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If a group of toddlers is having a grab-fest and no one is getting physically hurt,

  • intervene (give suggestions how below please)

    Votes: 7 58.3%
  • let them work it out themselves

    Votes: 4 33.3%
  • other

    Votes: 1 8.3%

toddler fights--when to invervene

824 Views 8 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  faythe
Dd is doing a new behavior that's very perplexing to me. My normally very kind, affectionate (though spirited) dd is turning into a little monster around other toddlers. The kids she formerly played nicely with are now all fighting with each other when we get them together.

It started with a tug-a-war at preschool co-op and her grabbing toys from other kids. This was at someone else's house. She seems to like to grab toys just for the heck of it. She's the oldest of the bunch of toddlers present. I guess the others are not in that stage yet.

Then I babysat later that night for a younger toddler and dd was again grabbing, but also trying to hurt her just for kicks. Like poking her with things, shoving her, etc. I tried to put in a video to calm them down until her mom got there and dd insisted on standing in front of the other toddler so she couldn't see even when I asked her to stop. That one might have been a jealousy thing, competing with her for my attention. I think I can work on that with some suggestions a friend gave me. Such as calling her away to do a chore like wiping down something with a rag to redirect her energy and aggression, while giving her the attention she wanted in a more positive way than time-out.

Today a mom came over with her toddler, who's the same age as dd, and the two used to play so well together. She's been away all summer and now both of them grab each other's toys, and the boy resorted to hitting her if she won the tug-a-war, or throwing toys at her head.

Soooo what to do??? Like I said I think I can handle the jealousy one okay since I'm fully in charge of both children. But when there are parents involved there are different expectations and parenting methods. Like I tell dd to give the toy back and if she doesn't I "help" her. While another mom doesn't believe in ever taking something from her dd's hand. I can see her point of view as well as my own.

I talked to a friend who used to be a preschool teacher and she said to just let them work out their own problems and eventually they would. As long as no one is hitting/biting etc. just let them have a grab fest and they will learn not to do it. IMO-- and granted I'm a first time mommy of a toddler-- it would just result in the weaker ones always being bullied by the stronger/more aggresive ones. OTOH how do they learn unless we supervise their learning? I need some thoughts and strategies from experienced moms.

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My ds is 19 months old and this is starting already with him and other kids we play with in playgroup. But, he is somehow usually on the receiving end of it.

He is a very sensitive child and I see him getting his feelings hurt when other children are more aggresive towards him whether it is taking the toy he is playing with or physically agressive towards him.

For example, a great friends son the other day continued to pull ds' hair. Everytime he got near him, he would pull his hair and hold on!! Poor ds!! He would just run into my arms crying and a few times needed to nurse to calm down and feel better. Luckily, he didnt harbor ill feelings and continued to play. I dont blame the parents, this is normal toddler stuff, but I feel bad for him. Thankfully, they intervened and talked to their son (who is 2)when he did pull ds's hair and stayed close to them to try and prevent it. My point to this is that I think that you should always intervene when it becomes physical. If they hadnt intervened, I would have and if it didnt get better, I would have left, to protect ds. Yes, you cant protect him from everything, but I feel I should help him protect him from bodily harm. I am his mom, and he trusts me that I will keep him out of harm's way, no matter how little.

As far as grabbing toys and such, I think that you should try and let them work it out at first, but if it isnt working, then you should intervene and help. For example, ds was playing with this train at a playgroup, and an older child came over and wanted to play with it. Ds let him join, but then the other child took the child away. Ds got upset and started to cry and push to be by the train. THe other child then wouldnt let him play with it. ( The child's mom was in another room
: ) I then distracted ds with something else to play with. THe other child lost intrest in the train and ds noticed this and went to play with the train. THe other child saw this and jumped on the train to stop ds. Ds crumbles in tears. So, I very loudly( so his mom can hear whats going on) ask the other child to please share as ds was playing with it, but they can play together. No go for the other child. THis continues another time, and finally the other mom also intervenes and he leaves to play something else. So yes I did intervene, but I tried to just deal with my kid.

I know this is such a difficult thing. You dont want to be a harping mom, but you dont want your child to get picked on or have their child be the picker. I think you have to also teach your child what to do when someone takes their toy, or hits them. WHen they are of appropriate age, this is something you can play act with them. But when they are younger, I think distraction and redirecting are the appropriate interventions.

I'm not sure I helped. I will be looking to this thread for insight too.
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I need to intervene most times when my kids (almost 2 and 3.5) fight. They get real violent real fast, and the 2 year old is STRONG. Before you know it, they are really punching each other. I used to tell the 3.5 year old to NOT touch her brother but that wasn't working - she would stand there and get totally pummelled (seriously, it wasn't an option, she really got hurt). So now they pretty much just punch each other until I get there, when I separate them by a couple of feet, ask what they were fighting about, and then give my 'ruling' ("Tony, that is Becca's juice, do you want your own?")

I DO tend to step in also when one child takes something away from the other. At this age, their interpersonal skills aren't so great and they are truly psychologically incapable of seeing from another's point of view, so they actually DO need us to step in and help them out when they do blatantly rude things to other kids - and I think we need to keep doing this until they develop a basic understanding of how to interact with other kids. Sure they can learn for themselves, but why not help them get a frame of reference in place?
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Originally posted by nikirj
Sure they can learn for themselves, but why not help them get a frame of reference in place?
This is how I feel as well. In my opinion, they need to see an example of how to handle the situation--like an adult stepping in to suggest taking turns.
My dd (2.5) also gets really violent really fast, so I always intervene. Many times I remove her entirely, so that she can calm down and tell me what happened. Then I give her some ideas that are better than hitting/shoving/grabbing, and we rejoin the group. A lot of times I just redirect the whole GROUP--or both kids, if only two fighting--with an activity.
I really don't see the merits of letting them work it out on their own (not at my dd's age, anyway), for two reasons: I worry about the lessons they are learning (force, bullying), and I worry about the lessons they are not learning (asking to share, offering to take turns, deciding to play together, finding something else that they can have more fun with together). It seems like a missed opportunity to teach appropriate behavior--especially when they behavior they are exhibiting is clearly inappropriate
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This is very timely... we just came home early from a playdate because dd was being too rough, basically, and her playmate didn't want to play with her anymore. Ack. I'm literally in tears because of this.

It's a little unclear how to handle it, though. The kids are both about 3 (he just turned, she will be soon) and used to just love each other. They both have gone through a difficult phase... he did first, was just being kind of standoffish and as his dad said "anti-social", and reacted badly if she grabbed something (which she shouldn't have done, but is pretty standard, right?) For example... he will have a hammer. She will grab it. He will start bawling.

I tell her not to grab. He grabs from her, and they have a tug-of-war. She grabs from him, and he instantly gives it up, and gets way upset. (Before this whole era started, he would either give it up instantly and go on to something else, or they would have a tug of war and then one of us [parents] would intervene.) But they also used to play together a lot without all of this grabby stuff.

Anyway, I'm just not sure where to go with this, how to talk to her, what to do. She didn't do anything egregious -- no hitting, pushing, bad words, nothing like that. Just grabbing, which is definitely not nice, but... and it wasn't even all grabbing. She gave him things a few times. A lot of it was his reaction, which I don't think was always warranted.

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I tend to lean towards intervening. I will give them a brief moment to work it out, but I don't want ds to learn that he has to resort to hitting before I step in. It is tricky, and it will always kind of depend on the situation, but if ds grabs from another kid, I will tell him that so and so was playing with that and we need to give it back and wait for his turn. Then I'll offer him something else. So far he has been really good at handing it back. If he absolutely refused, and no amount of negotiating or redirecting worked, then I hate to say it but I probably would yank it out of his hands. It hasn't happened yet, so I can't say for sure, but I really don't think it is fair to let the more aggressive of the kids have their way over the less aggressive kids.

And I'm not using aggressive as a negative term - sometimes my ds is the aggressive one and sometimes he's not. There was one little boy that we used to play with that was older than ds, and when ds would say "no" loudly because ds wanted the toy that the other boy had, the other boy would drop it and start crying. So I had to work with ds on not yelling at the other little boy.

But the neighbor boy who is younger than ds is more often the one to grab from him. Luckily his mom and I tend to react the exact same way, so it works out. We have said that we are just going to sit back and watch and see what happens before intervening, but it rarely works. Neither kid is really a hitter, but it's just so unfair to let one kid grab the toy, run away, and let the other kid sit there in tears, looking at us for help.

I know that life's not fair and that there are important social skills to learn, but I don't think that 2 or 3 are appropriate ages to expect them to know how to negotiate. Plus, we are still teaching them by stepping in - we are modeling the appropriate way to share, how to be considerate to the other person, and patience when you can't have what you want right now.
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ugh, this is timely too. dd 28 months, has turned into a bit of a bully and it's so dismaying to have to keep intervening. But that's what I do... I can't just let her be mean to other kids! I tell her "gently touching only" and "we don't ..." hit, push, whatever it is, and her response is always "why?". i tell her it hurts, and she replies, why? we go on and on with why, but I don't think she really gets it. I just keep hoping she grows out of it soon!!!
I voted let them work it out. My ds and the neighbor, who is ds' age, often act like siblings. They love each other and they fight passionately about stuff. As long as they aren't hurting each other, her father and I have decided mutually that they should work out their differences. I do coach ds after an incident. If it's been a particularly hard day for them, ds and I will debrief later on, usually while he's in the bathtub, and at that time we'll brainstorm ideas for how to handle conflicts the next time they arise. Then, I'll recap for him just before we head outside the next time.

I do draw the line at behaviors that cause pain, and at behaviors that are not allowed in our household. For example, dh and I abhor the word stupid, so if that were to be used (and there was a time when it was really really popular with ds), I would immediately intervene on the neighbor's behalf...incidentally, I suppose this could be filed in the behaviors that cause pain category...

I also draw the line at unfamiliar children. We take our children to a My Gym, and if there is a child whose mother I've never spoken with, or I haven't seen before, I'm far more likely to jump in and intervene if I see ds escalating. I guess that's my own comfort zone. But if I see the mother nearby, I might make it a point to see how she's reacting (or he, if it's dad) and based on that gauge, might make a comment like, "Guess they can work it out, huh?" and see how the response goes.

What I've found in doing this is that ds is soooo proud of himself with he applies something we've talked about trying, especially if it works for him. He'll gleefully shout, "MOM! MOM! I told Indi to stop and she did!" And then he's more likely to try it the next time. I also see him teaching the other kids about the stuff we've tried, and that makes me really proud of him. I think it's a fine line we tread, and it totally exhausts me sometimes!
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In public I always intervene immediately.

At home I intervene only if I see a blatant toy snatch, or if things escalate to screeching and/or hitting. Most of their fights start when dd1 puts a toy down and a few minutes later dd2 picks up said toy and starts playing with it. If they can't resolve it on their own I redirect to other toys (since we have two of nearly everything
: ) and if that fails I put the toy in question in time out. When we first started this I usually had a laundry basket full of toys by lunchtime. Now I only have to take about one toy a day. For toy snatches they have to return the toy, and if they are pokey or pouty about it they also have to hug.
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