Toddler Battle 2015
May 12, 2015 12:08 PM   Subscribe

Two toddlers walk into a share... One is named "Grabby" and the other "Bitey." How can I determine if the daily, and escalating, battles of these 1 1/2 year olds is too stressful? Could this just be like the love/hate that usually takes place between siblings?

Grabby has 2 full days and 3 half days a week. Bitey has 5 full days. The share is usually in Bitey's home. They are both 1 1/2 years of age. They have gotten along, played and snuggled since they were 3 months, but, over the past few months have increasingly battled. Grabby tends to want to horde and grab whatever Bitey is playing with and Bitey, well, bites. Now Bitey is grabbing too and the biting happens at the drop of a hat, sometimes with no provocation.

I am worried there's a whole tom and jerry thing happening all day long. Nanny says there's not much to be done till they grow out of it... She reports that they do have some good play moments, but I can tell she's getting taxed. Bitey bit another kid at a playground and she was concerned.

I am a parent of Grabby and don't like the grabbing behavior. I see it when they're together but not much in other situations with other children. We try to praise any sharing and distract whenever possible.

Is this normal? What can be done? How much do I worry about Bitey?
posted by demonstartivepapadonous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is very, very normal among children this age. At 18 months, they can't communicate very well and they are still, as infants and little kids are wont to be, very self-centered. If they see it, they want it, and they don't care if someone else is holding onto it.

The best way to combat this is to make sure the nanny is keeping a close eye on them and to separate them before any grabbing or biting happens. In my experience, it's much easier to redirect a toddler than it is to discipline them (which will be pretty ineffective at this age). I would also make sure that there is two of many of the toys, if that's possible. Two riding toys/two push toys/two whatevers means no fights.
posted by sutel at 12:22 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

Our calm, easy-going 18 month-old very calmly walked up and clocked her older brother over the head with a plastic phone yesterday and then apologized. She has also taken to gently slapping my mouth from time to time, apparently just to see what will happen. Her brother at the same age pinned down another child at daycare, pulled up his shirt and bit him on the belly. They just get aggressive at that age for all kinds of reasons, and the only way out is through. Keeping things consistent, removing the things in the environment that make fights more likely and distracting/removing from the situation are the way to go. Good luck! It will get better soon!
posted by goggie at 12:30 PM on May 12, 2015 [5 favorites]

Could you do daycare? The teachers are really good at handling this behavior in a larger group setting. I think the dynamic of just two of them is hard and probably taxing your nanny. I am sure there are nannies who are good at handling two crazy toddlers, but I've observed a lot of passive nannies when I'm out with my kids and I think daycare is a bit better at handling toddlers.

Nthing that this is totally normal behavior- I'm honestly relieved when I notice other kids doing it to my toddler! He doesn't seem to have an empathy yet sadly, and sharing is like a completely foreign idea greeted with blank stares or tantrums. Sigh.
posted by rainydayfilms at 1:31 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

Bitey is now old enough to realize that Grabby is coming into personal space. Nanny should set aside certain toys that are only used when Grabby is there and only in a neutral zone (not Bitey's bedroom). Another option is to buy duplicates of any toys that will be played with. Bitey's space and possessions have been compromised which could be why Bitey is now Bitey in other places as well- if nothing belongs to me then everything belongs to me.
posted by myselfasme at 1:36 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

Is grabby old enough to understand "we need to ask and say please when we want something/ we need to wait our turn"?
posted by brujita at 1:59 PM on May 12, 2015

@brujita, if Grabby is anything like my Grabby, s/he is definitely old enough to be TOLD that on endless repeat, but ain't no way it's gonna stick anytime soon. Frankly, I'm not convinced that duplicates would even solve the problem. Toddlers want what they want, and can be oddly specific about it. So, yes, this is absolutely normal.

Make a huge effort to teach the desired behavior, but it will take time (lots and lots of time). It's unfortunate that it seems to be taxing the nanny. This really is one of those situations where more kids might be better, because these two are going to be inevitably drawn like moths into each other's personal space, rather than going to hassle somebody else for awhile.
posted by telepanda at 2:28 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Grabby sounds normal to me (sample: my 2 year old son and 2 year old niece).

Frankly, I'm not convinced that duplicates would even solve the problem. Toddlers want what they want, and can be oddly specific about it.

Yeah, duplicates just aren't the same. They are either rejected for no defineable reason, or we get "want all 'em", so, you know, they want ALL of the things.

We do find that while this is normal, it happens less when said toddlers are well rested/fed/hugged/exercised/entertained and not sick or teething. Not that that helps a great deal since that's always the goal, but it might explain some cycles of increased grabby/bitey battles.
posted by pennypiper at 4:10 PM on May 12, 2015

I remember coming across The Toddler's Creed when mine were that age. Apparently written by by Dr. Burton L. White

If it's mine it's mine,
if it's yours it's mine,
if I like it is mine,
if I can take it from you, it is mine,
if I am playing with something, ALL of the pieces are mine,
if I think it is mine, it is,
if I saw it first, it's mine,
if I had it then put it down, it is still mine,
if you had it then you put it down, it is now mine,
if it looks like the one I have at home it is mine,
If it breaks or needs putting away, it's yours
posted by metahawk at 4:37 PM on May 12, 2015 [19 favorites]

I'd like to point out that sometimes people just don't click. A boy that my son met and he have never gotten along since they were three, even though they're now eight.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:21 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Totally normal, expected behavior. Nanny is right and they will get over it, but in the meantime here is what worked for us:

1. Set up a "safe space" for each using a baby gate. Make sure entire play area is safe enough so that if Nanny is focused on one child the other won't get into trouble

2. Nanny is extremely vigilant about watching Bitey like a hawk. If he starts to bite, she physically prevents him and says "I won't let you bite." If he persists, she says "I can see you're having trouble not biting. I'm going to move you until can remember not to bite." He goes into his play space and they play apart until one of them asks to be put together again.

3. Grabby's grabbing is completely ignored. When Bitey gets upset, Bitey gets attention. "Grabby took your toys and now you're upset! Let's do xyz fun thing and see if she brings it back."

Bitey gets a safe place to cool off and the clear message that biting does not get him attention. Grabby learns that grabbing does not get attention. Everybody eventually gets along, and then they conspire against Nanny, but that's a different question.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:35 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Loved this book.
posted by typecloud at 7:25 AM on May 15, 2015

Hi. Thanks everyone for your answers. I have a follow up... How much biting is too much?

Bitey's power and zeal have intensified. Our kid came home with bite marks (plural) up his arm. Some of them have lasted days. We're prepping to pull out of the situation. This has to be stressful for the little one to get physically hurt like that... Does this sound particularly bad to those of you who've seen such behavior?
posted by demonstartivepapadonous at 7:38 AM on June 3, 2015

If your kiddo is still getting bitten, then quite frankly the nanny isn't doing her job. It's one thing to be accepting about the fact that kids with want to bite, but it's another thing entirely to allow it to happen. With two kids, your kid shouldn't be getting bit more than once before she intervenes, and it shouldn't be something that happens more than a few times a year.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:11 PM on June 3, 2015

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