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Hitting, Fighting and Biting

It's common for children to hit, bite and hurt others. It's a way for them to express their emotions when they do not know how to express them with words. It is your role as the parent to understand why your child may be hurting another child, how to prevent it, and how to manage it.

What are the reasons why children hit, fight or bite?

  • They do not get their way
  • They do not know how to express themselves with words 
  • They are angry, upset or frustrated
  • They are trying to get attention
  • They want something from another child
  • They see others hitting, biting, or fighting 
  • They may be teething (this is specific to biting behaviour)

What can you do to prevent your child from hitting, fighting and biting?

  • Be a positive role model for your child
  • Do not playfully bite your child
  • Act as soon as you see that your child is getting frustrated
  • Choose activities that teach about how to take turns
  • Explain the rules for playing with others, such as
    • Be gentle
    • Share and take turns
    • Keep your hands and feet to yourself
  • Pay attention and supervise your child when they are playing with other children
  • Help your child problem solve
  • Help them say what they want by giving them words they can use and be patient when they are trying to express themselves
  • Praise your child when they are playing nicely and sharing well

What do you do when your child hits, fights and bites?

  • Remain calm and do not raise your voice with your child
  • Move your child away from the child they are hurting and tend to injured child first
  • Do not hit your child back
  • Explain to your child why it is not okay to hit, bite, or fight
  • Give your child time to calm down
  • After quiet time or time-out, return your child to the activity they were involved with when the misbehaviour happened, so they can practice playing nicely
  • Allow your child to return to play as long as they do not continue hitting, biting, or fighting
  • If the hitting, biting or fighting continues, remove your child for the rest of the play time 

If you would like to speak to a Public Health Nurse to problem-solve together, please call Health Connection at 519-663-5317 ext. 2280.

Date of creation: December 5, 2012
Last modified on: September 6, 2018


1American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2012). Fighting and biting. Retrieved from
2Caring for Kids. (2013). When your child misbehaves: Tips for positive discipline. Retrieved from
3Turner, K. M. T., Markie-Dadds, C., Sanders, M. R. (1996). Hurting others. Brisbane, AU: Triple P Positive Parenting Program.