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Should We Teach Toddlers to Defend Themselves?

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Something weird has been happening of late. There’s been an air of extreme toddler aggression permeating life as we know it, and it hasn’t been emanating from our toddler in residence. Yup, the last week has seen our toddler getting full on bopped, shoved, hit over the head, and full on poked alongside all other manner of physical misdemeanours.

I know, I know, all par for the course of being a toddler, but seriously. Am I going to let our little girl just sit there and take it like a wuss? Am I really going to reply with just, “Oh but honey you have to share” the next time someone whacks her because they want something she is playing with?

Frequent readers of my blog probably know the answer here: Hell no!

In this day and age, it feels like the whole concept of sharing, consideration and social etiquette has been taken a step too far. We are all supposed to be oh-so-polite in the face of rudeness and aggression, take it on the chin, turn the other cheek, and all against the backdrop of an increasingly aggressive culture.

But the question is… does this really help prepare our little ones for the high rate of bullying out there? A trend and that is cited to begin as early as pre-school?

With childhood bullying at an all time high with 1 in 4 children being on the receiving end of bullying, I am NOT for teaching them to lie down and take it. But I am ALL for teaching manners and consideration, empowering and supporting our children emotionally, and teaching them empathy so they do not become the bullies.

I strongly believe we need to teach our kids to stand up for themselves, and from where I’m standing, with the relatively advanced nature of children these days, I believe we need to start teaching them to stand up for themselves from a young – or younger age. And if bullying starts as early as pre-school, then I think planting those seeds to help them deal with those situations can, and should, start as early as two years old.

So much is written about teaching children to stand up for themselves at school age – but what about before? I am not some kind of neurotic, “oh my daughter is going to be bullied!” mum, but neither do I want to be. I know I can’t stop it, but I can give her the tools to deal with it which is precisely why, at the young age of two, and prompted by recent events, I have begun teaching my daughter to stand up for herself. I’m also teaching her, of course, to be polite and not be the perpetrator, but also not to take any crap.

I have taught her to shout “NO!” when someone shoves her aggressively. I have also taught her that just because someone shoves her, it is NOT ok to shove others. I have even gone so far as role-playing situations with her. Of course, when push comes to shove (excuse the pun), the chances of her using these tools in the heat of the moment at this age are probably quite low but at the very least she is empowered by the knowledge that she has these tools if she needs them.

And perhaps it will also help her get a handle on her emotions at times like these, as well as laying the foundations for her response to future misdemeanours as not only she (but also the way in which she engages with the big, wide world) evolves.

What do you think? Is it ever too young to start teaching our children to start standing up for themselves? Have you started to teach your toddler to stand up for themselves, and if so, how? I’d love to hear your views.

Motherhood: The Real Deal is run by Talya, a mum to a very intense, amazing little toddler gal who most of the time specializes in driving her ’round the bend. Having given up the working mum role when she hit 12 months (she was the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief for an online lifestyle platform) she’s sat on both sides of the fence as a working and then stay-at-home mum, and like many, have grappled with the issues. So stop by, and stay a while and get a little flavour of motherhood – the real deal.

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