She Says… “No”, “Bite” and “Push”

Remember the bad case of the “No Daddy”s that Owen had a few weeks ago? Well, we seemed to have curbed that behavior, for the most part, with some positive redirection (“We don’t say ‘No Daddy’. How about we say ‘Hi, Daddy!’ Or, ‘love you, Daddy!'”). Once in awhile a “No Daddy” still escapes those little lips, but usually it is more of a joke or saying it with a smile to get a reaction from us.

But now the “No _____s” have taken an unfriendly turn.

At daycare this morning when I dropped Owen off, he was the first to arrive (as usual). He sat at the little table and started his breakfast while his little friends came in. As soon as his classmate Lily walked in, Owen was all, “Noooo Lily! Push Lily! NO LILY.” Mind you, he didn’t actually push her, but he said the words and stretched his arms out to keep her at arm’s length. But she wasn’t even trying to touch him. In fact, she wasn’t doing anything at all but taking off her coat with her mom.

After school sometimes on the drive home, I’ll be asking him about his day and he’ll stretch his arms out and say, “Noooo Keira! Push Keira.” Or sometimes even, “Bite Keira”. I know from talking to his teachers that he isn’t actually pushing or biting (usually…), but that he’s been saying “No” to his friends A LOT recently. I guess this is a better behavior than being physically aggressive, but it’s still not very nice. But then again, what does a 2 year old know (or care) about being nice?

It’s a fine line, you know? We teach him to talk about his emotions and tell us in words what is bothering him. And then when he’s actually trying to express it, we respond by telling him, “We don’t say ‘No’ to our friends”. It’s contradictory. It’s confusing. I get it.

His teachers and I think it has to do with attention (which certainly harkens back to last week’s post about giving him my undivided attention 100% of the time when we are together). He likes to be the only kid in the room. The star. The little ham. The center of attention. When another kid walks in the room, bam! he’s got competition. So he reacts in a very natural way, he says “No” and tries to push them right back out the door. Maybe this is Owen’s way of struggling with realizing that he’s not the center of the universe. I think that’s where a lot of the “No Daddy”s came from too. He wanted to have me all to himself, and Daddy was encroaching on his territory.

Even though I can understand where it’s coming from, it’s still not a nice behavior. Just like with the biting incident, I want him to know that his actions can hurt his friends (both physically and emotionally), and that it’s not ok to yell “No” in someone’s face and to talk about pushing and biting them. While I know it’s a totally normal behavior, I don’t want other kids or other parents to think he is mean or aggressive.

I’m struggling too, I guess. I don’t want him to be a bully. But he’s not really being a bully… he’s being 2 years old.

Does your toddler do things that seem mean or aggressive to other kids? As the parent, do you feel responsible for that behavior? Or have you seen other kids be “mean” to your kid? Do you blame the child or the parent in that situation?

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8 responses to “She Says… “No”, “Bite” and “Push”

  1. Logan is 13 months and has taken to smacking people in the face. He does it when he excited (he’ll bang on anything he can reach when he’s excited) but he also does it when he is mad. He’s done it a few times at daycare, both to the daycare provider and to the other kids. He also has pulled the hair of 2 of the girls there. They seem to take it in stride, since he is only 1 and doesn’t really understand, but it still makes me feel awful when she tells me about it. I’m not sure, at his age, what to do to stop it. He doesn’t have words yet.

  2. I think the key here is to err on the side of “what can I realistically expect from my almost 2 year old”. Often, when kids are quick in one area of development (size, speech, mobility) people will treat them as being older than they in fact are. Owen may be able to speak very well for his age, but he’s still a toddler. Emotionally these things just aren’t that developed yet, and he’s trying ways out to display his emotions.

    Thinsg that help with us:
    – Checking our own role modelling or anything that may have recently caused some eomtional turmoil and adjust if necessary
    – Practice making funny faces – Amber loves to look really angry, and sometimes she’s serious but sometimes if i copy her she’ll start laughing.
    – Asking him why he does something like say “no”, and offer possibilities as to why he is saying that. He may also be trying to show he needs his personal space during daycare drop-off/pick-up to adjust to the transition moment. In that case you could really focus on him when you first enter the room, and then greet the kids/teachers that are there together, so he can learn a different way.

  3. “I don’t want him to be a bully. But he’s not really being a bully… he’s being 2 years old.” This sums it up 100%, Kate. He is just being 2.

    Maya is the one who is the smallest in the class and gets her toys taken, bitten (5 times now I think?), shoved because a kid wants her toy, hair pulled — I’ve seen it with my own eyes. But I hold no grudges against the other kids or parents or even the teachers. They do their best to correct the behavior (the kids in her room are 15-24 mths). And I know there could be a point in time where she is doing the “damage” so to speak.

    Our daycare director has explained much of it is age-appropriate behavior (testing limits, they can’t express in words feelings of frustration/etc) and though it doesn’t make it right and is hard to see … it is what it is.

    Bottom line, it’s good you guys are aware and focusing on the attention stuff now, before Baby #2 comes someday!! 🙂 Owen is a little ham and loves to be loved — no harm in that! But you’re right to want to do whatever you can now.

  4. My kid just takes whatever the other kids dish up. I’m worried that she’ll grow into a bully because other kids will just push her down and take her toys. I seriously don’t know what is wrong with other parents. I guess what’s on their iPhones is SO INTERESTING.

    Anyway, it can’t be that long until she realizes that she’s bigger than all the kids her age and that size does matter. Then I’m going to have a problem.

  5. We’re going through this exactly. Hannah is just about 2 and is all about “NO!” and pushing and grabbing people. She’s still in a “no daddy” phase and if I’m reading to her and he just tries to say something she gets all upset and screams “no daddy!” we try to give her alternatives about nice things to do or so but it doesn’t always works. Recently in our elevator whenever someone else gets on she says “NO!” and tries to push them off. I explain why other people are on and that it’s ok, etc. It’s very challenging esp b/c they’re being normal 2 year olds! She doesn’t actually push or grab unless someone comes in her way, but if they do you better watch out! She will not let people do anything she does not want. I guess it’s good she’s standing up for herself. We’re big into explaining what hands should be used for, and we talk about hugging, clapping, coloring, etc. She likes that and usually changes the behavior very quickly.

  6. I teach preschool, 4-5 year olds, and the kids are ALWAYS saying no, and you’re not my friend, and pushing and hitting and snatching things away, so I truly believe it’s just the way that they learn how to deal with other people. What aLOT of my kiddos lack is parents that understand how to talk to them and how to teach them to do better. I have a little girl who is SO FULL OF ATTITUDE it’s hilarious, but at the same time she’s SO MEAN!! She wants what she wants when she wants it – she hit a photographer at class pictures because SHE didn’t WANT to stand that way. But then I look at the way her parents talk to her, and I look at the way her mom SHOVES her in my classroom in the morning, and I want to just cry because how is she going to learn any better when that’s all she sees and gets at home? So for Owen to do these things is perfectly normal to me – what stands out is the way you try to teach him better. I think he’s going to turn out to be an amazing person with the guidance and love and support he gets from you 🙂

  7. therapeuticbaking

    I’ve watched this type of behaviour at my son’s playgroups and playdates. It’s something about some little boys around 2 years old (and maybe some little girls although we don’t spend much time around them)–quite a few children in my son’s “social circle” do this. Some just say “no” a lot and some actually push/bite/scratch. Please don’t think it has ANYTHING to do with your parenting. It doesn’t. I feel from what I’ve observed that it’s personality driven. Some little boys express themselves this way. It’s not about what you did or didn’t do. My son is an observer. He tends to sit back and watch what everyone is doing. If he does get aggressive, it’s usually in frustration and directed towards me or my husband.

    I’ve noticed that my friend who has a son who tends to hit, will immediately take her son aside and tell him firmly that this isn’t acceptable behaviour. She says over and over again that “we don’t hit our friends”. I always thought this was a bit of a pointless exercise at this age and stage but I suppose I probably would do the same if my son smacked someone’s son.

  8. These are such amazing comments, thank you all so much! It is good to hear that Owen is not the only one dealing with this behavior, and that it seems we are reacting as best as we can (positive redirection and trying to understand the root of where the actions are coming from). As with almost everything else, this too shall pass!

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