Almost 3 yo MEAN to younger children. - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 13 Old 10-15-2010, 10:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I need a new take on this- My almost 3 yo is very mean to younger children. Specifically, babies who are old enough to walk, but not old enough to communicate yet...like 14-24 months. She will push, yell, occasionally hit and throw things at them. I have ignored it, tried time out, left the room with her, talked to her when she's calm (later in the day), shown shock and anger, and ended playdates. I have even prepared her before we go around these babies- explained that they will be here and how we need to be nice, etc. I don't know what else to do! Help?

Thanks!

Trying to balance a preschooler and peace....
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#2 of 13 Old 10-15-2010, 11:07 PM
 
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My DS did the same thing from 2-3. I believe it was 2 things: one being that he's verbally advanced--very verbally advanced. He tried to communicate with toddlers his own age and got blank stares, then started to get aggressive with any walking child that did not talk to him. He has always preferred much older kids (like 8+) and adults.

And the other thing I now realize is that DS was acting out aggression from an attachment issue he suffered when DH took 3 separate week-long business trips in a 6 month span.

We tried talking to him--explaining that just like he loves big kids playing with him HE is the big kid to those babies. Sometimes helped, often didn't. Worst when he was overtired.

I finally just tried to steer him clear of walking babies/toddlers and then finally a few months after 3 he seemed to be done. Now he just ignores them, which is fine by me after a year of him growling at them and pushing them down!

Funny thing is my kid is so kind and gentle, such a cuddler/kisser lovebug! He just took every scrap of aggression he had and put it on those little ones. So hard to see it, but know it's not because your little girl is a bully--try to figure out what she's working through and if you have to, just run interference for a few months, she'll get over it.

A final note: I really wonder if little ones are really programmed to deal with non-relative kids. And by relative I mean kids that they know very well and see all the time--ones they "get" are part of the family/community. The whole idea of suburban playgrounds, playspaces with different kids every time is really new historically speaking and I am not sure 3 year olds are programmed for that kind of social stress! My Ds would get this look on his face when he first saw a little one that looked like the old west, like a "This playground ain't big enough for the two of us" kind of grimace! I just finished reading "Hold On to Your Kids", which sheds a lot of indirect light on this topic.
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#3 of 13 Old 10-16-2010, 03:20 PM
 
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Hi, my DD2 is on the receiving end of this from a neighbor child. We have stopped seeing the neighbor.

If my child was the aggressor (and DD1 has been the aggressor!) I would do the following: 1)warning before entering play area (if you are unkind to small children we will leave); 2)follow through, every time. Pick child up, say, that was unkind, we need to leave now, and go. Or some variation of the above.

I've watched the neighbor kid be really unkind to DD2 (neighbor is almost 3, DD2 is 2y3mo) and hurt her, and my neighbor do nothing too many times and I'm actually really angry. We always end up leaving with DD2 in tears--why should DD2 have to be the one to leave the fun place while neighbor kid gets to do what she likes and there are no consequences? I would be mortified if one of mine was mean to a smaller child and I would nip it in the bud.
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#4 of 13 Old 10-16-2010, 03:29 PM
 
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Lots of kids in the range of 2.5 or so go through an aggressive stage. Almost all kids outgrow it, but you have to really be a helicopter parent for a bit, protecting the younger kids and catching her. Stop her every time, and tell her to be gentle. If she's having a really bad day where she isn't able to control herself, it might be best to leave a playdate for that day or something, because getting her more frustrated won't help. But try not to worry too much. I am going to guess that not just a lot of 2.5-year-olds, but actually the majority of them, go through this. Very common and not something you've caused.
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#5 of 13 Old 10-16-2010, 11:46 PM
 
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Originally Posted by alfabetsoup View Post
If my child was the aggressor (and DD1 has been the aggressor!) I would do the following: 1)warning before entering play area (if you are unkind to small children we will leave); 2)follow through, every time. Pick child up, say, that was unkind, we need to leave now, and go. Or some variation of the above.

I have to disagree with this approach. I think little kids this age really won't "get" what is going on. Even if you explain it to them very plainly. For a 2-2.5 year old, it is just a punishment. A 2 year old (even a verbal one) has very few tools in their toolbox for conflict resolution. Expecting them to walk away, not grab toys, or even not push down a baby exploring 'too close' to them is setting them up for failure. It is a very normal phase, and it's up to the parents to ensure that everyone is safe. If that means you have to be two feet away from your 2.5 year old when babies are nearby, then that's reality - at least for a little while. It's not realistic to expect your 2 year old to follow some extremely vague admonition like "Be nice". You wouldn't feel guilty putting away a puzzle or game that was too advanced for your kiddo. So why put them in any other situation they can't handle?
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#6 of 13 Old 10-17-2010, 09:59 AM
 
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I have to disagree with this approach. I think little kids this age really won't "get" what is going on. Even if you explain it to them very plainly. For a 2-2.5 year old, it is just a punishment. A 2 year old (even a verbal one) has very few tools in their toolbox for conflict resolution. Expecting them to walk away, not grab toys, or even not push down a baby exploring 'too close' to them is setting them up for failure. It is a very normal phase, and it's up to the parents to ensure that everyone is safe. If that means you have to be two feet away from your 2.5 year old when babies are nearby, then that's reality - at least for a little while. It's not realistic to expect your 2 year old to follow some extremely vague admonition like "Be nice". You wouldn't feel guilty putting away a puzzle or game that was too advanced for your kiddo. So why put them in any other situation they can't handle?
Totally with you.
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#7 of 13 Old 10-17-2010, 03:32 PM
 
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I have to disagree with this approach. I think little kids this age really won't "get" what is going on. Even if you explain it to them very plainly. For a 2-2.5 year old, it is just a punishment. A 2 year old (even a verbal one) has very few tools in their toolbox for conflict resolution. Expecting them to walk away, not grab toys, or even not push down a baby exploring 'too close' to them is setting them up for failure. It is a very normal phase, and it's up to the parents to ensure that everyone is safe. If that means you have to be two feet away from your 2.5 year old when babies are nearby, then that's reality - at least for a little while. It's not realistic to expect your 2 year old to follow some extremely vague admonition like "Be nice". You wouldn't feel guilty putting away a puzzle or game that was too advanced for your kiddo. So why put them in any other situation they can't handle?

Yes, everything you have said is true. But we are not talking about a 2-2.5yo, we are talking about an almost 3yo--and in my experience, there is a BIG difference. I don't think most children would understand an instruction to "be nice," but most almost 3yo's could understand "if you hit, we leave." If you have tried everything else and DC is still acting out, it's time for drastic measures: DC not allowed to be around younger children.

If it was your child getting hit repeatedly, what would you like the other parent to do?
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#8 of 13 Old 10-17-2010, 04:21 PM
 
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Originally Posted by alfabetsoup View Post
Yes, everything you have said is true. But we are not talking about a 2-2.5yo, we are talking about an almost 3yo--and in my experience, there is a BIG difference. I don't think most children would understand an instruction to "be nice," but most almost 3yo's could understand "if you hit, we leave." If you have tried everything else and DC is still acting out, it's time for drastic measures: DC not allowed to be around younger children.
I respectfully disagree again. Some almost three year olds would understand, and some (imo, many) don't. Personality and temperament can make a big difference - I don't think it's fair or useful to of expect all (or even most) not-yet-three year olds. In addition, for those that do understand the actual concept, they likely don't have the impulse control necessary to act in the moment. Many adults struggle with impulse control (ex. yelling at our kids!). Which is all beside the point, because, if you know your child might hit another, why would you give them the chance? Perhaps it would help to reframe the behaviour in terms of capabilities, instead of "acting out". This child is not yet capable (or not capable right now) of controlling the urge to hit smaller kids. Would you punish someone who was not capable of performing a task to your specifications? The answer is not to remove them from fun activities, but rather, the parent can act as a facilitator to ensure everyone's body remains safe.

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If it was your child getting hit repeatedly, what would you like the other parent to do?
Why would I be allowing this? My children are my priority. I wouldn't wait around for the other parent to "do something". If I suspected that two kids were unable to play together safely, I would be there with them. I might try to distract them into a safer game if they wanted to play together, or try to move my child away by engaging them in a game of some kind.

If I was close enough, I would physically block a strike. Everyone's body needs to be safe, but I am an adult and I can handle three year old fists. I don't believe that any child feels good when they hit, rather, they are expressing their discomfort with the situation. Even the angry child needs to feel safe.

I might try to sense what the aggressing child was wanting or needing and find a safe way to help them. I might give some attention to that child for a bit. I might validate. But I don't believe that punishing a child by removing them from the park for behaving very age appropriately (warning or not) will help them learn how to respect others.
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#9 of 13 Old 10-17-2010, 06:33 PM
 
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I have been trying to think how to respond to this, and I think you & I might be saying roughly the same thing: don't put children in situations that they can't handle.

I do, however, disagree with some of the things you have said:

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Originally Posted by Riverdog View Post
they likely don't have the impulse control necessary to act in the moment. Many adults struggle with impulse control (ex. yelling at our kids!).
It is our job as parents to teach our children impulse control. If all your strategies of redirecting, 'gentle hands' (I use that one A LOT!), etc aren't working, what is left but swift removal? And I think it would be disrespectful to the child not to warn him/her beforehand. It's unreasonable to expect an almost 3yo to know that we don't hit each other.

Quote:
Which is all beside the point, because, if you know your child might hit another, why would you give them the chance? Perhaps it would help to reframe the behaviour in terms of capabilities, instead of "acting out". This child is not yet capable (or not capable right now) of controlling the urge to hit smaller kids. Would you punish someone who was not capable of performing a task to your specifications? The answer is not to remove them from fun activities, but rather, the parent can act as a facilitator to ensure everyone's body remains safe.
I think the question the OP has asked is HOW can she act as a facilitator to ensure everyone's body remains safe. I am still interested to hear your suggestions.

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But I don't believe that punishing a child by removing them from the park for behaving very age appropriately (warning or not) will help them learn how to respect others.
This is where we most differ because quite frankly, I believe it will. A child whose fun is curtailed when she hurts others will think twice, eventually, about hitting or snatching. I think my 4yo is fairly average, developmentally, and she understood this when she was nearly 3. I expect my kids to be reasonably respectful to others--when everyone plays nice, everyone has a good time, and if you can't play nice, we leave. I don't snatch them away, I just pack up and say, come on, let's go. And I carry them if I have to. I just think it's the kindest way for everybody concerned--if children don't learn to play nicely, no one will want to play with them.
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#10 of 13 Old 10-18-2010, 01:04 PM
 
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Is it possible to make playdates with only older kids? Find a new group of three and four year olds. That way, everybody has a level playing field, and the other kids have a better chance of holding their own.
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#11 of 13 Old 10-18-2010, 01:23 PM
 
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I have a 1.5 year old and I would be okay if you were doing SOMETHING after my baby got hit. It doesn't have to be a time out. It certainly shouldn't be hitting back but, "Gentle hands, we don't hit..." Something along those lines would be fine.
A three-year-old at the park hit the baby with a shovel.There was no parent but I didn't wait. I removed my baby and said, "No hitting." A mom said, "Well, they seem to be doing fine."
I said, "Are you his mom?"
"No, I think he's with one of the nannies over there."
"Well, he did hit the baby quite a few times and that's not acceptable."
My baby hadn't been hit except once in the face by my dd1's friend's four year old brother. We were there with them. That mom was confused at why I was comforting my crying baby. She asked if the baby was really hurt, I said, yes and she explained that her kids still hit, even her 8.5 year old. This attitude that hitting was just fine bothered me more than the hitting and that I was just somehow overcomforting my baby just mystified me. I didn't yell at the three year old or say he was bad. I said, "No hitting my baby."

:Mama to 2 :
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#12 of 13 Old 10-18-2010, 01:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the replies.

This situation doesn't happen with every little kid we meet. If we are at the park, she usually ignores the babies, or tells me she doesn't like them/want to play with them. She is usually mean to children we know- my bf kids, babies in my playgroup, etc. She sees these children often.
Dd does appear to know that it hurts the kids, makes them feel bad, and makes it so she can't play. For her age, I thinks she has a good understanding of right from wrong.

It seems the only real thing I can do is hover close by and prevent her from doing it, or remove her when it happens. Hopefully just encouraging her to have gentle hands and encourage empathy will help her get over this phase.

Trying to balance a preschooler and peace....
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#13 of 13 Old 10-25-2010, 11:48 PM
 
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My 3.5yo dd is just getting over this exact behavior. When she was barely a year old she would tell me, "I don't like babies!" Even when she was a year old, she didn't like 2yo's. When she was 6mo she would crawl towards babies and headbutt them! Once in the grocery she spotted one who was about her age--maybe 14months--and she ran all the way down the aisle and pushed him down. She's a loving girl, very smart and very stubborn and opinionated. She's also incredibly advanced verbally and used to get really frustrated when kids couldn't communicate.

What finally worked for us was role playing--a lot--on the playground and with dolls. I would make it very upbeat and fun and try to do it when she wasn't expecting it. She would get territorial on the top of the slide or when she felt crowded. So we'd be playing and talking and I'd ask her, "Oh, what should we do if a baby comes up here?" No matter what her answer was, I never said no or corrected her. If she said she would tell it to go away, I'd just tell her what I would do differently. When she said she would let it go down the slide, I'd be overly happy and proud of her and give her a big hug and a kiss and leave it at that. I was always relaxed and having a good time with it so it wasn't like a lecture.

I think the key was the timing. I did it when we were having fun and there weren't any imminent baby threats so she had time and space to think about what she should do. That way she had a very positive association with the appropriate way to behave in what was otherwise a negative experience for her--baby threats. :P

She was a little over 2 when I did that.

Oh yeah, another thing I did was tell her that when she saw the babies coming, get out of the way as fast as possible so it became a game. It's not a long-term solution so much, but kids love to be chased and it usually worked in the moment. I'd just tell her, "oh no, here comes a baby! Quick down the slide, down the slide!" She would scream and escape the baby as fast as she could. That could hurt an older kids' feelings, though, unless you involve them in the game. We did that with little babies.

HTH. Believe me, I know what you're going through! My kid is nicknamed Lolo The Bull because of her baby-headbutting days! Now that she's older, though, she's using her toughness much more appropriately. The other day a little boy was razzing DD1, who is almost 6 and very sensitive, and DD2 charged in and took control. Very cool! It always gets better.

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