Help! My 18 Month Old Son Is a Bully

Updated on July 19, 2010
M.D. asks from North Brunswick, NJ
10 answers

My son isnt in daycare, but I do take him to places (like chuck e cheese, the funplex, the park, ect) where he is exposed to lots of little kids his age. The problem is, he is such a bully. he pushes the other kids down, takes there toys and hits them. I get so embarrassed and the other mothers often get angry with me. I dont know what to do. I try to correct him and teach him how to be nice. I dont let him watch any violence on tv. The only thing he ever watches is sesame street, anyway. I am a very laxed person, and I dont express any meanness. I dont understand why he acts this way. I try to sit with him and teach him to be nice but he just wants to do his own thing. Any advice?

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answers from Jacksonville on

He acts like this because he is 18 mos - still a baby in my eyes and that's his way of playing - Don't brand him a bully. Does he have an older sibling. That might contribute to his roughness.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I found at this age I had to be very attentive during their play .. not stand over them but be standing just off to the side so when things started to look like they were going the wrong way I'd be right in there with a "we don't play like that"..etc., etc. You need to stop it at the moment to teach a child this young what they are doing is wrong.

I also think if you're in close proximity and on top of his behavior ASAP then the other mothers will know you're on top of it, that you see it as an issue and won't get as upset with you. If you're sitting on the sideline and only get to Jr. after the infraction then yes I can see how they would be upset. Good luck!! This phase passes quicker than you think!

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answers from Cincinnati on

My 17-month-old son isn't in daycare either, and I think getting them socialized at this age is really hard! I take him to our health club's Toddler Time, to a Mama play group, and to the church daycare on Sundays, but at this age, I really don't think he knows how to play with other kids at all. And from what I've read, that's normal. Kids this age tend to play side-by-side, not with each other. I'm not sure you can be a bully at this age - all kids are completely selfish right now, and some are just more dominant or assertive than others.

Having said that, I would be angry with you, too, if your child pushed mine down, took his toys, or hit him. I think there are a couple of things you can do to help this out. First of all, watch your son carefully and learn his cues. When he is about to get aggressive, step in! Don't wait until he has done the action to correct him. My son currently hits in anger a lot, but I can (usually) see it coming as his frustration builds. You need to be there to grab his hands, return the toy, and keep everything from escalating into violence.

Second, recognize that it may be too early to encourage your son to play with others. He's not even old enough for time-out yet! That's because he can't really link cause and effect yet in his mind. When you take him out to play, take him places where he can have plenty of fun on his own, or you be the one playing with him. I think around 2 is actually a very good age to begin to learn to play together.

Something I do with my son (I don't know if this applies to you or not) is I always carry a ball in the diaper bag. My son LOVES balls, and if another child has one and he doesn't, there can be problems. By always having his own ball on hand, I can waylay a meltdown. Does it teach him to share? No, not yet. But we'll get there eventually - it doesn't have to be now. If your son has a toy he always wants, bring one along to diffuse a tense situation.

I wish you luck! I'm sure if you continue to teach your son about being kind and not using violence to solve things, he won't grow up to be a bully. And remember that right now, he may be too young to live up to your expectations. Just make sure you're there to help stop problems before they start, and in another 6 months to a year, you can begin really teaching him about socializing in a group. Good luck.

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answers from Washington DC on

He's only 18mo...relax. All kids are like this at his age more or less. He is still ruled by the "Id" right now. The Id is the bottom-most layer of consciousness wherein the only concern is the "self" and the primal desires of the moment. He's probably not going to be developmentally ready to learn better self-control for another year. You should still keep trying to teach it though because he'll never learn it without that repetition.

Also remember that every child is different. My first son was compassionate right from the start and would comfort other toddlers that were upset. My second son is a little brute from start to finish. He's ALL boy, very agressive and "high-octane". He's almost three and is just now starting to show more compassion.

The most important thing is to be CONSISTENT. Always remove him from what he's doing when he acts like that. For every unacceptable behavior, the consequence should be the same. Every time he hits, he gets removed from what he's doing for a few minutes. Every time he pushes, he gets removed from what he's doing for a few minutes etc.... Make sure that when you remove him, you are articulating what he did wrong with repetitions of the pertinent word. Say, "No hitting, we don't hit", and "No pushing, we don't push" and "No snatching, we don't snatch." You have to do this to teach him the words for his behaviors. That's half the battle at this age. Categorizing the behaviors clearly will help him to start paying attention to how he's acting.

Discipline at this age is all about baby steps and building awareness layer by layer on the foundation of their cognitive skills.

Best of luck to you and don't let it get under your skin. He's learning.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Hugs! It's frustrating when you try SO hard to be good examples and your little one pulls stuff like this from who knows where! He's young and only understands the world from his point of view yet. Our boy did this but each summer we've noticed great strides as he grew.

Until your son is old enough to understand how to play well with other people, you need to help him do what he would be doing if he were old enough. It's work, but much more effective than standing at the sides yelling at him. He understands more physical actions - words are new.

I'm NOT saying to be physical in the sense of hitting or timeout, but physical in the sense of stopping his pushing and stopping his toy taking. Your preventing this from happening is telling him that this doesn't happen. He will learn, and I say even better than a timeout because you're having him play how he's supposed to be doing it.

You don't expect him to tie his shoe or know when Wednesday is, don't expect him to understand what other little kids need to be happy. These all will come in time once he is able to understand.

Go easy on yourself too. THOUSANDS of one and two year olds do this. They're all learning and growing just like your son is. Focus on what you want to happen and it will happen more and more.

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answers from Kansas City on

I understand the embarassment feelings. But most every parent has experienced their child misbehaving. My2 yo is a very passionate, high energy girl. She knows what she wants, and she wants what she wants immediately! I have used the Easy to Love, difficult to discipline book by Dr. Becky Bailey. My parents as teachers educator recommended it. She recommends focusing on what you want your child to do. When he hits, say we are gentle, hitting hurts. When he tantrums try to remove him from situation, show empathy and encourage him to calm his body down. Try to give him the words that he can't express. You got frustrated bc you wanted so and so's toy. We take turns sharing. If you can't share, and be gentle then we will leave. Don't do empty threats. If you say it be ready to carry I out. Even if it means a tantrum. Remove him from situation and have tantrum outside, in car etc. I do a modified time out for major offenses like hitting, kicking, etc. We call it sit on the spot. If my daughter refuses then she goes to her bd and I remove all her toys. But I give her the choice. I can frequently difuse a tantrum simply by offering a choice. If she doesn't want to get dressed, I give her two choices of outfits.



answers from Indianapolis on

It sounds like the approach you're taking isn't working, and you're likely going to have to start taking another approach if you want his behavior to change.

Parenting is hard. We have 2 kids with 2 completely different personalities. Our 4 year-old needs a completely different kind of discipline than our 2 year-old. But, we're very consistent in what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

I don't think his age has anything to do with his behavior - it sounds like it's more personality and environmentally based. He continues to do the behavior because he doesn't have a reason to stop right now. Without knowing all the details, the impression I get from your message is that you're a little more lenient than I am with my kinds. Not that one is better than the other with all kids.

One thing we have established pretty well (we have our share of tantrums, don't get me wrong) is that Mom and Dad are the ultimate authorities in the house. What we say goes, and we have a threshold for being kids, but once it's crossed, there are consequences (usually the loss of a favorite toy, playing with friends, etc).

We recently went on vacation with some friends. We love, adore the parents and could barely tolerate the kids. They were completely disrespectful and unbearable to be around. Mom and Dad knew it was an issue and repeatedly apologized, but they did nothing to change it. As much as we adore the parents, we'd not be likely to go on vacation with them again unless the kids go through a major transformation.

Good luck. I'd start being more authoritative with him. Use more strength in your voice when dealing with him, teach him that there are consequences for poor behavior, and most importantly, make him apologize both to other kids and the parents when he does act up.



answers from Cleveland on

I could have written this post myself! My daughter is the same way. She is 24 months old now, and she has always bullied kids her own age. She loves older or younger kids, but kids her own age she doesn't like. I have tried everything..time outs, removing her from the situation, reasoning with her...nothing works so far. She is an excellent child in all other respects. She is very well behaved, she is sweet and laid back. She never throws fits or tantrums. She is co-operative and listens very well. She is an absolute joy! Except when playing with same aged kids, that is the ONLY time she is bad. I had a "friend" stop talking to me because of this. But I figure that if someone can't be understanding that kids this age act this way, then they were never a friend to begin with. Kids will be kids. They are still SO young and they are trying to figure out the world. Correct social behavior is a very complicated concept. Heck, some adults still can't get it right! To expect an 18 month old, or a 24 month old to have perfect social behavior is just crazy. Children can't understand the concept of sharing until closer to 4-5 years old. Just correct him consistently, and keep trying. But understand that he won't get it right for awhile. And ignore those snotty mom's who get angry. I understand that no mother wants to see her child get hit or pushed, but as mother's themselves, most women need to understand that IT HAPPENS. Kids will be kids. I've seen my daughter get hit and pushed, but I never get mad about it. Thats part of childhood. As they get older, they will get better and better at playing correctly. Its a learning process, just like everything else. Hang in there, you are not alone! Good luck :)



answers from Minneapolis on

My son was like that from about 17 months to I'd say almost 24 months. All it takes is seeing ONE child misbehaving for your own child to learn a bad behavior. But it's pretty natural anyway. It's so hard at that age, because they don't understand the feelings of the other child yet and they are also completely driven by satisfying their own desires and have NO patience yet. At that age, learning cause-and-effect is big and they are experimenting to see what reaction they get [if I hit, he/she cries....or, I can get that toy simply by ripping it out of their hand]. At 18 months cause-and-effect toys are big too. Ball drops, pushing buttons, knocking over a stack of blocks, dropping stuff on the floor, spilling drinks or food.
I always removed my son from the situation for a time-out [yes, you can start time-outs now if you haven't already], I always told him "No owies. We don't _____. That was not nice and made _____ feel sad". If he kept it up I would just take him home and tell him "We can't play now because you are not being nice [or not sharing, not listening, etc]". Sometimes I would say "That makes mama sad, too". I would also praise him like crazy every time he was "gentle" or shared a toy or played nicely.
But he kept doing it no matter what I did. He kept doing it until he matured a little more. We started reading books about feelings and I think that helped a lot. There are board books out there, one of them we have is called "Baby Faces" or something like that, and it shows babies smiling for Happy, babies crying for Sad, red-faced and scowling for Angry, yawning and sleeping for Sleepy. Besides books like that, you can explain pictures without even reading the story. If there's a picture in a book with a child crying, you can explain "Uh oh, she is sad, do you think she got an owie? Did someone give her an owie? That's not nice". We have a Berenstain Bears book on sharing, and there are illustrations showing the bears fighting over a baseball glove and one bear pushes the other. Whenever we read that book, I talk to my son about it. I'll say "They are not being very nice" or "oh no, he is pushed her and now she has an owie" "He needs to go on a time-out", etc. My son just began to understand "Not" about 2 months ago, so it's difficult to explain, but you just have to keep it up and they pick up on it. Now he says "David Not Nice" when his friend hits or pushes.
My son is now 2.5, and still hits me on occasion, but he doesn't hurt other kids at all. In fact, if one of his friends or cousins cries at all, he will go and give a hug and try to console the other child. He also is much better at sharing because I have worked on that a lot too.
Your son will get better as he gets a little older and can understand more, but it does take a lot of work to instill what is acceptable to you as his parent and what is not. Another is example is saying Please and Thank you. My son says those all of the time now, but it took many months to get to this point, and I know I will have to keep reminding him for a while yet.
Still, don't be too hard on your son either because it really is related to his age and he can't control his impulses right now.



answers from Philadelphia on

I think that kids in day care push and shove becasue they need to protect what they have in day care like a toy. So your child is carrying over these behaviors becasue this is what he is taught to do. Other than taking him out of day care you have to keep doing what you are doing with him.

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