometimes, however, the administrator will have to provide concrete resources to help the educarers. The administrator may need to provide additional or different toys or an extra adult on a temporary basis. Yes, it does cost money to place another adult with the group. However, as long as the biting problem continues parents, grandparents, and others are saying negative things about the program in the community. If by providing an extra adult the biting goes away the money spent may very well save money in the long term when families speak positively about the program’s commitment to children.


  1. Being a seasoned mother of three children, I thought I had the toddler stage mastered until #3 came along doing things so differently — such as biting. Ok, I admit that by the time my third came along I was well aware of the fact that I am clueless. My toddler just turned two in December and has been in a biting phase for several months. I am a stay-at-home-mom, so regular childcare is not the issue. My toddler does bite us (parents/siblings) at home from time to time. I feel okay about how we are handling it, but am frustrated that this phase seems to be lasting longer than I anticipated. I think his biting is for a combination of reasons (teething, attention seeking, feeling frustrated). I can often recognize that he is in a biting mode and be on bite alert. A problem I am facing is in the realm of temporary childcare, such as going to the gym or church nursery. Tonight my son was written up for biting at the gym child care. He bit the same boy twice. The worker pointed out it was a "new member," so I am pretty much on alert that gym membership is an issue — and don't know that the child care program will be all that concerned with providing help in this realm. I will add that my breaks as a mother are rare and the fact that my toddler is happy at the child care program is something I am very glad about. Also, this particular gym has the reputation for providing the best child care and children's programs in the area. The worker did point out that the child my son bit was being aggresive, taunting to my son – and was also a bit older/bigger than my son. I am wondering if there are any ideas for how to deal with biting when the care giver is consistently the same person and when the care givers may have lack of experience or lack of motivation for helping the biting problem?

  2. I commend you for your sensitivity to the moods of your toddler. Recognizing when a child is likely to bite is much of the battle.Dealing with biting when the caregiver is temporary is a challenge–particularly if you perceive that the person is not that interested in helping. The first thing I would consider is whether the temporary nature of the care is problem. If not,and nothing you wrote leads me to believe it is, it sounds to me like the issue is you helping the temporary caregiver in dealing with your toddler rather than the other way around. Next time you go to the gym, you might alert the temporary caregiver of what happened last time and make some concrete suggestions on how to prevent it from happening again. Tell her/him what your son needs. You might give her/him a sense about what is likely to trigger a bite.Rondi, please check back and let me know how it goes or with other questions.

  3. My 20 month old daughter has been biting other kids in her daycare. I understand the parents concern that their child is being bitten by another and I feel terrible. (My daughter has not always been the biter, but the bitten!) She even bites her own hand sometimes when she is mad. The biting usually occurs during play time, when she wants a toy another child is playing with. They remove her from the situation and let her know biting is not allowed. This does not seem to be working! I am scared she will be kicked out of daycare! Help!!

  4. My child DID get expelled today. I am a school teacher and it is Friday. They waited until three hours AFTER I picked up my child to tell me he cannot come back. No grace period. Nothing. Instead of trying to help him, they switched him to different rooms with different teachers and children. He had no sense of stability or comfort. He's is three years old and doesn't bite at home or in the church nursery. There is not another day care near my school. I am out of options.

  5. I wish I had some great wisdom to share with you that would solve the problem. It is impossible for me to speak with authority about the specific circumstances of your child's biting. Please keep this disclaimer in mind as I make some general comments that may or may not apply to your situation.1.) You say that "this is not working". How long this technique has been used and how consistently it is being implemented makes a huge difference in any attempt to change a child's behavior. Typically, if there has been consistency and the technique has been used for two weeks without any improvement, a new strategy should be attempted.2.) Firmness counts. I'm not talking about "trash talking" a toddler but an extremely firm voice that says, "NO BITING. BITING HURTS." and a removal from the situation is far better that chatting calmly with a 20-month-old about the virtues of not biting.3.) Your fear about having your child kicked out may very well be real. I suggest that you insist that the director and caregiver(s) meet with you now to discuss strategies for helping your daughter. Share with them my article, Biting: Dracula at the Day Care and discuss it together.4.) I wonder how many duplicates of toys that the program has? It is very difficult for toddlers to share toys; it is crucial in group settings to have multiples of popular toys. If biting is over toys, getting duplicates can make a world of difference. It is also ok for teachers to remove a problematic toy if it seems to be about one object more than others.Cathy, I hope this helps some. Please stop back by and share how things are going.Tim

  6. Hello Anonymous, How absolutely terrible especially the way in which you were told!Sadly, it sounds like from your description that this program was not able to manage his behavior. Switching your child to different rooms and different teachers could only create stress for you and, most importantly, your child. You are quite right to be concerned about stability for your child. It sounds like you wonder whether the problem was in the program that you were using when you tell me that he did not bite at home or in the church nursery. While you feel that you have no options, I encourage you if at all possible to take some time to look for a place for him that can offer warmth, nurturance, and clear behavioral expectations. Look for a program that is staffed by individuals who understand child development. In the meantime, is there someone in your church who he likes and who might be able and willing to help you out with interim care? Can you take a few days off? A couple of good resources for finding child care:ZERO to THREE Accredited Programs Choosing Child Care Anonymous, please stop by and let me know how things are going for you and your son.Tim

  7. Thank you, Tim, for your encouragement. I realized after a short while, it was nothing I was doing. His problems at the daycare were with fighting over toys and other typical toddler behavior. He has a little bit of a speech delay and therefore, gets frustated very easily. I am going to look more carefully at a daycare situation and may just take off until he starts pre-K next year. I think I need to gradually move him into a daycare situation. He has been home with me all his life until the last four months and I think he was just overwhelmed. I will keep you posted.

  8. My son will be 4 in June 2006 and I recently enrolled him in nursery school at our local YWCA- 2 days a week for 2.5 hrs each day. After the first day the teacher was clearly frazzled and overwhelmed and told me my son was "horrible". She said he bit a little girl outside. He rarely if ever bites here at home so I'm not sure where this is coming from. I feel he is on the verge of being kicked out after only 2 days there. My son is difficult to deal with and always has been,but, I feel this teacher is ill-equipped as she has no aide and 12 kids enrolled, although it was pointed out to me several times today that not all the kids show up every day. I feel like I am being ignored and they don't want to help me at all. I've been told they don't want me to stay next week because it would make the teacher "uncomfortable" – I wonder what other reasons there are?

  9. My daughter was just expelled this week for a one time biting the teacher incident; she bit the teacher while the teacher was picking her up after my daughter didn't listen to instruction after numerous requests. This "teacher" has no formal education – she is working on her early childhood education degree – this is her first year – and with my daughter's expulsion – there is a 40% turnover this year for the class. I was told over the phone by a board member two weeks after the incident not to take my child to school the next day or the remainder of the year; she does not bite at home or other children to my knowledge. I was told by the parent helper that after the biting the teacher placed my daughter in a chair a left her there without explanation. There was no discussion between the board, myself and the teacher about the incident – the teacher was quite blase about it when it happened and I was parent helper the next class day and there was no mention of the incident at all. I feel my daughter has been done a disservice, her behavior in class is quite opposite of what it is at home and other organized groups of children where she gets along quite well without incident. Any comments?

  10. I'm a caregiver and I'm having a problem with a child biting. It has been so bad that I have other parents taking their children out of my care. The mother of the biting child and I are working together to find solutions to have him stop biting. Do you have any solutions of what I should do with the child and also with the parents that took their child out of my care. Up until now they've ranted and raved about how much their child loves to come here but now their tone has changed. I do my job and I'm sure everyone knows that biting happens in the blink of an eye. I just don't want people to leave with bad feelings. And I'm overall concerned about the well being of the child biting and the other children in my care.

  11. Anonymous writes…"My daughter was just expelled this week for a one time biting the teacher incident…Any comments?"It is hard to know how to reply to this situation. Based on your description, it sounds like your child was not getting her needs adequately met in this program. Typically, I encourage folks to talk to one another–and that still may be useful so that you can gather more information and/or express your feelings–but your child and family are probably better off seeking another child care setting. I suggest you ask many questions about discipline policies as you seek new care.I hope this helps at least a little.Tim

  12. Anonymous,You write: "And I'm overall concerned about the well being of the child biting and the other children in my care."Some thoughts:–Do you have the possibility of short term extra help? This person could shadow (follow and stay within a foot) of the child who has been biting. This is often very effective and may only require extra help for a week or two. Your primary concern is to stop the biting as quickly as possibly.-Have you read my article: Dracula in the Day Care? It is posted at: share it with families and have a meeting where you all discuss it and problem solve your specific situation. If not, the whole group you might meet with individuals. Part of the message you would be sending is that every individual child matters–the bitees and the biter. You also want to resolve this matter as quickly as possible. (Of course, you know that.)-Consider: what is the biting child's behavior telling you? What is the underlying need that the biting child is expressing through the biting? Figure this out and it will be easier to know how to resolve the problem.You also write: "but now their tone has changed." Yeah, they're probably feeling fatigue with the problem. That is why my first thought is extra help to get the biting stopped. It sounds like you and your families have a positive relationship as a basis to work through this problem. That will help but ultimately the families will want to see change. Include them in resolving the problem but don't expect them to solve it.It is hard to give you more specifics without a full grasp of your circumstances. I hope this helps you some.

  13. My 18-month old has been bitten 18 times in the last 4 months. He is at a center where there are 6 boys in his class. We have been told that there are two primary biters in the class and that there are two primary bitees. The other bitee has been bitten approximately the same amount of times as my child. We keep being told that biting is "normal" at this age, but at what point does biting become out of control. The center has added more staff (3 teachers to 6 toddlers), shadowed the biter, shadowed the bitee, charted when the biting happens to determine a pattern, all to no avail. We are at our wits end here, as we feel the center has tried every option imaginable, and NOTHING is working! Where do we go from here??

  14. I am a home day care provider and I have my 4 grandchildren, 3 "Smith" siblings, 2 "Hall" siblings, and a "jones" only child. They range in age from 6 months to 8 years, so obviously half the children are at school most of the day. The 13 month old Smith child is a biter. She has tried to bite several of the bigger children and they usually push her away. She has lately come to be consistently biting the Jones boy who is about her size and only 15 months old. He is not verbal and doesn't push or hit her away. I have sent this child home with broken skin, teeth marks and bruises at the cause of the Smith child 5 times in the last 3 weeks, and that is just the times that I have not been able to stop her. I have been keeping her in a playpen during playtimes that I cannot be directly in contact with only her because it is not fair to the other children to get no attention because I can't take my eyes off her for a second! All of the Smith children have had a need to be the center fo attention shown in different ways, but I get very little support from home. The 8 year old sibling says she bites at home and they "sometimes tell her no" but never have a consequence. What do I do with this child? My main concern now is protection of the other children! HELP ME!!!

  15. Anonymous–You have eleven children to care for when they are all there. Do you have some help? Also, besides the 13-month-old and the 15-month-old, what ages are the children you care for when the older children are at school?You are right to be concerned about the other children's safety. I commend you for using the playpen for brief periods when your eyes must be elsewhere (preparing lunch, etc.) but this is probably not a good long term solution (as you obviously know) for the child who bites.Have you had a sitdown, heart-to-heart talk with the parents of the child who is biting? You want to find a time to talk without the children around. Is that possible? Perhaps, discuss the possible reasons that he (she?) might be biting. Once you have a working theory ideally you and the family will decide on a plan-of-action that you will ALL work on together. I suggest that you share my article, "Biting: Dracula at the Day Care" with the family. Say: Read this and then lets talk about how we can help little "Billy" to stop biting. Please keep me posted.You can find the article at

  16. Please help! My 21 month old son has started biting again at daycare. He had stopped for a period, but recently started it back up (6x in 4 days and 6x in just 3 days this week). I am at my wits end! They do the time out and telling him no, but to no avail. We also started giving him listerine strips for a bad tasted in his mouth. Its hard to tell if its his molars coming in or just frustration. Most of the time he bites for no reason. Daddy is in Iraq and he started biting more when he left, but its gotten worse the last 3 weeks. Any suggestions are GREATLY appreciated!

  17. My son (20 mos) has been bit several times hard enough to have black and blue spots. Once or twice the skin has been broken. I have spoken with the care providers, but they simply say its part of the age and there is nothing they can do. I have suggested shadowing the problem biter, but they say they can't just be with him all the time. I have suggested an extra person in the room, but they don't seem to acknowledge it is a problem. I don't even know if they have discussed this with the child's parents. I know who it is, but only because he has tried to bite while I was dropping my son off. At that point, I stood between them and stopped the bite from happening. Is there anything I can do? There aren't a lot of openings at daycare centers around here, and in general this is one of the best. At what point can I request they move the other child?I don't want to be harsh about it, but I don't want my child to be bitten or to learn to bite either. By the way, apparently there is not always an obvious reason for the bite. This morning he was just coming over to say "hi."

  18. I could really use your help, my son just turned 2 this past week, but since this time last year he has been biting. What makes him different from others dealing with this is that he only bites me.He bites me, or at least tries to at least 20 times a day! If i'm sitting down anywhere he comes running at me with his mouth open and yelling and will bite anywhere he can reach! Right now I'm standing at the computer because he bites if I sit.We've tried firmly saying No that hurts mommy, we've tried putting him in his crib for 2 minutes everytime he bites, I honestly don't know what to do anymore. I've even covered myself head to toe in a blanket and just let him and ignored him until he was bored and left. Now, when I get a blanket he throws himself down and throws a fit, knowing that he can't hurt me. He bites me so hard he has broken the skin and left me bleeding. He does this to no one else, he used to bite his father once in awhile but now it's exclusively me. Do you have any suggestions as to what I can do to stop this behavior, I shouldn't have to fear my toddler on a daily basis!

  19. Hello. I am very interested in your response to the 6/6/06 and 4/6/06 4:38pm comments. Our situation is similar. Our child has been bit by the same child in the past 5 weeks ~ 4 times (this particular Dracula's syndrome was thought to have been fixed, but has recently started biting again). One bite was on my child's face and broke skin not too far below her eye. The next morning we went to speak with the owners of the child care center. They were supposed to get back with us regarding their plan of action. It's been 2 weeks and 2 additional bites since we spoke with them. The center has confirmed that they are aware of this Dracula. It is really tough when Dracula loves to bite my child. And, I can see that my child understands that she has been bitten and that bites are not good. Any suggestions on how we can deal with this Dracula at day care? Thank you.

  20. My husband and I took care of our 18 month old grandson since he was 3 weeks old every day. He was easy to care for and we got along very well. A few weeks ago, my son-in-law became angry with my husband and within 3 days they arranged for my grandson to go to day care full time. My grandson became a biter. In daycare and outside of day care. He goes from child to child, grabs their arm and bites hard. He doesn't understand "time out" and is rejected by others. It is trulysad since he was a compassionate child, who played well with others.We are heartbroken. We would appreciate any help and suggestions.

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