Category Archives: Ask Dr. Phelps

Ask Dr. Phelps: Is my toddler being bullied at school?

Guest blog column by Dr. Pam Phelps is the owner/director of the Creative Center preschool and doctor of Early Education. Her posts answer parenting questions.


Dear Dr. Phelps,

My 3-year-old daughter often comes home from school very upset and says one of her classmates is being mean to her. Specifically, she said the other child takes her toys, calls her bad names and hits her. Is it possible that she is making these things up to get attention? What should I tell her to do in these situations? Should I ask to have her moved to a different class?

— Bullied blue in Northeast Florida

Dr. Phelps:

Dear Blue,

Your child is probably not making this up but may be in the middle of it herself. You don’t want her to be a victim, so help her to learn strategies for dealing with conflicts and practice with her.

When the other child takes her toys, hits her, or calls her names she needs to say, “I don’t like it when you do that and I will find someone else to play with.” Teach her to be strong and walk away. If this is really happening the way your child describes, the other child sounds like a “bully” and 3 year olds learn that words are powerful and can be used to hurt others. Your daughter will face this kind of situation many times in her life and learning to stand strong and move away is the best tactic. It is good that she is telling you and you should have a conversation with the teacher in the classroom so that you know the entire story.

Ask Dr. Phelps: How can I get my toddler to stop biting?

Guest blog column by Dr. Pam Phelps of The Creative Center for Childhood Research & Training Inc. and doctor of Early Education. Her posts answer parenting questions. 


Dear Dr. Phelps,

My 2-year-old son is usually very well-mannered and loving, but recently he has started biting. Usually it happens if another child takes a toy away from him, if he doesn’t want to do another activity, if he gets frustrated, etc. He bites his 5-year-old sister at home and has also bitten children a few times at school. Why did he start doing this all of a sudden? Is there anything I can do to help him stop?

— Biting the dust in North Florida

Dr. Phelps:

Dear Biting,

Big sister needs to hold her hand up when he looks like he is going to bite and say, “No, do not bite me” in a firm voice (not screaming). You should move in and help him begin to use some sign language or a few words such as “play” or “turn.” This can later be moved into, “I want to play” or, “Can I have a turn?”

Young children often bite and it is usually over a toy. Toys draw children into social interactions and young children do not have language skills that allow them to discuss problems.

In group child care settings children often bite because there are not enough of the same kind and color of toy and/or the adults in charge are not paying close enough attention. Children need to be taught how to solve these conflicts. When adults are attentive they can intervene before the bite happens, modeling and scaffolding a positive social exchange. Time-out teaches nothing. A child on time-out knows no more when the time-out is over then he/she did before it started.