Positive Parenting: What to do When a Child Bites or Hits

Your 3-year-old daughter just bit the arm of your friend’s 3-year-old son. Hard. When your child bites or hits, it is normal for you to be overcome with strong feelings: embarrassment, fear, anger, powerlessness.

Instead of just reacting out of those feelings, it’s better to do for yourself first what you want your child to learn to do: Calm down, think clearly, act consciously and with intention.

What’s done is done, and the bite can’t be taken back. The learning happens when you plan for the next time and are ready with tools to approach the situation effectively.

Consider these tips.


– Plan ahead how you will handle a biting or hitting child

– Watch closely and stay nearby if you know your child is struggling with this problem

– Stay calm

– Move in quickly and gently

– Say, “I see you are mad, but it is not okay to bite/hit.”

– Be sure the injured child is tended to.

– Remove the biting child from the situation, stay connected and help her to calm herself.

– When she has calmed down, ask her to explain what she wanted. Ask for her ideas of better ways to get that.

Suggest coming to you and asking for help. You can help her with her words if she struggles to express herself.

– Ask her what she can do to make up for biting/hitting. Help her repair damaged relationships.


– Don’t yell at, spank, slap or bite your child. You will be modeling just what you don’t want her to learn.

– Don’t punish your child. Help her learn what to do or say instead. This may take some repetition, but it is well worth the investment of time and effort.

– Don’t shame or humiliate your child. She needs your help, your patience and your support.

– Don’t worry about what your parents, in-laws or other people present think about you. Their judgments don’t matter. Focus on your child and what she needs, and do what you know is right.


Other helpful suggestions can be found in “The Biting Solution,” by Lisa Poelle and at www.ahaparenting.com.

Children’s books include “Teeth Are Not for Biting” and “Hands Are Not for Hitting” by Martine Agassi and Marieka Heinlen.


Dr. Lesley Iwinski is the mother of three grown children, a family physician and Executive Director of The Parent and Family Enrichment Center, Inc. and Growing Peaceful Families.

She offers classes, workshops and seminars. Info:  (859) 333-3053 or www.GrowingPeacefulFamilies.com