My daughter is in a child caring facility (a Montessori children's house, for what it's worth) in a crèche group of children from about 1 year to 3 years old. For some months now, one child from the group causes issues by biting other children severely (including my own daughter).

I do not want to make the case blaming the other child, since I do not believe that she does it with evil intents, but the situation is somehow stuck. The teachers (do you say so in this age-group?) don't really know what to do, since it tends to happen, when they are occupied elsewhere. The afflicted children are having nightmares and do not want to visit the group (last Friday I had to stay for half an hour until my daughter was ready to enter the group's room and today it's been quite the same, when my wife brought her there - usually she barely looked back when entering), and we (and other affected parents) have our duties, which means that we can't really decide to stay home with our daughter.

Voices have arisen to suspend the "responsible" child from the group, but we don't believe that this would be easy and the right thing to do (my wife is the parents' representative in our group). The kid is already having a hard time (she is raised bilingually and is therefore a bit "behind" - language-wise and I believe that her parents are getting divorced) and she would move to the older group this summer anyway.

If the facility can expound that they have done everything they can do to solve the issue, would it be reasonable to recommend the parents of the child to get professional help? How could this professional help look like and what would be a empathetic way to recommend it?

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    Biting is unfortunately common among children. Can I ask, when does the child bite? It looks like someone is going to have to dedicate a bit of time to monitor the child's activity. Biting is often a way of attempting to communicate. I won't provide an answer as I don't actually have one to your question but have a look at this
    – Bugs
    Apr 24, 2017 at 10:18
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    "Biting is often a way of attempting to communicate." This is what we thought, too. Hence the "[...] is a bit 'behind' - language-wise" part. Thanks for the link, I'll have a look at it. Apr 24, 2017 at 10:25
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    Regarding that biting is common. Yeah, to some extent it is, but when it causes at least three other children to suffer severely, this is beyond what we can dismiss as harmless — Apr 24, 2017 at 10:26
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    I wouldn't dismiss it even if it had only happened the once Paul. It's definitely not harmless and does need action. I never meant to give off that impression.
    – Bugs
    Apr 24, 2017 at 10:31
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    Never mind, obviously this has been a bit of a misunderstanding. Apr 25, 2017 at 6:15

1 Answer 1


Biting must be taken seriously. The site Bugs provided is excellent, so I will repeat it here

Biting is a very common behavior among toddlers, which means there are a lot of concerned parents out there. You are not alone. The good news is that there is a lot that parents and caregivers can do to reduce and, ultimately, eliminate biting.

To set the stage for effectively addressing this challenge, avoid calling or thinking of your child as a “biter” and ask others not to use this term. Labeling children can actually lead to them taking on the identity assigned to them, which can intensify biting behavior rather than eliminate it.

Shaming and harsh punishment do not reduce biting.

Children bite in order to cope with a challenge or fulfill a need. For example, your child may be biting to express a strong feeling (like frustration), communicate a need for personal space (maybe another child is standing too close) or to satisfy a need for oral stimulation. Trying your best to understand the underlying cause of the biting will help you develop an effective response. This makes it more likely that you will be successful in eliminating the behavior.

Why do toddlers bite?

There are many reasons why toddlers might bite. Some are listed below. If you think one of these reasons might by why your child is biting, read specific strategies on how to respond later in the article.

Toddlers might bite if they:

-Lack language skills necessary for expressing important needs or strong feelings like anger, frustration, joy, etc. Biting is a substitute for the messages he can’t yet express in words like: I am so mad at you, You are standing too close to me, I am really excited, or I want to play with you.

-Are overwhelmed by the sounds, light or activity level in this setting

-Are experimenting to see what will happen

-Need more active playtime

-Are overtired

-Are teething

-Have an need for oral stimulation

In our classroom, we used redirection, choosing language, token systems and timeout.

(I am quoting my own material.)

The Redirection Technique

Redirection is a parental behaviour management technique that helps to prevent injuries, and promotes desired behaviours. It furthers learning and exploration while reducing punishment and negativity.

In a 'nutshell', the parent changes the subject and redirects the child's attention to another activity when possible. When it is not possible, redirection is a positive way to interact and help the child accomplish or act in the desired way. There are no idle threats or extra words added. We do not add that "You could break your leg/hurt your friend." It is possible to talk about those worries at other times, but not in the moment.

As we discover triggers for unwanted behaviours (getting close to lunch time -- hungry; tired, fearful; sick/hurting; transition from one area or activity to another; arrival/home time; wanting space; wanting a toy -- any sharing situation is difficult for young children; new person in the area; trouble at home...), we can watch to redirect the child and comfort them and even remove them from that specific situation.
Staff, parents, teachers and caregivers do have to be vigilant, especially when the behaviour is a health risk, like climbing, biting, hitting, running away, throwing objects and so on.

Read more:

Choice and 'Choosing' Language

As you child matures and has a few words and is able to point or grab for a wanted item, this is the time to allow them to make choices.

Choices are really important. They help to build respect, to invite cooperation, to develop problem-solving skills, and it takes advantage of a child's normal requirement for some control.

I suggest the parent chooses two items that are acceptable to him or her and then allows a real choice to the child. The parent selects two shirts or two food items or two activities and then the child selects the one they prefer. You can add a third selection in time, but in the beginning -- keep it simple.

Then use the Choosing Language. "Which shirt do you want, the red or the blue?" When the child selects by pointing or even a word you respond, "You chose the red shirt. Good for you." This teaches that their choice was good, that this shirt is the red one and it teaches them/reinforces the choosing words.

If the child is expected to eat the same dinner/participate in the same activity as the rest of the family, the choice option is still available. "Do you want this portion or this one?" "Do you want the green or the yellow bowl?" "Do you want to sit here or there?" "Do you want to have your turn before your sibling or before me*"? Choice can also be a redirection -- because the child in choosing believes they have already complied and in effect, are agreeing to eat the meal/participate . (*This sort of choice prevents always going first or last and makes it fair for other siblings/participants.)

You expand the use of choices to other areas. "I am sorry that you chose to break your toy*." The consequence is that now that toy is broken and must be used that way (if it is safe) or they do not have it. This means the consequence is natural and you never need to be angry. *This is simply what happens when a toy is intentionally broken.

"I am sorry that you are cold because you chose not to bring your jacket. I will take you home and next time you can bring your coat." He has lost his playtime at the park, but chose not to bring the jacket and the consequence is natural. You have no need to be angry and you can even commiserate with him.

"You chose to hit your friend, the consequence is that s/he is getting extra time with the Legos and you're sitting in timeout/ you lose X number of tokens/ we have to leave the park or party."

Praise is the best reinforcement. A hug, verbal appreciation and admiration all work in the long run fair better than food or items that cost money. Make it real. "You chose the red shirt. I like that colour. You look very nice."

Read more: Psychology Today

Token Systems

A token system is quite simple, but should not be used unless praise and simple redirection are not working. For every activity or set period of time, the child earns a token that earns them something they like. In my opinion, natural rewards make the most sense. So if the child has listened, s/he receives a token that allows for extra time on the swing, or an extra story, or any special thing that they enjoy doing with the parent or caregiver. I personally prefer the tokens to be earned and rewarded in short periods. A toddler may not understand being good now in order to get a trip to the park in four hours. So earning the token for playing nicely in the sand might earn them extra time, or another activity choice -- even one you might not prefer, like water play. It works best when the 'prize' is something the child really wants.

Time Out

Time out is not punitive, or should not be when the child is young. When your child matures, being sent to their room might make sense, but to a toddler -- it really doesn't. The caregiver may have to sit in time out with the child. It is a 'stop the action, catch your breath, change of subject' time that is absolutely quiet. At the end, the caregiver can talk quietly about what has been going on and help give the child language so the s/he can learn to express it better. "You were mad when he took your toy and you hit him. Next time, come and tell me and I will try to help." "It was his turn to play with that toy, so when you hit him, that hurt his feelings and made him mad."

General Strategies:

The use of kitchen timers really works with children -- they know the activity or toy time ends when the bell rings. You can set them for a short enough time that each child that wants 'that' item can have a turn.

Pictures, photos, picture symbols, emotion boards (an area where the pictures show faces and the caregiver has discussed what each facial expression means.) When a child is happy -- the teacher can hold up the happy picture and tell the child, "You are happy." When the child is upset, "You are upset." The child is encouraged to show the teacher the symbol that represents how they feel and then the adult can help the child express it, understand it and perhaps help the child to feel better.

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