Toddlers: 24 Months+

How to handle toddler "bullying"?

I'm not even sure if bullying is the right term, but there's a boy my DD sees regularly (I'm friends with his mom) who is constantly hitting, pushing, and yelling at her - he's even bitten her a few times. It's not usually enough to do any real damage (though he has left a bruise or two here and there), but it certainly bothers and upsets her, and sometimes genuinely scares her. He's the same age as her (nearly 2.5), and his mom does tell him to stop and/or use time outs etc., but it is ongoing nevertheless.

My DD is a pretty sensitive kid, and tends to respond to the aggression by crying and running to me. She is super social and I think it genuinely hurts her feelings when she wants to play with someone and is rejected so physically. I think this is a pretty normal reaction, but the boy's mother said DD's reaction is what is reinforcing his aggressive behavior. She has made comments about my DD needing to "toughen up" and learn to "fight back" rather than just crying about it. She has even suggested that I should enroll my DD in some kind of martial arts so that she can "build her confidence."

I often talk to my daughter about it, and tell her that if the boy is bothering her, tell him to stop, walk away, etc. But the bottom line is that she's TWO. If someone purposefully shoves her onto the ground or slaps her across the face, her immediate reaction is going to be to cry, not to try to respond calmly and rationally.

I don't really know how to handle this situation.... I don't feel like I should be teaching my 2-year-old to fight back. I have stopped putting them in 1-on-1 situations because it's a constant battle to keep him away from her. But even in group situations like parks and play centers, he often finds her and pushes her around or hits her.

Do I stop hanging out with them? Do I teach DD to "toughen up"? Is her response normal or should I really be working on her confidence? Help!

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Re: How to handle toddler "bullying"?

  • I am having the same problem with my DS, though he is the one who is being bossed around by an older little girl. I can tell he is unhappy in her company. Sometimes I think it's my job to protect him, but I feel weird telling off the little girl in her mom's presence. Also, I think it would confuse him if I told him to fight back, when I spend hours teaching him we do not hit, bite etc.

    I think that your friend has a responsibility over her child's behavior, so she should make an effort to correct him. Giving him time out is good, but if he hits her or bites her, he should apologize to her. She should take a toy away from him, whatever. She should find an effective way of disciplining him.

    I would avoid situations in which your daughter is alone with the boy (like at home). I would be near your daughter whenever he's around to keep him out of the way (like at the playground) if your friend does not collaborate. I would leave instantly if the boy keeps being aggressive with her, making clear to your friend that her boy's behavior is the reason why you're leaving. She may be offended, but she may take the bad behavior more seriously and try to correct it, rather than telling you to toughen up your daughter.

    GL!!

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  • No advice, but I have experienced the same thing. A  little boy cornered DS and started hitting him in the face at the playground once (the little boy was the same age- 2-ish, and maybe doesn't know any better yet-but I was livid!!) Ds was up in a climbing structure, so I could not get to him right away to 'rescue him' because I had to climb up there to get him. DS is also very sweet and sensitive and would never hit back/defend himself. By the time I gotup there he was shaking, sobbing. IT WAS AWFUL. I tried to tell DS that it is not his fault and that he did not do anything wrong-that some kids are just not nice.

    I wanted to punch his mother in the face, who was 1) not watching her child at all, and 2) replied "oh, sorry, he has a real problem with his hands". Really? Then perhaps you should be monitoring his behavior until he outgrows it! GRRRR...can you tell I am still mad? :) 

    Curious to see what others would say/do? GL!

  • I spent 15 minutes roleplaying different situations with my daughter last night (she initiated it saying, "You be Eric and you take my toy.")  My LO is more the aggressor, though getting way better. I would NEVER tell someone else that their child is the reason my child is mean to them.  That's crazy and rude and hurtful and silly. However I will say that it is a good idea to work with the "victim" children on how to react. "No, Jessica! You no hit me!" is a really good response for a 2 year old, and I know from experience that Jessica is less likely to hit again vs crying and running away (which is a very understandable reaction also, but more likely to get her hit next time). Martial arts and actual physical reciprocity is a crazy suggestion for a 2 year old. If she's still crying and running away at 7, maybe, but not 2!

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  • i'm absolutely disgusted at your friends suggestion for your daughter to toughen up. how about she gets her son to play nicer?! jesus.

    my girl is a lot like yours, from the sounds of it, and has a tendency to just take the "abuse" and/or come running to me, too. i try not to coddle in that circumstance b/c she really does need to learn to toughen up for when i'm not around (but i don't need some aggressive kids parent telling me that unless they want me to unleash what i think they should be doing to control their kids behavior!), but i certainly am not going to teach her to be more aggressive. i really like the pp suggestion for teaching her to verbally say, "NO, do not hit me!" or something to that effect. and i guess, if this happens to us again (it happened once a while back at a bday party and i was so dumbfounded by the aggressor and mother's behavior that i just removed my daughter from being around him), i will come right out and tell the parent, if they ask, that their child is being too aggressive while telling my daughter, at the same time, to tell that child "No, do not hit!" and walk away.

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  • image superaunt:

    i'm absolutely disgusted at your friends suggestion for your daughter to toughen up. how about she gets her son to play nicer?! jesus.

    my girl is a lot like yours, from the sounds of it, and has a tendency to just take the "abuse" and/or come running to me, too. i try not to coddle in that circumstance b/c she really does need to learn to toughen up for when i'm not around (but i don't need some aggressive kids parent telling me that unless they want me to unleash what i think they should be doing to control their kids behavior!), but i certainly am not going to teach her to be more aggressive. i really like the pp suggestion for teaching her to verbally say, "NO, do not hit me!" or something to that effect. and i guess, if this happens to us again (it happened once a while back at a bday party and i was so dumbfounded by the aggressor and mother's behavior that i just removed my daughter from being around him), i will come right out and tell the parent, if they ask, that their child is being too aggressive while telling my daughter, at the same time, to tell that child "No, do not hit!" and walk away.

     

    I was thinking the exact same thing, it's definitely NOT your kids fault that she's getting picked on. This woman's kid has a hitting problem and she's turning it around on you. I would continue to do what you're doing by minimizing the amount of time they play together and I would also work with DD so she knows that she's not in the wrong and to say No when he hits her.

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  • I agree with the PP. It would probably be helpful to help your daughter learn to stand up for herself (say No!, etc). However you certainly should not be teaching her to be aggressive. This in NO WAY excuses the other child and his mother's behavior. It is her responsibility to control her child's behavior and remove him from the situation if he is unable to control himself.
  • When DS was being bitten often at school, we taught him to say "No, No! No bite/hit/etc" very loud. 

    My other guess would be to take them out of the situation for a while, but we couldn't since it happened at school

  • My daughter has been on both sides of this. And my sense is that it's part of being two. She goes to daycare and they've taught her to say, "No thank you," when someones bothering her. She's gotten a lot better with being aggressive, in that we had several incidences in a week, and only 1 in the past month. My daughter has had to learn that it's not ok to hit and push and that it makes someone else sad (we deal with this at home with her towards us). Once she got this concept, not only did she stop being aggressive to others (as much...she's two after all ;) ), but we hear a lot more of "No thank you," even in an aggressive and cranky tone. I'll take that any day. Also, we've talked her through saying "Sorry" when she hurts someone. We started off by making her say "sorry" and adding a hug and kiss (if it's mom or dad she's being mean to), and now, before we even have to talk about time outs with her, when she swats at my husband or I, I ask her if she should do that, and she says, "I say sorry mommy," and she comes over and gives me a hug and a kiss. Did this happen overnight? Nope. Is it perfect. Nope. It's part of being two and we're working on teacher her ways to be kind to others and express herself with words.  

     I would honestly say that if your friend is not willing to work with their child on these things and enforces the actions of having your kiddo  stand up for herself by acting out, then that's not a good situation. Are toddlers going to be aggressive towards each other in frustrating situations, yes. Is it our jobs as parents to teach them appropriate ways to deal with these situations, yes. But it's a two way street. I would totally not allow my daughter to play one on one with a child if their parent wasn't teaching their kid more kinder ways to deal with frustrating situations. 

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  • Honestly I would start having MORE playdates with him.  And stick by and when he starts, get behind her so she feels you and prompt her to say loudly "STOP FRED I don't like that" and practice those words at home.  I think many kids get overwhelmed emotionally and just can't find the words while in the middle of the incident.  So make the verbal response quick, easy and rote.

    My first was the doormat and this helped her a lot. She's very assertive now!

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  • Of the little girls in her little playgroup, my DD 2 is on the tougher/ aggressive side. She is not a bully, but she is extremely assertive. There is a little boy in her playgroup of mostly girls who is very pushy, steals toys, etc. Most of the other girls do exactly what your daughter ,cry or scream till their moms intervene. So your daughter is totally normal, but if she is sensitive you should be careful about exposing her to real aggressive kids who she isn't really able to deal with on her own. Role playing sounds like a good idea. You could teach her to do what my daughter does, which is sternly point her finger and say "No, no, no." Although she also followed that up with hitting the boy over the head with a play whisk, which got her a time out.

     

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  • IMO, all of the above. Your friend kind of sounds like an a-hole. You should probably not see them as often and when you do maybe in a public place like a park vs at one of your homes. If your friend won't correct him, you prob need to find a friend whose kids have a more complimentary energy to your LO until she can get more confidence in dealing with aggressive kids.

     But it is important that LO needs to learn how to verbalize what she does not like. My DD is very fond of the saying, "No THANK YOU. I don't LIKE that!!!" but she's also sometimes a very type-A kid too. For instance, if someone hits her she'll usually cry to me but them go back and push them later or something. 

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