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What to Do When a Child Bites or Hits at Preschool?

As disturbing as it can be, hitting and biting are a normal stage of development for some kids. Why do these aggressive behaviors occur at preschool, and how should adults respond to both the victim and the aggressor?

What Causes Aggressive Behavior in Preschoolers?

It is common for children under 5, especially toddlers between ages 1 and 3, to hit other children or even adults. One child expert even refers to the toddler years as the “hitting stage of child development.” There are several things that can trigger hitting: stressful situations including a new sibling, new home, new school or other changes; lack of vocabulary for expressing feelings verbally; lack of impulse control; undeveloped sense of compassion or empathy for others; not realizing that hitting hurts the other person.  Aggressive biting also appears in some children, most often between ages 1 and 3, and has a number of similar potential causes: teething pain; desire to feel powerful or get attention; retaliation for discipline; anxiety about a new or uncomfortable situation, such as meeting new people; jealousy toward a classmate, sibling or other child.

What to Do About Another Child Hitting or Biting Your Child?

As a parent, it’s natural to feel upset when your child has been harmed. However, there are things you can do to ease the situation and protect your child. Either you, or the teacher if the incident happens at preschool, should first examine any cuts, bruises or bites and offer basic first aid or other medical treatment if needed.

Listen to your child and stay calm. Let them know it’s okay to cry and feel sad if someone hurt them. In many cases, just having mom, dad or caregiver there to listen and empathize is the most important way to help the child feel better.

Reassure your child that hitting and biting are always wrong. Talk about some of the reasons why people hit — they may be tired, frustrated, scared or simply want attention.

Let your child know it’s okay to walk away and stop playing with a classmate who hurts them. Encourage them to tell a trusted grown-up who can help resolve the situation.

Moving forward, talk to your child’s teacher about ways to protect your child’s safety from aggressive peers.

Verify that the school teaches the importance of sharing toys, waiting one’s turn on the playground and other acceptable alternatives to hurting someone.

Make sure the teacher is paying close attention to students with a history of aggressive behaviors. Adults should let the aggressive child talk about why they acted out. This teaches them to express their problems verbally instead of physically.

If your child has persistent problems with biting, hitting or fighting, even after efforts to correct the behavior, consider seeking professional assistance from a pediatrician or child psychologist.

At English kids club 5 GREEN we understand that social-emotional skills are just as important as learning one’s ABC’s and 123’s. Our curriculum promotes cooperation, self-awareness and respect for others.

All of our teachers receive ongoing training that includes age appropriate discipline for toddlers and preschoolers, so your child’s teacher will know how to respond to aggressive behavior.

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