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How to help gentle toddler deal with aggressive toddlers?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Hi all, I see lots of advice online on helping kids be less aggressive, but our attachment-parented 20-month-old son is very kind and gentle. He plays great with other nonviolent kids, but I've he just doesn't seem to know how to stand up for himself when other kids are aggressive toward him.

If another kid grabs a toy he was playing with, he doesn't hang on tighter--he lets them have it and just plays with something else. Most of the time he seems fine with this, so I'm fine with it--but sometimes he really looks bewildered or frustrated, if he really wants the toy back. One older boy at play group seems to have decided my son is a soft target: he just grabs whatever toy my son is playing with whenever he feels like it. (His mother doesn't seem to try to teach him to share.) I sometimes step in to make the other boy wait his turn (which seems to annoy his mother), but how can I help our son to stand up for himself? He's very tall, strong and co-ordinated for his age, so I love that he's so gentle. I don't want him to start hitting other kids. I would be pretty pleased to see him hang on tight and say "No, no!" if he still wants a toy some other kid is trying to take, though.

Likewise, a little neighbor girl, also a few months older, hits and kicks. I know this is developmentally normal and her parents/babysitter can teach her to be gentle, but what's a gentle kid to do meanwhile?

He talks very well for his age--maybe teach him to shout, "No, no hit!" or "No! My turn!" ? Any other suggestions, wise mamas?
post #2 of 8

I have a big timer that I used to use in my classroom when I taught.  Now it's the "sharing timer" for playdates.  Any time kids are fighting over a toy, I just set the timer for 2-3 minutes, and they take turns.  Sometimes one kid loses interest.  Sometimes they'll go back and forth for a while.  


At my son's daycare they have taught him to yell, "No thank you!"

post #3 of 8

Being able to let go of a toy is a serious asset! I suppose I'd be not too concerned as long as DS is not turning into a whipping boy. He's making very wise choices in the face of violence and pushy kids, etc. I suspect that as time rolls along, he'll take that gentle and compassionate approach right into other situations. Knowing when to just back up and let it go is what the other little banshees are having a hard time learning.


Having had a kiddo with the same temperament, however, I know it is a very hard thing to observe! It helps when other parents say "wow. she is such a nice kid! So gentle all the time" Once in a while, I'll see her stand up for herself (most times, it's with me) and I really give her a pat on the back. She's become fearless at calling me out if I renege on a plan or fail to follow her favorite routines...I trust that at some point she will transfer that to her peer group too. 

post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
Yeah, maybe it's a good thing and I'm overly sensitive about it bc I was picked on as a kid. Our son is confident and friendly, and he's being raised in a very loving environment, so I doubt he'll become a target for bullies.

I think I'll just encourage him to stand up for himself verbally, and institute the 2-3-minute rule re sharing toys--a great idea. Thank you both!
post #5 of 8

If he's bothered by it, you can tell him to yell "NO!" or "I'm playing with that" or whatever. I also told my son to take the toy somewhere else. Like if someone was trying to take a toy away from him, to take the toy somewhere else to play with it. Most kids won't be bothered by following a child to grab a toy away. Also, if I don't want kids taking toys away from my kid, I don't let them. If your kid doesn't mind, it's no big deal, but my kid would always get upset if someone grabbed a toy away. Also, I didn't want to teach him that grabbing a toy away is how you get a toy you want. So I'd stay close to my kid, if some other kid put there hands on my kid's toy to take it away, I'd put my hands on it too, and tell the offender "he's playing with that". And I wouldn't let him grab the toy away. I'm modeling to my son what he should be doing in that situation. Maybe I'd try to give the other kid another toy or something. It all depends on the intent of the other child. Some little kids are just trying to play and are maybe too young to understand you don't grab things away from people. But some kids feel it's okay to take what they want whenever they want it. If another kid's parent is too busy or lazy to prevent their kid from stealing toys, then I don't see any problem with defending your own kid. Its not like you're following the kid around and parenting him. Don't worry if you annoy the other kid's mom. Their kid is the annoying one, not yours. For some reason, some parents take pride in their little ones grabbing things away from others to get what they want. I do not want to teach this behavior to my kids, and if they see others do it successfully to get what they want without consequences, then they might start doing it too.

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 
I am totally with you on that, dejagerw. I do sometimes do exactly that, bc it's good for my son to see that grabbing toys from other kids is not ok, and standing up to grabby kids is a perfectly good thing to do.

Of course kids, including my son, grab toys from each other all the time, just bc they want them and aren't thinking about the other kid. But usually their moms or nannies are right on it, telling them not to grab and making them take turns. I was just worried about taking over for him, as opposed to letting him learn by doing. But, as you say, we need to model appropriate behavior, and appropriate behavior includes standing up for yourself. By holding onto the toy and not letting the other kid take it ("No, he's playing with this right now. You can play with it later, when he's done", then gripping on hard while the other boy tried to wrench it from my hands). I felt kinda silly being in a push-pull struggle with a toddler over a fisher price school bus, but your comment helps me realize I wasn't fighting my kid's battles for him--I was showing him how to stand up for himself.

As for the few parents who want their kids to grab and not share--how bizarre, but I suppose this kid's mom is one of them. Do such parents figure selfishness will help their kid get along in this world? Yuck.

Or maybe she just thinks her kid can do no wrong ... the sun rises and sets on our little boy, too, but that doesn't mean we'll let him grab whatever he wants regardless of other people!
Edited by milk monster - 12/17/12 at 7:08am
post #7 of 8
You have a great son!!! Mine is the same way! But not to his sister and that I think made her not to the world.. I have to watch them closely. My heat with you- like to give advice is to just keep being you!!! That others boy mom is not paying attention and could be in denial or overwhelmed - she may be annoyed that it is her kid and it is coming out wrong- I don't know why. You could have teaching moments with this kid because you can tell your son what he did was wrong - loudly and tell him he is worth something for being the peacemaker. "Now lets go find a kind friend and more fun toy!" Just do it loud but not yelling. This is a hard lesson for other boy to hear - but if he gets it soon - it can make his life far greater and more beautiful. You don't need to tell him directly it isn't nice - just your son.
post #8 of 8

I have the same problem with my DD. What I started doing was teaching her to say no. When she was maybe 17 or so months she would say "no" if she didn't want something, but just as in, "Would you like a drink?" "No...", but she still didn't know about telling people "NO!" yet because we literally had no reason to use it with her. So when something happened that upset her when she was playing with another kid, or even if she wasn't upset but still had an other kid be aggressive towards her, I would talk it over with her, and say, "If you don't want someone to grab from you, (or whatever) say NO!" Then we practiced saying "NO! NO! NO!" a lot, which she totally loved. Every once in a while we'll go over the concept again, but it has really helped her to be taken advantage of less. I do sit back and let her navigate interactions to a certain extent, but I also have a "No hurting, no grabbing" rule. I think this is just basic, and I hold other kids to it when they play with her. Sometimes I'll just say "Oh, it looks like Joe is having a hard time not hitting, we'll go play somewhere else" and then we do. 

I love that my DD is so kind and sweet, and I know that she always will be, so it sure is important to me that she stand up for herself. 

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