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So, my dad was a pest. As a child he was small but a big pest and often got beaten up (after throwing rocks, etc at bigger kids). He still (in his 60's) loves to bug people, and get them angry or cause an emotional reaction. So does my brother. So does my nefew.

My two year old is already showing signs of this behavior. At nap and bed time especially he thinks it is hilarious to kick us, poke us in the eyes or head butt us until we get mad or do something about it. Usually this results in him being put in the stroller or otherwise confined so that he has to go to sleep and can't reach anyone. At playgroup and the park he has started pushing the new walkers (11 - 15 mo old kids) because he thinks its hilarious when they fall down and he wants to see the reaction he gets. Usually this means we have to leave playgroup in the middle or come home from the park. I figure these are fairly reasonable consequences, since we don't get to keep playing with kids / cuddling if we are being a pest.

So far I have been able to mostly catch him and nip his pestering in the bud. But how am I going to get it to stop in the long run? Its like any reaction just encourages the behavior, but especially getting mad or raising my voice. And sometimes he does it because he WANTS to go home or WANTS to be in the stroller, in which case aren't I rewarding his bad behavior?

I'm not at the end of my rope yet, but I'm seriously getting tired of being kicked in the head and poked in the eye. Any suggestions?

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First, your son is NOT your father or your brother or your nephew. If you read the boards here often enough, you'll find that it's really common in toddlers to do this kind of thing.

If I were you, I would keep doing what you are doing, only modify it a bit. You need to prevent this as much as possible (that would be my ONLY goal as a parent for the next 3-4 weeks, to be honest), so he gets the idea that this behavior simply isn't allowed. If he can't make contact, he'll lose the "thrill" of getting a reaction.

Where I would modify it is that I woudln't let it go on until you get mad. Instead of letting him keep poking, kicking, etc. until you get mad, I would first try to position myself so that he can't do that. Keep your hands free so you can grab his hand and gently prevent him from poking. Place your hands in front of your body so he can't headbutt. Grab his leg when he starts to kick. Then, after you grab his body, repeat "gentle, gentle" and help his body be gentle.

If he happens to make contact, say "ow, that hurts me. Gentle." and demonstrate gentle again. If he makes contact a second time, stand up and say "ow, that hurts my body, I can't lay with you if you hurt me." and leave for a minute or two. Or plop him in the crib for a minute or two while you regain your composure. (It's important to be as boring as possible while doing this so he doesn't get a rise out of you.)

At playgroup/park, you are going to be your son's shadow for several weeks -- your goal is to prevent him making contact. So, alas, you aren't going to socialize, you're going sit yourself down right in the middle of where he's playing so he's within arms reach. If he makes contact with another child, say "that hurts Tyler. Be gentle" and redirect him. If he does it again, repeat the words, but pick him up and move him where he can't make contact anymore. If he does it again, pick him up and move with him to the couch/park bench for a minute and say "gentle" and demonstrate. Then add "it looks like you need to play by yourself for a bit. We'll sit over here by ourselves for a bit."

I going to get it to stop in the long run? Its like any reaction just encourages the behavior, but especially getting mad or raising my voice. And sometimes he does it because he WANTS to go home or WANTS to be in the stroller, in which case aren't I rewarding his bad behavior?
I would encourage you to think of this as a short term, normal toddler problem NOT a life long personality defect that you see in your father.

In the long run, you stop it by pointing out to him the effect of his actions on other people "Tyler is said when you do that" (expect this to take many years), by MODELING appropriate behavior to him, by listening to him when he says "stop", and by limiting contact with people who don't listen when he says "stop".

If your toddler is misbehaving because he wants to go home, it's time to go home. It's not about 'rewarding' bad behavior, but about realizing that a toddler has a very limited ability to control themself, and that if they are acting out, they've passed that point. If he WANTS to be in the stroller, then what he's saying, without the words is "my body is out of control, I need to be in the stroller to feel safe." As he gets older, you can work on him to express his needs in a more appropriate way. A 12 year old acting out because he wants to go home is one thing. A 2 year old is a very different.

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What you are describing is normal and common, and does not indicate a character flaw! As parents, we are so full of fears. Sometimes it is easy to project our worst fears on our children, and assume motives that are not really there. You simply cannot assume adult motives for childish behavior. He is just being a baby.

Its dangerous to label them too much. If you let yourself think of him as a "pest" then he will learn to be a pest. Children live up (or down) to our expectations. As much as possible, try to reframe his behaviors in a positive light. He is not being a pest -- he is experimenting with controling his environment and getting reactions.

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It sounds like this is a pretty big concern you're facing right now

ITA w/Lynn and mamaduck. I'm also really uncomfortable placing labels (either positive or negative) onto anyone, especially a small child. I think it's important, as mamaduck mentioned, to try and look at his behavior through a more positive lens
It might be really challenging to find positives in behavior you're judging as negative, but it's totally possible. Even if it seems silly or unnatural to relabel actions, it can really help.

As far as your "pest" relatives, something that was so critical for me to learn is that:we choose our reactions and our responses.No one makes me be emotional or makes me angry or annoyed. I'm picking these responses. I could choose, with however great difficulty
to react with a neutral voice or a calm: please stop.

What if what you consider pestering is, for your little, his way of asking for your attention? What you see as pest behavior (b/c of what you've seen from your father) might be completely benign to someone else. I think we all have our personal tolerance levels. I really have a hard time dealing with loud as a mother of three under seven, I've had to adjust my personal comfort levels b/c it's unrealistic and unfair to my dc to expect that they tiptoe and whisper.

I think it's really important to remember he is NOT doing this to be intentionally annoying, irritating or to bug you--despite having, from what I've read, an annoying grandfather
. He's simply being and doing what he's capable of at that moment. He's innately good
Humans are so much more complex, IMO, than if he does this and I do this, he will always do this. Things won't always be this way. Y'all will both learn together, and with each passing day, his communication skils and abilities will grow.

Hang in, mama
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