You know how in every gathering of children there is usually always one child who stands out as ‘the bad one’. They won’t share, they push, they snatch, they hit other kids for no reason and they have loud tantrums if they are denied what they want.
My daughter has suddenly become that child.
This surely must be one of every parent’s worst nightmares?
You see the poor folk who have to deal with those really bratty toddlers and you can’t look them in the eye. You try to ignore them and try not to make judgements, because there could be all kind of reasons why they can’t control their child. But you can’t help thinking, “Thank God that’s not me !”
One day everything was normal and the next I found myself plunged into a disaster zone, forced to be constantly on the alert for random acts of violence.
It was almost impossible to prepare for the first strike.
How do you discipline a 16-month-old? You can’t reason with them. She may have just grasped the meaning of the word, “No”, but one of her greatest pleasures in life is to disobey it.
All the advice and guidance on aggressive toddler behaviour centres around keeping calm, not reacting negatively, and offering a swift, positive response, such as, “Gentle hands.”
But when your little bundle of joy spontaneously attacks another person’s child for absolutely no reason in public, it’s very hard to keep your temper.
Unfortunately, I had not done in depth research into aggressive behaviour in advance of this initial ambush. And so my immediate reaction was to abandon my coffee and conversation and leap to my daughter’s side, grab hold of her, seize the toy she had just snatched herself and tell her firmly, “No! Why would you do that?! He hasn’t done anything to you. Say, ‘Sorry!’ You must share.”
So of course, now she knows exactly how to get my attention.
At first her violence seemed territorial. She was pushing away children who came near her because she didn’t want to share.
But now she is hitting children, hitting me, hitting herself and even hitting her favourite toy.
One thing that really confuses me is why other parents don’t tell her to stop.
Watching her prowl around a circle of singing children, I feel a sense of forboding, but I don’t want to interrupt. So when she walks up to another little girl about the same age and snatches her maraca out of her hand, I am flummoxed as to why the other mother didn’t stop her.
Now, I know it is not the done thing to try and parent another person’s child. And I never would. But if the situation was reversed I would politely tell the child, “She was playing with that. Why don’t you try this toy instead until it’s your turn.” And when another child has hit mine I have said, “That’s not very nice. Be gentle.”
That’s surely not discipline? That is just defence.
Is there some rule in The Parenting Highway Code, of which my copy got lost in the post, that says if another child is going to attack yours, you must just let them and leave their own parent to deal with it?
Because if my child hits yours, you have my full permission to tell her that is not right. And she is more likely to listen to you than me.
It’s only been a few weeks. And I’m trying the positive response approach. I’m trying removing her from play to show her actions have consequences. But it’s still very hard to stay calm.
Shocked and embarrassed, my cheeks burning with shame, I can’t help reacting in outrage and horror as a voice inside me screams, “I’ve created a monster!”
My daughter is not the only toddler to turn into a thug. And she is by no means the worst.
But when that first attack comes it’s like a slap in the face, and there is nothing you can do to cushion the blow.
Has your toddler ever turned violent? How do you deal with it? Do you think it’s okay to reprimand another person’s child for not playing nicely?