'I don't want people to see my gorgeous little boy as a bully'
Published 10/09/2013 | 05:00
I am at my wits' end with my son, who is two. He is our only child and 95pc of the time he is a loving, playful boy who is full of chat and fun.
But when I introduce other children into the mix, he starts pushing and pulling hair and generally doing things that seem so out of character for him.
He absolutely loves kids and one minute will be trying to kiss and hug them and the next minute will be pushing them.
I know these behaviours are very common with toddlers but no matter what I do, I can't seem to get him to stop.
We do use the naughty step in our house but it doesn't seem to be working. I think I am dealing with it all the wrong way and I get really upset with him when he is rough.
I don't think he has learned any lesson at all except that when he does it, he gets my attention. I would really appreciate your help.
I just want everyone to see him for the lovely, gorgeous boy he is and not think of him as a bully.
David says: Hopefully nobody would ever characterise a two-year-old as a bully. Lots of two-year-olds can be rough and insensitive, but their behaviour is rarely premeditated. Most of their actions are done on the spur of the moment with little forethought.
Even when they do cause harm, it is typically because they only see things from their own perspective. They are not usually intent on harming anyone else. They simply do not take the needs or feelings of others into consideration.
Consequently, if they can see a toy they want, they are likely to try to take the toy, even if that means grabbing it or pushing someone else out of the way. Boys are often more boisterous than girls in this respect.
Learning to interact with peers is a developmental process for all toddlers. It is important not to have too high expectations of them. Your son will learn how to mix and play as he gets older.
At the age of two, children usually engage in what is called parallel play. Parallel play is where a child plays happily in the company of other children but in a game of their own, that rarely involves interaction with the other children present. When they are prompted to join in play with other children, they have to be shown things like taking turns, waiting for a turn, sharing and so on.
These are skills that don't come naturally to two-year-olds.
So when we gather a group of two-year-olds or three-year-olds together, we have to be present to supervise and intervene to help the playtime go smoothly.
You may find that your son copes better with just one child or in very small groups.
Even in those situations, however, his capacity to cope with the social interaction may be limited, simply due to his age.
Don't be afraid to give him a break, or take him out of the play situation if he seems to be getting overwrought or too pushy.
When you are supervising toddlers playing, you need to be very hands-on, sitting down with him and another child and showing him how to pass a ball, for example, and then wait for it to be passed back.
You may need to be encouraging each child to take a turn by giving the ball from one to the other.
So, rather than trying to punish your son for playing roughly by putting him on a naughty step or getting cross with him, I think he'll learn more about good behaviour by being shown how to play.
Also, this will shift your son's experience of how to get your attention.
By supervising and engaging in play times, you show him that you will be present and attentive to him and his friends.
It won't take him long to learn that he has more fun when he plays with his peers rather than fights against them.
With your positive help and encouragement, that learning can happen sooner rather than later.