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aggressive toddler friends

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 
I have a 22 month who has some pretty aggressive buddies. He loves to be around these other toddlers, but I have been concerned with the behavior of two of his friends. Both of these other toddlers like to push other toddlers for no really good reason and they also just take toys out of the hands of other kids and run away with them. Now while I understand that these toddlers are just naturally this way and cannot help it to some extent, I do believe that the parents are responsible for doing the right thing. One of the mothers has made a huge point to make sure her daughter says 'I'm sorry' and so forth, but her daughter is so aggressive that sometimes she will push my son to the ground before a parent can intervene. The other mother doesn't seem to react that much. She says her son is a 'silent bully' in a way that makes it seem like she thinks it is a cute quirk of behavior. When her son pushes my son against furniture or takes a toy my son goes to this mother, points and tries to convey what just happened, but she just tells my son to get the toy back. In other words, she wants my son to learn to be aggressive back. This mother is also a bit of a 'know it all type', very dominating herself and confident. She likes to make comments about how my son is on the small side. Little does she know that although my son isn't the largest toddler he is very strong and could push her son if he wanted to, but he inhibits his aggression for whatever reason. In fact, everyone in our family (I have two older kids) tend to have strong personalities, but inhibit their aggressive impulses. My school aged children have always had great behavior in school, but do encounter bullies on occasion with whom they choose to ignore. I have to admit that I detest bullying behavior and when I see it in toddlers I expect the parents to stop it, but sometimes they don't and I wonder if it is because they almost like that their child appears dominant. Although my child doesn't appear to be the type, if he were to begin bullying others I would put my foot down immediately. At this point I wonder how I should go about dealing with these toddlers and their mothers...I feel if I say something to the mothers they will get defensive. I don't know if I should just get the toy back for my son. Conflict almost seems inevitable. I could try to avoid these moms, but one lives next door so that is next to impossible.
post #2 of 34
Toddlers go through various stages, and a LOT of them go through an aggressive stage, so don't freak out if it happens to your little one at some point too. It doesn't mean they are bad parents, and if yours gets into a stage where he pushes and all that, it won't mean you're a bad parent either. It's just a stage many, many toddlers go through. It doesn't last forever.

What I did when my dd was in that stage was to tail her and protect others. There isn't much else you can do. I don't think making a toddler say he/she is sorry does any good, frankly, because they're just too young to understand why they did it let alone why to feel sorry or what feeling sorry is like. That's more a show for other parents. It's really just damage control at that age. But I agree that the parents should be doing as much damage control as they can. Some pushing will get past even the most diligent parent, but they should be able to catch most of it. I don't know how you can suggest that to them gracefully though, so you might have to tail your own ds to protect him. And when my dd wasn't in an aggressive stage and was on the receiving end of it, that's just what I did. This is the age where helicopter parenting is appropriate.
post #3 of 34
I don't think you can really call it bullying at this age. Toddlers aren't really thinking through what they are doing, and they haven't learned cause and effect (I push this kid over, it hurts him, he cries and is sad, therefore I shouldn't push him over). The bullies are actually formed later in life because their parents (or some other powerful figure) bullies them- they learn early in life that being physically powerful means you can get what you want by pushing others around, literally. So actually the parents who physically restrain their kids and control every little thing they do are more likely to end up with bullies, especially if they use any kind of physical control, not limited to spanking. Emotional control can also produce bullies... and other issues.

So anyway from what I've read my understanding is that the best thing to do at this age is intervene as little as possible, especially if no one is getting hurt and the kids seem ok with what is going on. I was very upset when a friend of mine spanked and yelled at her 17 month old after he pushed down my daughter. She was fine, a little confused, but not at all upset. And he wasn't really lashing out at my daughter, he just did it to get attention from his mother and it was late and he was tired (it was obvious at the time). My friend later apologized and said she doesn't believe in spanking, she was just very upset in the moment.

In any case, my daughter is a little on the aggressive side, and there are probably parents out there who don't like my hands-off attitude. I don't let her hurt anyone, but I don't think she actually would (except she does love to try to touch people's eyes, and I do tell her not to do that all the time because it is ouchy). She pushed down a child once (who was quite a bit older) but I could tell that she just did it as an experiment, and the child was fine. I told my daughter that we don't push people down because it could hurt them, and I have no idea if the idea sunk in but she hasn't done it since. I wasn't about to punish her for experimenting, that's her job! The thing she does a lot is grab toys away from other kids, and not let them have them back. I hate that she does that, but I think it's something she's just going to have to grow out of. I tell her that the other kids will be sad if she does that, but she doesn't seem to get it or care. She's 18 months.

The flip side is, she is a very popular playmate because she is inventive and loves to laugh and smile at other kids. She's fun to have around, even though she can be kinda pushy. So I think everyone puts up with her for that reason. She's not mean, just spirited.
post #4 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamazee View Post
Toddlers go through various stages, and a LOT of them go through an aggressive stage, so don't freak out if it happens to your little one at some point too. It doesn't mean they are bad parents, and if yours gets into a stage where he pushes and all that, it won't mean you're a bad parent either. It's just a stage many, many toddlers go through. It doesn't last forever.


This is more about personality and phase than it is about parenting. I've seen all sorts of different personalities come from totally apposing discipline styles.
post #5 of 34
Well, if it bothers you that much, you may want to consider not hanging out with other toddlers. My dd is a toy stealer/pusher and as much as I hover, I can't always stop her from doing those things. It's very upsetting to me. I will say though in my dd's defense that she only pushes when other kids get in her space. She has a friend who is really little and "meek", but is very persistent and will follow dd around saying "please" when she wants a toy that dd has. After a while dd gets anxious and will push her friend. In those situations I feel like my dd is just trying to set a boundary, although I always correct her. Sometimes I think it would be better if other toddlers just snatched the toy instead!
In your friend's case it sounds like she believes that children should work things out on their own. My father was like that when we were kids. We weren't allowed to tattle on eachother. It actually worked really well, and we learned to work things out. Of course, with toddlers I think parents need to monitor a bit more.
post #6 of 34
We are very AP and guess what - DS takes toys away and then runs away because he wants them to chase him and has also gets in their "personal space" because he loves to hug - regardless on if the other todder wants to be hugged. He isn't a bully. He doesn't understand what he is doing is wrong.

He can also be very sweet and kind, but he really doesn't understand why he can't take a toy from another child. This is a hard concept for him and while I continue to model for him on how I want him to behave, I can't wave a magic wand and make him behave the way I want him too. I do try my best, stay close by and I know that this is just a stage and it too shall pass.
post #7 of 34
I sympathize with the OP. Maybe we are in the minority, but I also have a child (my only) who is not aggressive at all. I only know of one instance where she has struck another child, and I could clearly see how and why that played out. She was getting maliciously pushed and bullied, got frustrated, walked over to a baby, and proceeded to almost gently hit the little boy on the back.

You see, I used to just let the kids figure it out by thelselves. I wanted DD to learn how to solve conflicts by hersef. I used to hate when parents would intervene over every little thing. That was until this incident. From then on, I have never let DD get pushed around without intervening or letting her know that I knew the other kid was being rough and that wasn't nice. She has never hit since. She doesn't even hit me.

She is 25 months old, and I can say almost positively that she has never taken something from someone else. NEVER. It is so bad (or good depending how you look at it) that it leaves her helpless when another child takes something of hers. She does not even try to stop it. She practacally gives the objest up. Then she comes to me and tattles.

I have also heard other people tell her, "well, go take it back." (which she has never done. ever. that's my girl) I am trying to teach her to ask for it back, but she is still not assertive enough to even do that be herself. Hopefully, that will come with age. But, I don't know.

When she was less than a year old, she would be using a piece of playground equipment (at one of those mall playgrounds), and if another child started to climb on it, she would get off. DH and I used to voice pretend thoughts for her. "Oh, you would like to climb on this? Well, let me get out of your way so you can fully enjoy this."

This is just her personality. These toddlers exist. It has nothing to do with parenting. And, in my DD's case, they are super sensitive. I can see the frustration build when she is getting pushed around by bigger kids, yet she restrains herself from pushing back. She expresses frustration during and after altercations. I have seen her tell herself, "I do not hit anyone," as she is getting pummeled.

She has told this to me after one rough playground experience: "The playgwound just isn't fair."

DD might be special (you know I think she is ), but I tend to believe that if kids like her exist at this age, there sure as heck could be kids her age who are true bullies.

Regardless, bullying beaviour should not be tolerated and certainly not promoted at any age.
post #8 of 34
OP, I sympathize with your situation having dealt with a neighbors aggressive toddler. In my situation I chose to no longer spend time with her and the child. We still see each other often because we're neighbors but not in a playdate situation. I think, if you don't feel comfortable stop allowing DS to play with them. It's no fun watching your child be pushed around even if the aggressive childs parents believe it's normal toddler behavior.
post #9 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by ellemenope View Post
DD might be special (you know I think she is ), but I tend to believe that if kids like her exist at this age, there sure as heck could be kids her age who are true bullies.
Sure, some toddlers are more assertive than others, but they are not bullies. I think it's wrong to judge little children like that. Judge the parents all you want, but not the children.
post #10 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by gbailey View Post
OP, I sympathize with your situation having dealt with a neighbors aggressive toddler. In my situation I chose to no longer spend time with her and the child. We still see each other often because we're neighbors but not in a playdate situation. I think, if you don't feel comfortable stop allowing DS to play with them. It's no fun watching your child be pushed around even if the aggressive childs parents believe it's normal toddler behavior.
I agree with this, I would take a break from these friends. A lot can happen in 3, 4 months--so why not find some other things to do and then revisit them in a few months. They might be more gently then, or at least better communicators.

Putting a label that is a character label (like "true bully") on a child who is constantly changing and developing seems inappropriate, especially a toddler. (I don't think the OP meant to do this, she was describing the behavior of the kids, not the character, I think).
post #11 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by carmel23 View Post
I agree with this, I would take a break from these friends. A lot can happen in 3, 4 months--so why not find some other things to do and then revisit them in a few months. They might be more gently then, or at least better communicators.

.
ITA. The behavior might improve, but until then why not give it a rest? Honestly you neighbor may not like your children socializing anyway. As the mother of an assertive toddler I would much rather not socialize with other toddlers. I hate feeling like my dd is the "bad kid".
post #12 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by scottishmommy View Post
ITA. The behavior might improve, but until then why not give it a rest? Honestly you neighbor may not like your children socializing anyway. As the mother of an assertive toddler I would much rather not socialize with other toddlers. I hate feeling like my dd is the "bad kid".
I've found that toddlers through preschool aged often behave better with a mixed aged crowd. The older kids will speak up when the toddler is trying to take a toy, etc. And often the kids just model the behavior of the older children, so it is better all around.

Having kids play together just because they are the same age can be frustrating for the parents, and the children.
post #13 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by carmel23 View Post
I've found that toddlers through preschool aged often behave better with a mixed aged crowd. The older kids will speak up when the toddler is trying to take a toy, etc. And often the kids just model the behavior of the older children, so it is better all around.

Having kids play together just because they are the same age can be frustrating for the parents, and the children.
Yes! A thousand times yes! Also, I've found that toddlers with wildly different temperaments can really clash. DD is never aggressive with other energetic and assertive toddlers.
post #14 of 34
Thread Starter 
OP here: I would say that my three children (two school age and a toddler) tend to inhibit their aggression outside the home, but among themselves they can get rough, take things without permission, etc. They are far from angels. I'm a busy mom (like most of you I'm sure) and I don't have time to hover, but I certainly don't think it is appropriate to let kids 'handle it themselves' when one of them blatantly does something that's out of line. I don't let them get away with it and I don't expect my other child to have to do the disciplining for me.

The school aged children I know who do have bullying behavior are the ones whose parents have the more 'hands off' parenting style. These kids probably were never told not to bully early on and the younger ones who were pushed around learned to bully back. I don't think you can say that toddlers are bullies, but if the behavior isn't nipped in the bud I think that could be the outcome. Again, I wonder if some people allow their children to behave this way because they think their kids are tough, strong and assertive. I find it odd that if the kid were to do something nasty to their own parent (take something, hit them, push them to the floor, etc.) they would get a punishment, but if they do the same behavior to another kid the parents go into 'denial' mode and insist that the kids just work it out themselves.
post #15 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by connieculkins View Post
Again, I wonder if some people allow their children to behave this way because they think their kids are tough and strong. I find it odd that if the kid were to do something nasty to their own parent (take something, hit them, etc.) they would get a punishment, but if they do it to another kid it is suddenly that other kid's fault for being weak.
Of course there are parents like that! It sounds like your neighbor may be one of them.
post #16 of 34
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by scottishmommy View Post
Of course there are parents like that! It sounds like your neighbor may be one of them.
After writing that reply I think I might have found a good way to bring the subject up during a playdate ( I still haven't decided to avoid them). If her child does something very aggressive and she doesn't respond I'll ask her how she would respond if her child did that to her. I'm sure she'll say she'd punish him...Then I would say, "well, then you should do the same when he does it to somebody else."
post #17 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by carmel23 View Post
I've found that toddlers through preschool aged often behave better with a mixed aged crowd. The older kids will speak up when the toddler is trying to take a toy, etc. And often the kids just model the behavior of the older children, so it is better all around.

Having kids play together just because they are the same age can be frustrating for the parents, and the children.


I have kids on both ends of the stick: one who cries when kids take toys from him and has never hit another kid even when he was being hit repeatedly (age 4). And my other one who hits and bites and takes toys away from other kids (age 15 mo.)

I have learned from play dates that not all kids will play well together and at an early age, they just don't get along. After a couple of playdates that don't go well, we usually give it a rest for awhile. I have been avoiding playdates with people who have young toddlers recently because my smaller one is aggressive and it is not fun for either of us to trail her constantly. It is more fun for her to play with bigger kids and emulate the things that they do.

Quote:
After writing that reply I think I might have found a good way to bring the subject up during a playdate ( I still haven't decided to avoid them). If her child does something very aggressive and she doesn't respond I'll ask her how she would respond if her child did that to her. I'm sure she'll say she'd punish him...Then I would say, "well, then you should do the same when he does it to somebody else."
I wouldn't like for this to be said to me, it would put me on the defensive and I would not listen to a thing you had to say. Is there a way you can phrase your feelings without judgment? If one of them is your neighbor, can you find a way to 'take a break' from play dates until the kids get to a different phase? Right now you are setting the standard of your parenting 'relationship' with your neighbor. If her philosophy is so radically different from yours, it may be that your kids don't play together. Or maybe she will be intrigued by things that you do to guide your children. Who knows.
post #18 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by carmel23 View Post
Putting a label that is a character label (like "true bully") on a child who is constantly changing and developing seems inappropriate, especially a toddler. (I don't think the OP meant to do this, she was describing the behavior of the kids, not the character, I think).
I meant that there are toddlers who act like true bullies. I honestly can't even understand this argument. If anyone at any age hits, pushes, or forcefully takes things away from another, this is true bullying behaviour, and whether it is developmentaly appropriate for a toddler to exhibit such behaviour or not, it should be rectified, not ignored, and certainly not promoted.

What is a child learning when he is allowed to hit and get the toy he wants from another child? And, more important to me, what is the victim learning?

I am not calling toddlers who hit sociopaths. And, I would never label a child as a bully. But, bullish behaviour is bullish behaviour. Someone who exhibits bullish behaviour at the time is being a bully.

As the mother of a perpetual toddler victim, I am not asking for punishments. I am asking for a "We do not hit. Give that toy back. That is not nice. See, you made that boy upset when you took his toy."
post #19 of 34
My DD is older than the OP's -- 30 months. I realize there can be a huge difference between a 2-year-old and a 2.5-year-old.

That said, my very extroverted DD is particularly aggressive with one of her regular playmates, a boy who is the same age and is particularly passive. The nice thing is his mother and I are very open about discussing the conflicts that arise when they play and brainstorming ways to address our children's annoying behavior (in my DD's case, it's her taking toys away, invading personal space, etc. In her son's case, it's constant whining and unwillingness to share).

Obviously, I don't like when my DD is aggressive. But I'm starting to understand why she appears that way, and particularly around this little boy. She is so extroverted that she doesn't seem to understand that other children need personal space. (She's a big hugger, and that really upsets the little boy.) She also will take away a toy when the boy is trying to play by himself. I've really started to notice how badly she wants to interact with other kids. That age between 2 and 3 is when a lot of kids transition from parallel play to cooperative play. DD wants to play with the boy instead of alongside him. I agree that 2 is too early to assign labels, but I do think it's been helpful to observe that this boy is fairly introverted and has greater needs for personal space and solitary play -- this is something his mother observed before I did.

His mom and I are good friends and I'd hate to stop the playdates. Plus, when they are getting along, they really get along. Each of our kids really look forward to our weekly playdates, so despite the conflict, they definitely consider each other friends. And really, these kids have to learn to accommodate other people, to be empathetic, at some point, and as exhausting as these conflict sometimes can be, they provide great opportunities for the kiddos to learn that.

OP, do you think there is a way to open up a discussion with these moms?
post #20 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by ellemenope View Post
I meant that there are toddlers who act like true bullies. I honestly can't even understand this argument. If anyone at any age hits, pushes, or forcefully takes things away from another, this is true bullying behaviour, and whether it is developmentaly appropriate for a toddler to exhibit such behaviour or not, it should be rectified, not ignored, and certainly not promoted.

What is a child learning when he is allowed to hit and get the toy he wants from another child? And, more important to me, what is the victim learning?

I am not calling toddlers who hit sociopaths. And, I would never label a child as a bully. But, bullish behaviour is bullish behaviour. Someone who exhibits bullish behaviour at the time is being a bully.

As the mother of a perpetual toddler victim, I am not asking for punishments. I am asking for a "We do not hit. Give that toy back. That is not nice. See, you made that boy upset when you took his toy."
Well said!
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