Friday, 8 October 2010

Pushover or pushing over?

Around the age of 15 months, toddlers start to assert themselves more around other children, as they develop their independence and personality. Amongst my son's peer group who range in age from 15 months to 2 1/2 years, I've noticed two types of child in particular.

One is the kind who snatches toys off children when they see something they want and who will push other children when they want them to move out of the way / give them something they have / do whatever activity they are doing. The other type is the child who lets children grab their toys from their hands, rarely takes things from others and never pushes over another child. My son falls into the latter type.

I've happened to have a couple of conversations about this with other parents recently which has made me think about it a bit more. The first was with a mother whose child is like mine, doesn't fight back for things and doesn't push back. She was starting to be really anxious about her son being too soft and wanting him to toughen up. Her first plan of action was to ask her nanny to get her son to take back anything that got taken from him. The nanny (with many years of experience with young children under her belt) told her that didn't seem like an effective solution so plan A was abandoned. Plan B was to explain to her son when other kids pushed him, stole his toys or whatever, that he should say no and tell them not to do that. As he's barely saying any words just yet, this plan seems a little ambitious in my opinion but I do think communication is always a good idea.

This same mother told me she would rather have a child who did the pushing/grabbing and would worry less about him if he was more aggressive. I suggested that parents of those children were probably worried about their children hurting other children all the time and constantly having to keep a close eye on them.

The other conversation was with a dad whose son at age 19 months has recently started pushing other children around. His dad is very much against this sort of behaviour and can't understand why his son is acting this way. Yesterday in our local playground, he tried to push my son off a piece of play equipment that he wanted to go on. It was a very gentle push and my son didn't get upset but the dad told him to go and say sorry and to give my son a hug. His son completely ignored him and went to push another child instead! The dad persisted and told him that he would take him home if he didn't say sorry and give a hug. His son did nothing and the dad took him home!

On the one hand I admired this dad for his attitude, as I'm used to other parents not taking any notice at all when their child pushes mine. On the other hand, I felt a bit uncomfortable because it really didn't seem necessary to me to have this younger boy apologise and hug my son for something that had barely been noticed (it would be a different story if he'd hurt or upset my son but he hadn't). It felt a bit harsh to have taken him home. The way the dad saw it however, was that he was teaching his son a lesson that pushing other children is not acceptable and that after telling him three times and getting no response, he felt it important to follow through with his threat to take him home.

I think these types of behaviour are simply different manifestations of independence coming out and don't necessarily mean your child will end up being one way or the other. I'm glad that my son isn't aggressive with his peers but at times, I would like him to fight back and take back the toy that someone else snatched from him for example. Mothers I know whose children do grab toys off others are generally good at returning the toy back to the child and explaining to their son or daughter that someone else is playing with it and then distracting them with something else. That seems to me like a good way to deal with the situation. My guess is that this is just another stage in development and so I'm not too concerned about it. As they get older, these young children will learn different ways of reacting to people and circumstances. They'll pick up behaviour from what they see or get told at school, as well as at home.

What do you think? What were your children like around this age (15 months-2 years)? Did their behaviour change as they got older and if so, in what way?


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  1. I enjoyed this article. How many times has any parent been in both the position of you or the forementioned Dad. It's difficult when people have such different parenting styles to start with. We have been very lucky in our area. We are involved with a baby group that is 12 strong (thats the mums only). We have been with them since my son (my first child) was about 6 weeks old. We have had children that have bitten, pushed, hit etc. They all grow out of it. Some quicker then others depending on how the parent reacts to it. I found my son at one particular playdate cowering in a corner being hit repeatedly by one particular boy. It's the most gut wrenching feeling to see your child in such a position. Every since then, if a child takes something away, pushes or hits my child - I have told him to tell the other child "no" once. However, if that child persists - he must react. There was one boy in our group that would just hit my son for seemingly no reason. Since, my son has used this tactic - this other little boy hasn't hit him again. We are always so aware of what our child does to another that we end up leaving our child almost defenceless. My son is nearly 4 and we are finding that second born in the group are now trying to assert themselves - they range from 14 mths to 22mths. And he is using the same tactic. We have also had to use it on his little sister who is 20mths. They do outgrow it!

  2. Hi Tightropemum, thanks very much for your helpful comment. It's good to hear about what you have experienced with your children and the method you encouraged your son to adopt for dealing with having stuff taken away from him or being pushed/hit. Sounds like it has worked well for him, which is great. It's also reassuring to hear that they grow out of this kind of behaviour :-)


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