My 2 Year Old Gets Bullied Often

Updated on October 28, 2009
J.O. asks from San Francisco, CA
5 answers

Hi Moms,

Thanks to all the responses I've gotten in the past for other questions. I don't often have the time to say thank you and I wanted to here.

This is something that has concerned me since my daughter was younger than 1 year old. She's very petite and small for her age (2 and 2 mo now) and is super sweet. When older kids knock her down at the playground she apologizes to them. She's constantly getting bullied. It's so disheartening to watch. Kids, older, same age and younger steal toys from out of her hands, push her out the way, scream at her, get violently physical. Sometimes I pick her up and walk away. Sometimes I ask where the other kid's adult is and talk to them about it. Sometimes, I talk to the other child. And sometimes either the child and/or caregiver doesn't speak English so what can I do?

This question has to do with a particular child that goes to the same playspace as mine. He has bullied her 4 times on different occasions now. I've tried talking with his caregiver, but I don't speak her language and she apologizes to me in passing but I feel like this isn't enough since he continues to do it. On one occasion it happened in front of his mother. She too apologized. He's 5 and I remember being 5 and being able to reason at that age. I feel like he should know better. He doesn't seem to have any kind of disabilities. And if it was the other way around, I explain to my daughter that it's not cool and teach her to apologize to the other kids. Would this be wrong to ask them to do? Since the occurrence in front of the parent was an isolated case (we were at an event over the weekend) and the caregiver (that we usually see on the weekdays) doesn't speak English, would it be rude for me to send a letter home with the boy and his nanny? And what should I say in the letter?
Thanks so much for listening/reading and for any thoughts you may have.

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answers from San Francisco on

If all else fails, you can try a different playspace.
Some kids, especially boys just don't respond to "explaining", even at an older age than 5! My boys were 7 or 8 before I could get them to listen on a regular basis, and have any self control at all. They were not "bad", just unable to take someone else's perspective, and see how their behavior affected others.
I this case I would not call it bullying, but "aggressive behavior". Kids who have a lot of siblings, or older brothers, are more likely to be loud or forceful, I think, because otherwise they know they will never get anything. An only child who is a girl and sensitive by can't compare other kids to her.

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answers from San Francisco on

along the lines of the dog park story, I just kept thinking as I read your post that the park where you are playing is not appropriate for your daughter. Many times there are "tot" climbers, with separate areas for kids over 5. I can't think of any park I frequented when my kids were that young when they had THAT many troubling interactions with bigger kids. She's such a peanut, under 3 and small for her age, that it would be in your best interest and hers to either seek out another place to play or adjust the times you go there to avoid the crowd of unruly bigger kids.

if you are already in the tot area and the 5 year old is running rampant, you can and should speak to him to say "this area is for the little ones, please keep your playing on the bigger structure."

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answers from San Francisco on


I use to have two dogs, a big chocolate lab and a little terrier. They grew up together and were great pals. I could take them to the dog park and they both played well with other dogs, large and small.

When my lab died, my little terrier still wanted to play with all the big dogs…. the bigger the better. However, some of the big dogs weren’t so gentle with him and he got stepped on every now and then.

I had two choices:

1. A dog park with two sides; one that accommodated small dogs and one that accommodated big dogs.


2, Keep on going to the same park we always went to and let him adjust.

When I took him to the park with two sides, he always wanted to go to the big dog side. He didn’t like being isolated with only small dogs like him.

This is meant to be a parable, but to make a long story longer, I think you may be over reacting a little…. that’s normal especially for a first time parent. The larger issue I hear is that you have problems with people who do not speak the language you speak.

A good parent or care giver, no matter what language they speak can see if children at play need a little attention and/or correction. If you see something going on and the other adult does not, it would be fine for you to say something or remove your little one if you feel she is in danger.

I don’t think a letter to an English-speaking parent would be rude. I do think it would be a bit overboard and not necessary.




answers from San Francisco on

If I were you, the next time the child bullies your daughter, you go over to him, tell him, "NO!", and tell him "you do not bully other children," sternly, the way you would do it to your own child.

If his mom isn't present or isn't teaching him properly, then it is up to someone else to teach him. You will be doing him a favor in the long run. Think of it as "It Takes a Village."

And I agree with Toni. You don't need to send a letter, just do it yourself. Kids usually listen to someone else more than their own parents anyway. Probably the mom will be happy to have you do it for her - she's obviously busy. I was personally always happy to let someone else discipline my child (short of hitting them) for a while so I could relax.

p.s. - It will take a long time because of your daughter's passive nature, but I would start teaching her that she doesn't have to apologize when someone else hurts HER. It's not healthy to go through life being more concerned with everyone else's feelings than your own, and letting people walk all over you. She needs to learn that she has rights, too. Take that advice from someone who let people step on her without comment for most of her life.



answers from Sacramento on

Boys, in particular, just play rougher. It may seem aggressive, but often it truly is boys being boys. And older kids often don't pay attention to younger kids and bump into them or do things they shouldn't. At five, you still can't reason with many kids. If the "bully" child is extreme, he may have a disability that isn't readily apparent, such as ADHD, that causes the behavior. As much as parents may work with kids to encourage and teach proper behavior, parks are often an outlet for excess energy and you may see more of the bad behaviors come out.

I found that when my kids were young, I would just stick to parks with much smaller play structures that didn't interest older kids. That eliminated many situations where I'd have to worry about the behavior of older kids. You might temporarily change parks to avoid the child you mentioned so you don't have to face the problems constantly.

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