Baby Hints & Tips

Toddlers Bullying in the Playground

toddlers-bullyingToday, while at morning tea with a couple of friends and their similarly aged kids, my DD went to play and was being supervised. There were a couple of little boys playing in the same area who looked to be 1.5-2. One of them started to bully my little girl, first pushing her thumb back, nearly breaking it, and then continually pushing her and her friends, throwing toys quite roughly and yelling. The first time I thought it was an accident, but then it became apparent that it was intentional behaviour by the older child who appeared to be unsupervised. Whilst I did remove my daughter from the situation it has left me quite upset as I did not expect to have this issue until she was older. My MIL informed the child’s mother, but she didn’t seem to care. What do other parents do in these scenarios? Do you approach the parent or carer of the child?

  • I’m shocked to hear parents on here labelling chn as young as 2 yrs old, as bullies. Chn of this age generally test boundaries and do need redirection/discipline, but generally act impulsively out of frustration. A bully usually inflicts intentional harm on another, and finds it amusing or funny. A toddler cannot possibly understand the ramifications of their actions, or have bad intentions. That doesn’t mean that their behaviour shouldn’t be addressed but I think that ‘bully’ is a very dangerous label.   Renee
  • Wow to call kids at that age a bully is shocking. My daughter is two and is only starting to understand sharing and not to push etc etc. at that age kids DONT Know how to bully, I’m sorry bout there’s not one parent out there who has a child that’s never pushed taken a toy smacked bitten etc another child!!!!! It’s all learning to children, when my daughter does it I don’t tell nor smack her I tell her no give the toy back try n teach her it hurts n to love other kids. Bully at 1.5 I’ve heard it all. Teach ur kids to move away from “naughty” kids or give them something to play “together” So over parents quick to judge n label little children and their parents.   Missie
  • I would think this is common age related behaviour for boys (and some girls) in all honesty the mother was probably as mortified as you and down right sick of this behaviour but there is not much that can be done in the short term until they grow past it. I do think we have to be mindful of over using the term bully and bullying. Particularly when you are talking about toddlers displaying typical behaviour.   Claire
  • Reading Renee’s story I definitely think their needs to be some kind of assault charge that can be imposed on a parent that doesn’t adequately supervise their child. Letting a naughty child know they are being watched usually stops their behaviour and if the parent has something to say then I’ll gently remind them that I agree, it’s not my job to parent their child, but someone has to.   Lisa
  • My daughter is older and I tell her (loudly enough that the other parent can hear) to stay away from the bully (sometimes that’s what makes the other parent start paying attention to what their child is doing)   Kelly
  • I will often speak up to the child first – “That’s not how we play nicely.” Or something similar. I never raise my voice, or belittle the child – just calmly mention some gentle play as an alternative. Usually this sort of adult attention will whip the ‘naughty’ kid into shape. Once they are aware that I am watching – the behaviour has usually stopped – resulting in a situation where my child can still be included I have never had a mother react badly to this. Not to say one won’t, one day – but I want to teach rather than run away.   Athena
  • I don’t hesitate to politely and calmly tell other peoples children when their behaviour is unacceptable. If there parents won’t I will. I feel as a society we need to not stand for bullying and bad behaviour and we all need to set those standards and uphold them. Simply saying something like “that hurts people, it’s not ok to hurt other children,” Will do the job. I would certainly tell the parents if they are nearby / you know who they are. In my experience the parents whose kids are acting up are often not seeing it.   Emily
  • My son is 1.5 and he is rough and doesn’t understand share and be easy yet. He is definitely not a bully. He loves other kids and wants to touch them and do what they’re doing. He does throw things occasionally bc he thinks its funny. I believe it’s a stage all kids go through especially boys. You cannot be so blinded by your child that you think everyone else’s kids are naughty or bullies just bc yours hasn’t gotten to that stage yet. You said your daughter is younger than both the other children which leads me to believe she probably isn’t as mobile or opinionated as the children she was playing with. And that probably isn’t a good combination she should be playing with children around age while she’s so fragile as all children that young are. So it was right of you to remove her. However you should not assume the mother is blasé or neglectful of get child’s behavior. Some times at this age you have to let kids be kids and work it out themselves, intervening every time gives them none of their own experience to Learn from. Also to call a 1.5 yr old a bully is mind blowing to me. They have only been mobile and had their able to interact with people for a short time, you can’t expect them to know how to act in every situation. Obviously if a child is being rough to a baby mom should intervene but one would also expect the mother of the younger child to be close to supervise that child and their interactions.   Olivia
  • If we are out & about in public, a playground or local pool/water park & other kids get rough with my kids, if their parents are not around or don’t intervene, I will definitely step in and speak to the child, “be gentle” “careful!” “That’s not nice”. Kids, especially toddlers, seem to take more notice of strangers comments even more than their mums.   Melanie
  • I definitely don’t agree with standing buy with young kids bullying- however I do wonder, if these ‘older’ kids where 1.5-2yrs then they are very young to be intentionally bullying and most likely it would be age appropriate and pushing boundaries, I’m not saying they should be left to do what they did! There definitely needed to be some sort of intervention however it would need to be age appropriate keeping in mind often at this age this sort of behaviour is frustration related due to a child not being able to communicate their dislike of something (and that might simply be that they didn’t want to play with your child, 1-2year olds don’t have a filter to play nice with everyone) I agree with above that you would be appropriate to speak to the child and suggest “gentle play” or say “that’s not nice, she doesn’t like that” etc…. And yes make the parent aware, just keep in mind the age of the child when you are expecting a specific response from the parent- for example when my daughter and her friend (both 18months) where being rammed by two boys approx 4-5yrs of age on bikes then I expect a lot more discipline/intervention from the parent!   Lisa
  • This has happened to my daughter, I got sick of non caring parents telling me its all part of playing and take the initiative myself and tell them to stop.   Tanya
  • Wether you want to admit it or not, some kids do realise they are doing the wrong thing at an early age. It’s up to parents to tell them they are doing the wrong thing and to show that there will be a result to bad behaviour- not just hoping they will grow out of it. No consequence means the child has no need to change their behaviour- otherwise how else will they learn?   Ben
  • My son is two an is so bossy mean an has horrible behaviour !!! Wouldn’t pull ppls thumbs bk ect but would throw things at another child or smack them ect. But his not a bully !!!! All kids are different an handle situations different ! No patent really wants there kids acting like this, but I still move him away from the situation an try re direct him to nice play.Sometimes all it takes is the other parent saying that’s not nice an move the other child away. I wished at some points som1 would do that to my son, they just don’t understand ATM.   Bianca
  • Yes I would of gone off at the mother. She should be watching her kid. That shits me when parents just sit and talk and don’t even bother watching there kids who are always little shits!! Hope your little girl is ok.   Janelle
  • I agree with what everyone else is saying.. I definitely think it is appropriate to tell the child first to not hit/scratch/bite or whatever it may be politely first and then approach the parent if the behaviour continues. I think it’s also important to tell your child that not all kids know how to play nicely and to stay away from the ones who don’t.   Tahlia
  • I just had a situation recently, I didn’t know how to deal with it either. We were out for tea, my dd (2) went to play in the toy room, a little boy (4) followed her, I went off after them, when I got there, he was sitting on top of her! He wasn’t doing anything, but I didn’t like it. I got to them and I said “off”. He complied, then just acted like a brat. It wasn’t until he started calling her a poopy head that I said “that’s not a very nice word, that’s not a very nice thing to say to someone”. I then just tried to keep her away from him, he eventually left. It keeps playing over in my mind, but wha I’ve learnt is we have to stand up for our children, we have to teach them how to stand up for themselves. We don’t want to be nasty or rude, but we have to be assertive, and teach that to our kids. One day we won’t be there, and they need to know how to deal with that situation. It’s heartbreaking to know that this world is full of such nasty and rude people, and we can’t do anything about that, but we can do something about our own kids, all the best x   Kate
  • I agree that it’s horrible but definitely an age thing.. My 2.5 yr old daughter has recently starting pushing and I do not accept it telling her that it’s wrong etc etc but it’s hard at that age….   Raine
  • Excuse me, DON’T do that to my daughter! That’s very naughty!   Erin
  • I’d tell the child a firm “no” and with a stern look. In my opinion, it needs to be done while the child is doing the act so they know exactly which act they did that’s unacceptable. If the mum complain, I’d say somebody has to tell them it’s unacceptable.   Theresa
  • I had the same problem with my little girl last week.. It was the first time I had taken her to a play centre, she only just past 13 months adjusted and not walking yet… We were in the toddler area and a boy probably 3 years old kept snatching her toys off her and when she went to grab it back he smacked her!!! I was shocked that such and older child could be such a bully to a little baby! I told the little bit off and told him not to snatch bit he wouldn’t listen so I just removed her and we went somewhere else to play… I looked around for the mother but couldn’t see her anywhere or see that she was keeping an eye on her son! He continued to bully just about everyone else in the centre so we just left! I tell you if that was my kid he’d be getting a red arse!   Sonja
  • Unfortunately some parents dont care. My son gets bullied -pushed, shoved & once punched across the face (by a 4yo). Some parents are great & make their child apologise & discipline but others… well its easier to walk away. At the end of the day its up to us to teach our children right from wrong & that their are bullies out there. We are still in the process of teaching our son to stand up to bullies & say stop. He only turned 2 in Jan. some parents need parenting themselves. If the child is unsupervised I would definitely tell them NO! & if the parent is there & chooses to do nothing then I say ‘No, that is NOT ok’ to the child in front of the parent coz I think its disgusting that they are teaching their child its ok to abuse & traumatise other children!
    My child ran away from every child for a month or more & had nightmares where he’d wake up shaking saying ‘no kids mummy!’ coz he was so traumatised after being hit. Not fair for a 2yo to go thru that.   Rachael
  • My son is normally the one being bullied unfortunately & I just ask the child nicely if they could please stop as it’s making him upset, etc. but one time he decided to take a chair from a little girl & they proceeded to pull it from each other, as I was getting up to tell him to give it back to her, her mother went to them & pulled my son off te chair & yelled at him while pointing her finger in his face. (He did not snatch the chair, got her with it, or by any means ‘nastily’ take it, it was a simple grab of the chair) my boy ran off crying while I was in complete shock as to what she had just done to my child!   Aliesha
  • My little boy (18 months old at the time) was attacked at a playground by a little boy aged around 3 years old he grabbed my sons face scratching and clawing at his mouth and cheeks and bit right under his eye when he was yelled at to let go the child continued to attack my son I had to go into the climbing equipment and rip the boy off my son. the boys mother the whole time was busy talking on her mobile phone I had to approach the mother and show her what her son did to my boy bleeding and all the mum had the exact same reaction ….. ‘Oh I’m sorry he’s never done that before’ and then just took her son and left – I was in complete shock and to this day am very wary letting my son play at playgrounds with older kids – he’s now 25 months old and still has scars on his cheek from the scratches – makes you feel very powerless as a mother especially when trying to protect your child.   Renee
  • I feel the best thing for you to do as a caring parent is to perhaps teach your child how to say to other children to stop, that it’s not nice and that it hurts. The sooner they learn to remove themselves from a bad situation the better. We won’t always be there to protect them unfortunately (as much as we would live to be). I try to only intervene if it starts to get really rough I.e my dd is put in a dangerous situation. There will always be bullies and parents who don’t have their head in the game. So if our kids learn how to diffuse the situation that’s one skill that will definitely help them in life. That’s how I feel anyway.   Sammy
  • My partner will often go straight to the parents whereas I will reprimand the child that is misbehaving, if the mother has said or done nothing. Let the child know that’s nasty and that’s not how you pla and that just because their mum isn’t watching, I am!   Jess
  • Don’t take your daughter around them. I do it with my son. If they ask why you no longer come around… then I would tell them why. If your MIL already said something and they didn’t seem to care then you shouldn’t be around people like that.   Alejandra
  • I would also just say something to the child like ‘That’s not nice. We don’t do that’ & if it continues I’d remove my child, like you did. I know it’s upsetting but if the parent is not going to help, all you can really do is take your child away. If they’re not supervising & therefore, didn’t see it, you could casually mention something (as they really should be supervising their own children) but you need to be careful how you say it. Some people may not take it very well so it depends how strongly you feel about it. It’s a bit harsh to say a 18mth/2 yr old is a bully though as it’s typical toddler behaviour to test the boundaries. Doesn’t mean it’s ok & your daughter has to put up with it but a toddler is not capable of understanding the consequences of their actions. Many go through biting, pushing phases & it doesn’t make them a bully. Marnie
  • I used to get extremely annoyed when daycare would tell me my not even 2 yo was bullying other children! I have no doubt he may have hit or pushed or bitten, but he had the same happen to him and each and every time I guarantee that there was a cause. Either another child had pushed or hurt him or a toy was in the middle of the dispute. At this age kids do not always understand the consequence of their behaviour. They either want a reaction or are reacting to something. Children just need to be firmly reminded that their actions have consequences and not always the ones they hoped for.   Janine
  • My 16 mth old ds has just recently swiping/hitting other children and myself also. I tell him to stop, ensure the other child is ok and comfort if he’s hurt them and move him away from the situation and tell him he needs to b gentle but my goodness it is so embarrassing when he does it and I feel awful. I can’t understand how some parents can turn a blind eye.   Kate
  • If my child was the bully, I’d certainly want to know! And I would have no issues with you re-directing or warning my 2.5yr old about his behaviour in an age appropriate way. It takes a village to raise a child! It is important to be your child’s voice and it is even more important to begin to teach them how to respond to these situations. We teach our son “stop, I don’t like it” which is the strategy they use at his childcare too. He even uses on our dog!! We remind him that not everyone remembers to always play gently and it’s ok to say “no” when he is uncomfortable or being hurt. Ultimately, until he learns the skills to handle the situation it is my role as mum to do it… and, as him mum, I’ll never apologise for protecting him.   Em
  • Typically, I’d just quietly get my daughter to move to a different area or play with something different. If the harassment continued, I’d remove her from the situation. I don’t usually have to worry about her though. If someone bullies her, she kicks their butt. Yeah…she wasn’t even 2 yet and some 4-5yr old bullied her by closing a door on her hands and knocking her down. She jumped up and screamed at him and pulled his hair until he stopped and I broke it up. I was monitoring her and removed her from that situation. she was only 22/23 mo and the kid was 4/5 with no parents in sight. If she were bullied, I’d politely tell the kid not to do whatever it is that he’s doing. I’ve never gone up to the parents yet.   Melissa
  • If it were my child being the bully, I would not be offended if you said something to her. sometimes children seem to take more note when it comes from someone else and not the parents. But unfortunately you will also get parents that think the sun doesnt shine out of their darling childs butt!!   Hannah
  • If the mum isn’t paying attention and get there before me then I tell the child off. If it’s not too bad then I say that’s not nice, we don’t do that, uh uh hands to yourself. If it’s really rough I tell the child off how if tell my own. We’re our kids voices. I couldn’t give a shot about how that parent feels. I won’t allow my child to be bullied while I sit there silent.   Stephanie
  • I would go and sort the situation out with the child myself!    Celeste
  • That’s horrible, i myself haven’t been in such a bad situation thank goodness, so have no advice, but what Athena says sounds very productive.   Renee
  • If approaching the mum doesnt work, i let her know that if SHE doesn’t deal with it, I will. Then go over to the child and depending on the age make them understand that it is NOT ok what they are doing. Kids that age usually still appreciate authority and most times will tone down…   Jennifer
  • I would have said something to the child. Hey don’t do that. That’s not nice. !! And then give him the look!   Danielle
  • Sheena, I definitely agree! Hence I prefer the redirection of “let’s play gently” even if the child doesn’t understand hopefully it buys some time for the other parent to realise you have had to intervene. My daughter was told off once for taking another child’s ball (she was only 13mo at the time so just didn’t understand) we had to leave the playcentre because I couldn’t console her, she completely freaked out because she didn’t understand why she was being told off by a stranger (again remember age appropriate… A 5 year old should understand better, even with developmental delays etc…) and yes we are in one of those positions, my daughter is deaf so just calling out ‘stop’ etc isn’t appropriate as she doesn’t understand, she is speech delayed and requires some sign to help explain what’s going on.   Lisa
  • If it was scratching biting and general violent behaviour towards my child I would do a loud ‘uh uh!’ While walking over. The same as I do to our dog and my kids. A loud sharp noise is usually enough to stop them and get their attention. Then I would tell them that violence is not how people play. I would also tell their parents what happened and how I’ll deal with it if it happens again. If it happens again and the parents don’t do anything, I have no problems in picking up their child and taking him/her to the parents. I will remove the threat from my child rather than stop my child enjoying the rare occasion we get to go out and play.   Percy

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  1. susi says:

    Wow some comments on here are ludicrous! !! Quote “assault charges should be laid on parents who’s toddlers bully!?” What??? Are you insane? It really concerns me that ppl who say such stupid things are parents them selves! A toddler especially boys go through a hormonal change at around age two where they do tend to be a bit more dominant territorial and it’s all part of learning and development it’s our job as the parents to show them what is and isn’t appropriate behavior ! They are certainly not bullies who are intentionally out to get your kid . They are little children who need to be guided . Noone likes to see their child hurt but that’s why we are there as adults to intervene and redirect

  2. Macey says:

    In honesty, I never had this issue with my child before in regards to starting issues or receiving issues from others at the playground. But in an event of something like this was to happened I would just tell them to stop it and be nice! If my daughter was in the wrong, she’ll be told. Vice versa if the other child was in wrong will also be told as well.
    Most children in that age group are at the age of learning and development so they are not going to understand what’s right or wrong unless something gets said, and the learning of this starts from home.

    Let’s visualize this story a little more by saying if this story was about a 5 year old doing the pushing and the roughness, that would be a very different situation altogether as the 5 year old would be old enough to know better.

    But because this story is actually in regards to children 2 years and younger, I’d highly doubt it was unintentional, and all you would need to deal with it in a much proper manner it to say “stop it”, “be nice”, “be careful” in a firm yet nurturing voice so they can be told by understanding what is being down is wrong. If this approach does not work, you have 3 other choices to either:
    1. encourage your child to move away from the situation and ignore the naughtiness
    2. approach to the parent of the naughty child and address your concerns of their child behaviour towards yours and to me more knowledgeable or
    3. leave, move yourself and your child away from the area and find another area to play at that is much more suitable.

  3. The 'y' rarely makes a difference says:

    I have 3 kids and the rule has always been ‘Hands to yourself’. To instill the importance of kind behavior to others, I expect kind behavior to myself and my children.
    Hitting is wrong and being hit is wrong. Sharing our things is good, having them taken is wrong. Being frightened off by children is a sad scenario. The duties as a parent require us to teach our children how to behave with others. If a child is having a toy taken then they will learn by watching an adult strongly hold the item and in a low, slow tone say, ‘NO!’ ‘I am still using this go ask your mom for one’. Some children will let go. Some children will swing to hit with a free hand. The adult should catch the hand or be hit. Then say, ‘NO!’ ‘You may not hit me’. ‘Go find your mom’. In an ideal situation, the adult will have time to stay with both children to supervise the play and be alert to intervene. It usually is beyond the scope of one adult encounter to change inappropriate behavior in a child. The adult must casually and constantly move between the children as a physical barricade until it is certain that both children can be together.
    Be wary of advice to move away from a misbehaving child. This sets up a run-and-hide mentality that will reinforce a dominance and submissive expectation in both children. If the aggressing child returns and the adult understands that the misbehavior has not been moderated, the adult will say, ‘NO!’ ‘Go away’ or, ‘Go play with your Mom’.
    If a child is causing difficulties that an adult cannot rectify or protect against then it is time to leave. Do not whine or berate the child or discuss the bad actions. The adult takes ownership of the reason for leaving and gives a short time warning. ‘I have work to do and errands to run we will leave in two minutes… One more minute have all the fun you can for one more minute… 30 seconds… 10, 9, 8… Okay! Let’s go.
    The adult should calmly be prepared for a less capable adult who responds with:
    ‘That is my child and I will discipline them’. Great, both adults want the same thing. We are now allies and should behave as such.
    ‘It is just kids acting like kids’. No, it is not; however, it is adults just acting like adults.
    ‘You cannot be there all the time’. Yes, you can. If they are little this is your job.
    ‘Let them work it out’. As adults, even we have a hard time ‘working it out’. Children have no instinctual ‘work it out’ reflex. ‘Fight’, ‘Flee’, ‘Freeze’, yes; ‘work it out’, no.
    Every bookstore has volumes of self-help books as evidence that society allows children to grow into adults with poor self-esteem and with inadequate interpersonal relationships. We do not need to stand and fight, but we do need to learn not to be pushed by pushy people.

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