Bullying & Teasing in Young Children
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Bullying & Teasing in Young Children
My 16 month son and I attend a regular toddler enrichment
activity. This is tremendously fun for both of us and we have
made some great friends here. Unfortunately, my son has
developed the habit of hitting other children on the head or
face. This generally seems to happen when he gets excited and
happy. He never hits in response to having toys taken from him or
as a retaliation. The general reaction of the other toddlers to
being hit ranges from an occasional frown or brief tears but more
often than not it is usually a blank stare and a quick return to
play. My son has frequently been hit, bumped into, knocked down
and has had toys snatched from him on a daily basis. It has
never crossed my mind that any of these children are headed down
the road to brutal delinquency.
About a month ago, my son hit a little girl in the class twice in
one session. I was very embarrassed and made sure to apologize
profusely to the mother. This child was not someone we had met
before and she reacted with very intense, prolonged tears. I am a
first time mom and I am not perfect. I didn't quite know how to
cope with this beyond apologizing. This was the first time that a
child reacted with such intensity and I was truly at a loss.
Since this incident I have been upped my vigilance about keeping
a very close watch on my son. We encountered the duo a second
time, during which I made sure that he had no contact with her
whatsoever. I assumed that the incident had boiled over.
I was approached by the teacher yesterday in front of all of the
other parents at the end of class and was told that this mother
emailed the director of the program and told her that my son was
a bully. The teacher was kind about it and said that she
defended my son as a sweet boy. However,I am a bit disturbed
about the way the whole manner was handled (this director never
contacted me and then it was brought up in front of the other
My knowledge of child development leads me to believe that
children at this age have not yet developed a sense of empathy.
I don't think it's possible to be an actual bully- is it? Am I
completely in denial here? Does it sound like a case of true thug
I would really appreciate some constructive feedback about
managing this behavior. My approach to date has been a firm no, a
soft grabbing of his hand, and ''gentle, gentle'' with some
redirecting. Does anyone have any other suggestions?
-Publically labeled as brutes.
I don't think your son is a ''bully.'' However, he's also not an
''infant.'' He's a toddler with normal toddler tendencies. All you
can do is keep working on him, firmly telling him ''no hitting''
and ''gentle, gentle'' every single time. If he hits, remove him
from the situation immediately. Don't overreact, but make it not
fun. Eventually he'll realize that when he hits, the fun is over.
This might last for months and months, but eventually it will
stop. Socializing children is hard work, but since you're so
aware of it and are trying hard, it will happen! It might also
help to explain to the other adults that you're working on it and
feeling frustrated, perhaps even ask for their advice. Then
they'll know you're aware of the problem and are trying to fix
it. Good luck!
This, too, will pass!
At 16 mos. kids have NO concept that hitting is wrong. They
barely even understand that what they are hitting is another
person. So this is very very young for what most of us
think of as "discipline."
Say "no" and remove him from the other kid. He won't totally
understand yet but you are teaching, not punishing.
He does have to start hearing the word 'no' at some point
(at the opposite end of the spectrum is my sister's 5 year
old who cried when I said 'no' to her because no one had
ever said that to her).
Apologize to both parent and kid -- after all,
you're the one who let this happen, even if it was an accident.
Personally, if the "victim" seems to be overreacting I would focus
my apology on the parent.
You have to watch watch watch CONSTANTLY.
But don't feel too bad when you miss something - you just
won't be able to prevent everything.
I totally know how you feel. Certain moms with these sweet little
girls who cry at the drop of a hat when touched by someone
half their size can drive me insane. (Thankfully, many moms of
sweet little girls are extremely understanding. Love them.)
Real discipline starts later than 16 mos. And I am a mom who is 'strict'
by most standards. (Remember, I said 'no' to the 5 YO).
There is no such thing as a 16-month old "bully"!!
Hm, your post didn't say anything about you disciplining your
child when he hits others - you only shared how the kids don't
seem to react to his hitting, even though some do cry - but you
It does sound like you are in a bit of denial about your kids
behavior. It doesn't sound like he is mean spirited or out of
control - but it DOES sound like he needs consequences and
EVERY time he hits another child, you should immediately tell
him not to do it, apologize to the other child and give him a
time out. Apologizing to the parent of the other kid doesn't
make the kid who was hit feel any better. And if your son
can't/won't apologize to the child, you should apologize for
him, so that your kid sees you model appropriate behavior and
the child who was hit feels better. Your kid will catch on.
But if you just let him continue negative behaviors and think
just because he is ''young'' that it's ok, you'll have a handful
to deal with when you wake up one day and realize your kid is a
nasty teenager who won't listen to you or is not empathetic to
Even if other parents aren't doing that for your child when he
is hit or pushed, it doesn't make your lack of intervention ok.
And, if they do hit or push your child and the parent doesn't
do something, say something, it's fine to tell that child it's
not nice to hit or push others...
I'm the mom of a girl who was the ''hittee'' as a toddler, and
now a 16-month old boy who hits and whacks other kids from time
to time. Same non-violent household - different personalities.
You sound like a fantastic parent. Keep doing what you're
doing. That other parent was totally overreacting and the staff
handled it poorly. Write the director a letter stating your
disappointment. Your son will eventually move past the hitting
Mom of two great kids
Calling a one year-old a bully is insane. There is no such
thing. Your methods are fine. Always tell the child 'no'
firmly and then remove him from the situation (i.e., redirect
the child or distract him). Don't let this weird mom who
labels your child inappropriately get you down.
Your 16 month old is NOT a bully. He's 16 months old!
They hit, they bite - they don't speak english therefore they
don't know the rules. I started with rules and discipline around
18 months. Prior to that it was redirection.
The toddler group leader is a moron.
My son did all that stuff, and he's now a very sweet and
respectful nearly 5 year old. He's certainly an alpha male, but
he loves playing with little girls and is genuinely nice most of
the time. He knows when he can play rough, and knows when to tone
it down for the little kids and the ladies. I used regular time
outs, consequences and removal of privileges/toys if he showed
bully behavior, and I can honestly say he's a great kid. Today
he told me that the assertive girl in his class is his favorite
friend. One thing that I think is important is I give him an
outlet for his aggressive tendencies - swords, blasters (star
wars guns), and superheros all figure in his play and are welcome
in our home.
Mom of a strong boy
My daughter exhibits similar behavior. When she's excited about
something or someone, she immediately hits, usually in the face
unfortunately...but never hits when she's upset or mad. It sounds
to me like you're handling the situation as best as you can. My
only suggestion is to actually show your child what he should do
instead of hitting. With my daughter, I try to get her to give a
hug instead. She's almost 18 months now, and I think she's
finally getting the picture. Your child is NOT a bully and you
know that. It's a shame that this situation was treated as it
was, but just remember that every parent is different and we all
overreact about things. I know it's hard not to take it
personally. Just keep doing what you're doing...
first off, I've been in your shoes but your son is not an
infant, he is a toddler. and unfortunately some toddlers hit
(bite, pull hair, push...). My son was also a hitter (he is 3
and a half now). It sucked. I am not sure if I could have done
more to change things -- as he got older I would remove him so
he knew if we were doing something he liked -- like going to the
park with his friends -- and he did something, we'd leave
immediately. Luckily most of the kids we interacted with were ok
but it was not always ok and sometimes I would be in tears. And
some kids have huge reactions - some don't. I don't think its
appropriate for the teacher to talk with you in front of the
other parents but I was constantly seeking advice from
any ''teacher'' figure in our lives when my son was 18 mths - 2+
yrs. And no, you can't always catch it before it happens. But I
really came to know what times/situations/other kids would set
him off and got much better at ending things, moving on, etc
before that happened. And unless you have had a kid that hits
(bites, pulls hair, pushes) you have *no* idea what its like to
be on that side of things - hence the less than understanding
How embarrassing and awful. Two suggestions. Amazon can quickly mail
you a wonderful boardbook for toddlers called Hands Are Not For
Hitting. I doubt your toddler is a bully, but he does need help to
learn to stop hitting. The situation you are in and the accompanying
humiliation are something else. May I suggest that you approach the
teacher the way you wish you had been approached, and tell her that
you wish she had told you in private, as it was humiliating for you.
Consider telling the terrified mother (who perhaps has not returned)
that you recognize that your son, like all toddlers, needs help to
contain himself and that you are working on it. If you are able to
get to the point where you can be clear and non-defensive in your
communications, you will salvage whatever reputation you may
potentially have lost. However, I doubt that the mothers who know you
and your child have misconstrued the situation.
Hitting is normal toddler behavior, it sounds like your actions
have been very appropriate. Continuing to monitor your child,
encouraging gentleness, and redirection are really all you can
do. Based on your version of events, the other parent is totally
overreacting. I would not let the accusation upset you.
You are right. 16 months is WAY too young to be labeled a
''bully''! I've seen kids display bullying behavior as young as 3,
but at 16 months they're in such a totally different
developmental phase! Redirecting his behavior, staying close and
guiding him when necessary, trying to avert these instances
before they happen.... that's what you can do.
I would say get yourself out of that enrichment program. The
teacher and the director both displayed extremely unprofessional
behavior. I would never stand for that.
Don't worry. Most likely in a couple month your child won't be
doing this anymore (but he'll probably have a new and equally
baffling new behavior ;)
I have 3 & 5 year old girls and we are working on the concept of
the power of words (tattling, stupid, etc). Bully is a VERY
powerful word. I work in childcare and have seen a huge range of
children and behaviors and have never actually used the word
'bully' describe a child. I am not saying that they don't exist.
I just haven't had the opportunity to work with one (I see
plenty of frustration and its outcomes, but I have never seen
bullying. The age group that I work with is 0 to 5). Bully
doesn't sound like it applies to your son at all. He sounds
I do understand the frustration of the other parent. It is
horrifying to see your sub-2 child hit by another child just as
it is mortifying to see your sub-2 child hit another child. I
remember thinking every awful thought in the book about another
child at the playground who hit my then-18-month-old. The shoe
was on the other foot a year later. Kids react differently. I
am fortunate not to have drama-queens in my household and am
always shocked to encounter them, but I do understand...the child
was reacting more from surprise than hurt. But, it is withing
her right. The Mom will reign that in at some point.
Regarding the preschool...I am not surprised that the director
didn't say a thing to you. I frequently hear how horrible this
child is or that child is...parents have no problem criticizing
others parenting while breaking their arms patting themselves on
the back for their successes...I ignore it. I see the children,
spend time with the children (often more waking hours than the
parents themselves do) and have a pretty good idea about how kids
act and what is going on...just the other day I got to listen to
some parent criticize the parenting of another and throw names at
a child (acts like a baby, obviously no discipline in the home,
etc) who is five and under my care. Whatever...I have no need to
tell her that the child is autistic. I just told her that the
kid is awesome and I love him very much and that each kid has her
own bag of tricks. To your point. I never comment on another
child (except positively) to another parent. So, I wouldn't
expect the Director to comment. I am very surprised that the
teacher did this to you in front of other kids and I would talk
to her. Let her know your embarrassment and let her know that
you felt it was unprofessional (she probably already knows...I
have wanted to eat my words on the very rare occasion myself. We
are all human.) If she defends her behavior then talk to the
director. But, my guess is that she already knows that she said
And, regarding the behavior itself...it sounds like you are on
the ball and doing your best. Keep it up. Model, model, model.
Remove from situations...cool down periods as necessary. Do keep
an eye on it...I just heard a story about a lovely 5-year-old who
had integration issues. I never would have known that she used
to be the 'hitter' on the playground from 18-months until 3.
Turns out that she had space issues (and other things) that have
been worked through with an occupational therapist.
I do not believe your child is a bully at all. Our daughter
hit when she was that age. It was usually mom or dad that she
hit, not other kids, so a little different. I think at that
age, the kids are so fully of emotions that they don't really
know how to handle them. It's important not to correct
aggression with aggression, so be gentle with him when you are
telling him to be gentle. When our daughter would hit us, we
would walk away from her after telling her that was not ok.
She didn't like to be left alone So, I would think you may want
to remove your son from the room when he hits, at least for a
few minutes, just to let him know it's not ok.
I am so sorry. I have to say, I am with you here. I have had the same
reaction from someone who comes to my house for play dates (since
recently have ended). I have a 20 mo. old and the same thing has
occurred. My son too gets very excited about running with another
child and when the child stops, he runs up and pushes to keep the game
going. Well, inevidently pushes too hard and the other falls down and
starts crying. I posted a while back and other parents exclaimed that
they need to protect their children from being ''bullied''. Here are
my two cents. I hardly feel that a 18-20 month old knows what they
are doing. You have done the right thing, by being arms length,
apologizing to the other child and removing your child. I ended my
somewhat ''mommy friendship'' by ending the play dates. I am sorry
you feel bad, I did also, but know that your son will grow out of this
stage (which is normal). I understand the other mother, but she
clearly has no idea how this could affect you. Again, she is probably
protecting her own. I sought advice from a woman who deals with
toddlers daily and she suggested to remove him from the enviorment and
find a playdate who can handle the pushing/excitement stage in your
son. Then when he is over the stage, go back to the class. Good luck
and try not to worry too much. Everyone parents their own way. I just
try to feel confident in my choices, seek out advice from others (like
you are doing) and breathe. We will always have to deal with
situations like this and there will always be someone who you can
mother of a sweet child
My son at 14-16 months did the same thing, mostly to me and other
kids he knew to get a reaction, to test. Like your son, he did
it while playing, not as a defense, nor over toys, nor while
crying or upset. The good news is, that behavior will stop. My
son is now 18 months and hasn't acted that way for a while. It
is inappropriate to label babies ''bullies'', although I know it is
painful for a parent to hear. Try not to be disheartened by this
and know that this time will pass. I think what you are doing to
teach him is right on target. I did the same things you described
and he has seemed to outgrow the behavior. A friend of mine's son
was over recently and did the same thing to my son, but I didn't
think of him as a bully. He is just a baby learning how to be social.
I read the posts in response to your question and I wanted to add
my two cents. I have my doctorate in child development and think
that your problem is not uncommon at all (neither a young child
hitting, nor it being handled poorly by staff). Yes, 16 months
is TOO young to be labeled a bully. You are right, children do
not have true empathy at this age. We see that empathy emerges
in toddlerhood, but more from the perspective of the child
(example: a toddler might see that someone is upset and offer her
his favorite blanket -- this is sweet, but may not help the girl,
still very important in his learning, though). At 16 months he
has not even developed a sense of self. All of this being said,
it is still important that he learn that it is not OK to hit.
Some parents offered good advice about removing your son from a
situation when he does hit, though. It is absolutely important
to start teaching him at this age that it is not OK to behave
that way. You may also want to explain why (something to the
effect of: you didn't like it when (insert child's name) hit you,
(insert child's name) doesn't like it when you hit her, either).
He may not get this concept yet, and he won't internalize it for
awhile, but at least he gets used to hearing it.
Hope this helps. Keep up your vigilance when he is playing and
ask his teachers to be consistent with your method, as well.
NO child should be labeled a bully. But here is an excellent opportunity to teach
your son better ways to interact when he is happy and excited. (And it sounds like
his playmates who knock children down and snatch toys could also use some help!)
I would love to do a workshop customized for the needs and interests of your
group's staff and parents: http://c4oy.wordpress.com.
Here are a few ideas to work on.
1. (Most important) look at what happens just before and after hitting and try to
figure out if he is trying to get the child's attention, play with the child's toy, get
adult's attention. And did he succeed?
2. Instead of reproving your son, model empathy: Turn first to the other child and
briefly comfort her saying words like ''I'm so sorry. You don't like hitting.'' Afterward
turn to your son: ''You didn't want to make her cry. Can you pat her hand gently to
make her feel better?'' (Guide him. Praise him as he tries to follow even if the other
child isn't comforted.)
3. Teach a different strategy. Describe what you think he wanted to achieve, e.g.
''you wanted to play, too.'' Model what your son could have done, like clapping, or
saying, ''hi!: or holding out a hand and saying ''please,'' or offering the other child a
toy. (If the other child does not respond, say ''You tried. Let's see what you and I can
do instead'' and model how to join a different child's play.
4. Spend more time with your child in the play group, anticipating problems and
modeling better solutions. Don't take over play, just assist in what they initiate.
5. At home create similar situations and make a game out of them: Enter the room
with a big ''Hi!'' When happy, clap. In play,''your turn, my turn.'' When frustrated,
''What else can we do?''
6. Finally, be on the lookout for nice behavior, clap, and DESCRIBE and COPY what
he is doing right.
What your son has is mistaken behavior, not misbehavior. Good luck with teaching
him more successful strategies. I'd love to hear from you.
My son is 19 mos & has a language delay + some issues with eye
contact. My Mominlaw says it is B/C he does not go to daycare
and interact with children enuf. So, for several mos, I have
taken him to the parks/ play areas to socialize.
But, it goes awfully (esp. the less babylike he is)!
He is hit/shoved/yelled at nearly every outing, usually more
than once!!! We try so hard to prevent it too.
My son has lost interest in the play structures & instead likes
to sit and pour wood chips on himself, or hang at the edges
The bullying happens when someone takes an interest in my son's
independent play and approaches (often there is no toy
involved). I am always nearby and when they bully, I calmly
ask the child something like ''are you wanting to play?'' This
fixes the problem momentarily, However, often the child returns
& more urgently ''punishes him''(shoving, hitting and shouting at
my son). My son never resists.
Sadly, the other moms do nothing- or act like it's a ''sharing
issue'' (like it's ok to hit if you havetrouble with
sharing??). Thus it often happens more than once in a visit.
Last week my son was sitting in a toy boat when a boy climbed
in & sat beside him. Plenty of room for both. I hoped for
sharing glances, but the child suddenly grabbed my son by his
shirt & pushed him down into the foot area & hit him. The
other toddler's mom came over & lifted her child up, which set
off a kicking fit, & the child tried to grab my kid again in
anger (didn't want to be removed from the boat) My son had
done nothing but just sit quietly in the boat.
In August, a 3 year old tried to shove my son, who was at my
side, into a fountain!! My son had ignored the child's earlier
advances/ no eye contact ..and so I think the kid was mad. I
had to practically fight the kid to get my son out of the water.
I've tried hanging back, tried standing right there &
chatting w/every child as they approach.
But it just keeps happening and I don't know what to do. We
are heart broken.
Worse... at the park today, I put my son in amongst a small
group of kiddos and babies. For a while he sat still with a
worried look on his face, and then suddenly became excited &
ran over and swung at a baby and was almost giddy dancing as he
tried to stomp her!!!
What should I do? I would love to have anyone's input, but
espec. any input from ASD mommies with regard to bullying
My son was the same way at that age (now dx'ed w/autism) but I
don't know what kind of parks you're going to, we didn't have
quite as many encounters as you have! That has to be really hard
for you, I'm very sorry.
You might want to try finding one or two more mellow boys his age
and set up some 1:1 playdates at your house, where you can guide
the interaction and give your son a chance to ''practice'' his
social interaction in a safe place. I put signs up in various
parks around me (and a notice on BPN) and found some really
really great playmates for him. Maybe also find a social skills
playgroup with kids his age. The more he can practice in a safe
setting, the better he'll be able to do it out in the ''real''
world. Hope that helps!
My now 4-year old son (who was diagnosed as having ASD shortly
before he turned 3) could say about 15 words at age 2. And he
was really mellow -- kids could come up and take toys away from
him and he didn't care, just walked away. It bugged me a lot but
never bugged him. Then we had a second kid, 2 years younger, who
engaged in lots of undesirable behaviors -- stealing toys,
hitting, biting. Our older son finally started to react -- first
by coming to us and now by saying ''it's not okay to whatever.''
This seems to have helped him a lot with his social skills
because now he has lots of friends in his preschool whereas last
year he didn't.
I think a lot of parents take their kids to the park and then
check out. I've had kids push my kids off slides, hit, steal
toys, etc. and (some) other parents just don't care. So I am
vigilant. When another kid approaches your kid, you might want
to go one step farther in engaging them in play. Instead of
asking ''Are you wanting to play?'' you could ask ''Do you want to
pour woodchips into a pile too?'' to help them get started.
I think you are ascribing too much thought to other toddlers. I
really doubt they are targeting your kid because of some slight
that occurred earlier in your outing. Little kids don't always
know (or remember or care) good ways to interact.
Also, kids engage in parallel play until they are ~3 years old.
Instead of going to parks/on outings, you might want to join a
mother's club or a co-op so he sees the same kids each time.
Incidentally, I no longer think my son has ASD. He talks like a
champ, reads, is into imaginary play, and has lots of friends. I
think he was just a late-bloomer and needed a little extra help
and guidance in making friends.
What about ASD daddies?
If your son is diagnosed as being on the spectrum, are you
getting any therapy? Respite care? I would get into the system
now if you haven't already -- contact RCEB for more info. The
scenarios you describe in which your son is minding his own
business and some other kids comes over to physically abuse him
are just plain weird -- so weird that frankly, I have a hard time
believing them. Once or twice, MAYBE... but as a regular thing?
Your mother-in-law, by the way, is dead wrong if she is
suggesting that your son has autism because he doesn't get enough
social interaction. What should you do? Get in touch with the
RCEB and a local ASD support group. You think you can do autism
alone? Maybe, but it's going to be hard enough -- why make it
Poor kid. Try going to a different playground. Sounds like
there are some unacceptable behaving children at your current
playground. And stick to your child until he gets his
confidence back. Don't even give the other kids a chance to
approach him at this time. He needs to feel secure and
protected by you before he can venture out on his own. And
don't be afraid to speak up for your child in front of the
other parents. If you child doesn't see you stand up for him,
how is he to stand up for himself?
At 19 months, your child is still a baby and needs your constant
protection and vigilance so be at his side and be kind but
assertive with children who become aggressive. A little reading
might help you be aware of what social expectations to have for
young toddlers. Ask your pediatrician for advice or referral to
resources that might help.
Where are you taking your child!? I certainly would never want to
go there with my 20 month old!
I wouldn't take the bullying personally - it sounds like you have
had some horrible experiences, but I don't think it has anything
to do with your son specifically...
If you are in Berkeley, there are a few low key tot lots like at
Terrace Park, or King Park that have fewer kids at any one time,
and generally pretty hands on caregivers/parents, who would
empathize, and not blow off hitting or kicking.
I realize this wasn't the intention of your post, but you
mentioned your MIL's ridiculous claim that your son's speech and
eye contact issues stem from not interacting with children more.
Please ignore her nagging and instead look into an ASD parents
group where you can both get better information and tips as your
mom to a toddler too
Yesterday I was in the checkout line at the grocery store with
my one year old and two boys about age five started teasing him
because he was in a diaper without pants over the diaper. I'm
sure my son didn't know exactly what was going on but he seemed
a little perplexed by their jabbings (they were pointing at him
and saying: ''look, he's naked and then they would laugh'').
Their mother seemed oblivious to their antics and I was in the
middle of checking out so I let it go. However, I felt myself
becoming really angry at their behavior and I wondered how I
would handle such a thing if it happened in a year or two or
three when my son is old enough to be hurt by their words. I
may be overly sensitive but I HATE teasing and I was a school
administrator in a school where we had a no teasing, or meaness
policy. Any advice? My thought in retrospect would have been
to say to the boys in the moment to stop teasing my son as I
don't tolerate teasing of any kind in my family.
Your post reminded me how huge the gulf is between parents of
babies and toddlers and parents of school aged children. I
remember that when my first child was one, older children seemed
dangerous and monstrous to me. But I have to tell you, that from
your description what you experienced was not teasing, nor was it
malicious. The boys were not trying to get a reaction out of your
baby, or to make him feel sad. They are five year old boys, and
five year old boys find anything having to do with diapers,
butts, poop, nakedness, penises, etc absolutely hillarious. So
they saw your son's diaper and were laughing together. There was
no malicious intent, and I'm sure there was no emotional trauma
for your child. If your kid were older, and you thought his
feelings were being hurt, you could say to the boys, ''Please
don't make him feel bad about his diaper,'' or words to that
effect. But in the meantime, I urge you to grow a thicker skin,
and not encourage your child to feel victimized by the
playfulness of other children. I find that school-aged boys are
often characterized as mean or wild or vindictive when they are
simply playing or talking happily, with no idea in the world that
anyone is listening to them. When your son reaches this age, you
will find yourself being horrified by how quick mothers of
smaller children are to presume that he is scary and bad or mean,
when he is just being his sweet little boy self.
mother of boys
How Horrible! I would have said ''that's not very nice, he's just a baby''... which I have
said before when my son would get baby toys taken away at a young age at the
playground by 6, 7, 8 year olds. I don't care if it stunts his ability to ''stand up'' for
himself... if this happens with even-age kids (ie, another young child takes something
from him) no big deal, it's a social necessity. But older kids who should know better?
Yeah, they need to be told that it's not nice, since their parent(s) dropped the ball on a
potential life lesson opportunity.
Personally, I have no problem requesting that other people's
children treat my kids with respect ... especially when it's
older ones being unkind to little ones. I am extremely polite,
but I do address the kids directly, and it seems to make an
impression (probably more of an impression coming from me than
from their own mom).
Also, I would have no problem with someone else addressing my
kids the same way if they were the ones causing the problem.
But if you do run into a parent who objects, stand your ground.
You have an obligation to protect your child, and as long as
you are polite and reasonable, you are totally in the right.
I'm sure the boys were not being mean, they were being silly.
Furthermore they are not in your family - so you not tolerating
it in your family is kind of irrelevant to them. None of us
really has much control over what other people do, only how we
deal with it. Telling the boys to stop their behavior because it
makes you angry or have past issues is not going to prepare your
son for handling teasing in the future. It will happen and you
won't always be around to protect him from it. My recommnedation
is to 1) Separate your issues from his 2) If it doesn't bother
him, don't make it bother him by getting upset about it. 3) If
it bothers him (now or in two years) handle it with humor so he
can learn to handle it with humor.
I would have laughed and said to my son (if he had noticed) look
at those silly boys, they must not remember when they wore
diapers, then I would have smiled at the boys.
Children take their cues from us. When my son didn't know how to
handle something, he'd look at me. For teasing and general
sillyness I'd just roll my eyes and smile, then he'd roll his
eyes and smile.
learned the hard way
What an unpleasant experience! Based on your description, I
think I would have gone for a mild reproof/correction of the two
boys. Something simple and along the lines of ''Do you think
your teasing could hurt the baby's feelings? It it too bad the
mother was so clueless and insensitive as to not correct her own
children. If you had said something to her, she probably would
have gotten defensive.
Whenever I take my 2 year old son to the toy store or the
playgound, other rude children will come up and snatch toys
from him or try to bully him. My son has a calm and gentle
temperament and doesn't seem to mind, but I often have to
remove my son after awhile because some of these kids would
just keep following him. I don't feel that it is fair for my
son to give up his toys or space when the parents of these rude
kids just sit there and watch their kids getting their way.
What is the best way to handle this, should I speak nicely to
the rude child or to the parent?
Actually, this is an important life lesson for you and your
child. I would not look outside of yourselves to resolve most
problems. He really needs to learn how to hold his own in life
because you will not be able to be there by his side forever. So
use these opportunities to connect with YOUR child, giving him
skills he can use to be fair to himself as well as others.
Make him practice, not only while in public, but by roleplaying
with you at home. I know he's only 2yo, so keep it simple for now
and keep working on it with him over time.
Dear Fed Up,
I could have written your posting. I too have a calm, laid-back
2.5-year-old boy who frequently gets communal toys snatched from
him. Even babies crawl over and take his toys, and like yours, he
doesn't seem to mind most of time. I don't know that I have much
advice. I've tried talking nicely to parents -- one father on the
playground told me that my son has to learn to be more agressive
and should just snatch the toy back. I sometimes find another toy
for the offender if my son is upset, and I've learned to say ''he's
playing with that,'' and take the toy back if there is no parent
around to intervene, but I'm not always comfortable doing that. I
also try to remind myself that I seem to mind much more than my
son does and that I may be projecting my own anxieties onto him.
Yet I dread the encounters in the playground and toy store, and I
too am tired of watching other kids bully mine. You are not alone.
what about walking up to the ''bully'' with your child and encouraging him to politely
ask for his toy back? it seems the example of good manners is needed my many.
First of all, try to check your judgment -- your mild-mannered
angel will, at some point this year or next, start taking toys
away from other kids. Maybe not as much as these horrible
monsters you describe, but enough so that you are mortified.
Second, if someone else isn't parenting their kid and their kid
is bullying your kid, you get to step in. If a toy is getting
grabbed from your child's, you can go over to the child and very
firmly say, ''FiFi wasn't done with that, you can have a turn when
she is.'' Or: ''No grabbing.'' Say it loud, and it may rouse the
parent in charge out of his or her stupor.
I also have a kind of meek toddler and I consider it my job to
help the kids work things out. My rule of thumb is that if
someone is holding a toy, it's theirs until they are done and put
it down. I say this to the kids (mine and others). Sometimes I
reflect to them (if they are looming) ''Hey, that ball sure looks
interesting, but she is playing with it right now. You can play
with it as soon as she's done.'' Sometimes I even offer to bring
it to them as soon as it is free.
Our daughter was also very gentle at age 2 and the more
aggressive kids certainly followed her around as well. Like your
son, she didn't seem to mind when a toy was taken away either.
What I began to do was to keep an eye out for kids that got close
to her. When they got closer, I gently let them know that my
daughter was playing with such-and-such toy and that they could
have a turn when she was finished. It put the kids on alert that
a.) I knew they were coming in for the 'grab' and b.) that I did
not like that. It also (I hope) showed my daughter that it was
not okay for other kids to take things from her and that it was
okay to defend yourself. My guess is that the parents of these
kids have the philosophy that the kids should work it out for
themselves. I personally never agreed with that theory because
kids in the 2-3 year old range seem to still be developing a
concept of sharing. Anyway, our daughter is now a confident 5
year old and has a very good sense of fairness and sharing. Good
The way I would deal withthat situation is how I would deal
with it if I were still teaching kids and they were playing. I
would try to keep it light hearted and give the other kid the
benefit of the doubt that maybe he/she just doesn't know
better. A quick ''Oh, he's still using that toy, but you can
have a turn when he's done (if it's a community toy).'' or ''Oh,
that's his special toy and he really likes to play with it.'' or
something of that nature. I think it would create a bigger
deal by addressing the parent over the issue unless there is a
real problem going on where the other child is being mean with
intent and/or someone could get hurt. It is irritating when
this happens and the other parent isn't on top of it, but
a ''friendly'' reminder to the offending child could be a way of
letting both the child and the parent know in a non-
confrontational manner that it is not okay.
I don't know how old your child is, but try and be careful with the language you are
using - a child who takes something from another child is not being rude (as would
be the case if it were two adults). Rather, that child is being a child. It is so normal,
especially for toddlers, to take things from each other. They like the rise they get
from other kids and adults, they are learning and testing boundaries, they are
learning how to get along. Now, you can definitely step in and set boundaries -
gently asking that child to please not take the toy your child is playing with. And if
the child keeps doing it, ask the parent to please get involved so that it doesn't
happen again. But try and approach that child and parent not as rude, but as
normal. My daughter will burst into tears when another child takes something from
her, and then a few minutes later will take something from another child. They don't
have the reasoning ability to make a connection at that age. I try to encourage my
daughter to share, to play together with the child who wants her toy or whose toy
she wants - explaining that it can be a lot more fun to play together.
Mom of a regular little toddler
I just responded to the first ''Other Parents...'' posting, so I figured I will balance
with a response to you.
First, I would say that that your child should not have to be the target of
bullying kids of parents that allow aggressive behavior. What I would do is say
something like, ''Excuse me, my son was playing with that, so please don't take
it.'' If you need to, gently remove the toy and say, ''Let's give it back to Ben,
since he was already playing with it.'' I do believe it takes a village, and if you
are doing it nicely (not an angry mama bear) both children will get something
out of your intervention.
However, the other thing I would say (or ask) is, Are you being overly sensitive?
You may feel that because your son is calm and gentle, he is a victim waiting to
happen, and so are looking for every possible infraction on the part of other
children. I would say that you also don't want to set yourself up for being your
child's hovering saviour. Something to be in tune with is finding a way for kids
to get along on their own, yet guiding them through it.
One thing I did want to call out is it also might be an appropriate way for your
son to learn how to share. I was once in the sandbox at the Montclair
playground and was floored when a grandma was standing guard over a cache
of sand toys that she had brought for her child. Obviously, other children saw
them all and wanted to play too, and she kept saying, ''Give that back, that
belongs to Emma.'' I thought it was a pretty poor choice to bring those toys and
not use it as an opportunity to teach her child to share. It would have been
easy enough to say, '' Emma is playing with that now, if you want to wait a few
minutes, you can have a turn.'' Everyone wins. Maybe this is something you
I would not say anything to the other parent (people tend to get sensitive and
turn defensive) unless the bully child is really hassling yours. Then, maybe I
would say, ''It looks like your son is being a bit aggressive with mine. Could
you help make sure he doesn't keep grabbing from my son? Thanks SO MUCH!''
If you do not act like the child is a problem, just acting in an inappropriate way,
then your sincere words should go a long way.
As much as the parent who posted the previous question in the
digest might hate to hear my advice, I'd suggest you speak nicely
to the child. Some gentle guidance is what a preschooler needs.
It's too bad other parents aren't doing this for their own kids.
I spend alot of time redirecting my child in these situations as
she hasn't learned sharing very well yet.
Along those lines, I don't think that two year old are capable of
being rude, I think they're being two. Toy snatching is a pretty
common activity at that age. I don't know that bullying is really
what is happening either, as that implies some intent to be mean
and hurtful. Most preschool age kids take what they want, end of
story, until redirected by an adult. Now if these other kids are
much older, there's a whole different problem, but I assume
you're talking about kids of similar ages to yours.
Mom of grabby three year old
I just wanted to second what one of the other responders said --
your mild-mannered 2 year old may, much to your surprise, one
day turn into an aggressive 2.5 or 3 year old. You may not
believe that now -- I don't think I would have either -- but
that's definitely what happened with my son. When I first
started taking him to playgrounds as a new walker at the age of
15 months, and up until about the age of 2, he was very mild-
mannered and non-aggressive. Like your son, he didn't
generally get all that upset when other (usually a bit older)
kids snatched toys from him. I worried that he was so mild-
mannered that people would be walking all over him later in
life. Like you, I was annoyed at other parents for not
correcting their child when they snatched things from him --
though, since my son wasn't upset, I generally just decided to
let it go.
Just after his second birthday, all that started to change. He
started objecting if other kids tried to grab something from
him, and would sometimes push or hit them to keep them from
doing so. That's bad enough, but he also became a toy-snatcher
himself, and would shove or hit if the other child resisted.
This behavior seemed to peak around 2.6, and is still an issue
at 3.4 -- even though I *do* correct it.
And I'd like you to know that, at least for me, it has been way
way WAY more difficult to deal with being the parent of the
aggressor than being the parent of the child being aggressed
upon. Not that it's easy to see other children mistreating
your child, but at least you get to rejoice in what a
wonderful, well-behaved child you have (while perhaps feeling a
bit superior to the parents of the ill-mannered hooligans, who
clearly are just not properly parenting their child!). It's
far worse when you find your own child's behavior mortifying,
but have been having difficulty stopping it. We continue to
work on it, and I do think there's been some improvement
lately, but let me tell you, it is absolutely exhausting
mediating all the squabbles my son gets into. And I'll confess
that, especially when he first started snatching things from
other kids, I would sometimes look the other way if the other
kid wasn't upset -- not so much out of indifference as from
sheer exhaustion! I eventually decided that I have to correct
the behavior all the time, even if the other child doesn't
object, because otherwise I'm sending my son a mixed message,
but let's just say I'm now much more sympathetic to other
parents who don't always correct their child for this behavior.
So, I guess the main point of this post is to let you know what
it's like to be on the other side of this problem -- I'm hoping
this will help you to be less judgemental and more
compassionate towards the other parents in this situation. For
all you know, you may be in their shoes 6 months or a year from
now -- and even if you're not, I think it's always a good idea
to try to understand the other person's point of view.
I wasn't going to respond to this topic until I saw the
responses yesterday. Since it bugged me overnight (I know! Get
a life!) I thought I should write in with another perspective.
The parents who let their kids ''bully'' your kid - if taking a
toy away could really be called bullying - may just be more
laid back parents than you, or possibly the kids could be at
the park with thier nannies. Whatever the case, there are some
of us, apparently few, who think kids need to develop their own
negotiating skills. Kids of a certain age get toys taken away -
mine did. Then they get older and they are the toy grabbers -
mine did that too. The grabees don't seem to mind.
I think it's the parents who mind, and if that's not
projecting, I don't know what is. Toddler play is not like
adult interaction, where we'd be upset if we were reading Vogue
and some other woman came up and grabbed it from us. Toddlers
sort of grab and give up toys in a circular fashion, and that's
just normal. As I read all these comments about how dang UPSET
some moms get when their kids have toys taken away, and how
they feel they need to jump to thier child's rescue, I wonder
if these moms are going to attend elementary school with their
kids to fight their battles for them. And I wonder if it would
even BE a battle if the moms didn't make it one.
There's this competitive motherhood thing around here that I
don't even get, so maybe I'm way off base. But I thought it
might be helpful to hear from someone outside the choir.
why I dread going to the park
First, I would like the parents of more aggressive children to
I am not judging your parenting. I am worried about my own.
What do I do when your kid bites mine, or pushes him or grabs a
toy and he bursts into tears? How many times do I say about
your child, when mine looks at me, hurt and bewildered, ''he/she
didn't mean it'' or ''he/she is having a rough day?'' And what do
I do when my child becomes more introverted because he is
always picked on?
I understand it is difficult to raise a ''spirited'' child. But
as a parent of a child who is gentle and shy, I have put up
with all kinds of comments about him ''not being socialized''
or ''still stuck on mommy'' or even ''slow to develop.'' Can you
imagine how this made me feel about my own parenting skills? I
understand you are embarrassed and exhausted by your child's
behavior, but your defensive attitudes drive a wedge between us
at a time when we need each other the most.
Secondly, for us, the solution was to stay away from the park
and find a small preschool with children of similar
tempermants. My son is now thriving and no longer shrinking
once I limited his exposure to more aggressive children and
their defensive parents.
happy at last
Mainly I lurk here but one of the responses -- ''kids will be
kids, if it bothers you, you're projecting'' really bothered me.
Our kid doesn't stand up for himself. We have to work with him
on this, just as parents whose kids assert themselves a little
too much do. We have been advised by teachers to remove him
from certain situations, even if he objects. Message: it is not
acceptable to be treated this way.
Some situations, like when kids are pretty evenly matched, may
indicate it's appropriate to let them work it out. Sometimes,
especially when the kids were younger, I helped them find the
right words/solution. But when one kid is always at the short
end -- emotionally or physically -- I don't agree that they
should work it out alone.
In fairness, how can I stop him, if he doesn't see me stop it
directed at him? Teasing and exclusion are pretty normal
developmentally. I've even heard people excuse exclusion of
other children (''it's hard for children to expand the group in
the midst of play''). How can we accept behavior that makes a
child feel so bad? Why do we accept hurtful behavior so long as
it's not physical?
This is less about shielding a child from even being exposed to
such behavior as letting him know that it's not ok, even if it
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