Baby rules
June 21, 2019 10:32 PM   Subscribe

How do you react during a playdate if the other child pushes or hits your child, and you feel the other parent underreacts?

My one year old (little one, so let's use the name Lill) hangs out with a 1.5 year old (the elder one, so Elda), usually at Elda's house. They're both lovely babies and Elda is generally great about sharing toys, but occasionally gets possessive and snatches toys from Lill. Lill looks up to Elda and is mostly easygoing about the toy grabs, so I don't say anything.

Elda's mom (a newish friend who I think is a fabulous parent overall) takes a very gentle stance on discipline, saying things like "uh uh, we have to be gentle". She deliberately doesn't use the word "no", as she finds it's too harsh and creates unnecessary bad feelings and conflict. Instead, she says uh-uh, or uses longer sentences in a gentle voice to explain the issue. I think this philosophy is wonderful in many situations, but for my comfort level, it's too soft when physical safety is involved.

Occasionally Elda will get jealous and shove Lill in unsafe ways. Elda has actually poked Lill in the eye and pushed Lill on the stairs. To me, those are hard NOs, and it's ok for the baby to experience the correction as harsh (of course never mean or scary- just firm and serious and not trying to be pleasant).

At times I've been a bit more stern with Elda, saying in a firm, slightly deeper & louder voice (but never scary or mean) "No. Elda, please don't push Lill, that's not safe." I would, and do, speak the same way to my own child if they were doing something unsafe. Lill is usually crying from Elda's roughness at this point. Elda reacts with surprise at my more intense tone, but rarely cries at my corrections- I'm definitely not overly harsh.

I can feel that Elda's mom doesn't like when I react like this, and it is her house and her kid... But I don't want Lill to get hurt, nor to learn that it's ok to push smaller kids. My saying "no" to Elda isn't coming from a specific intention to parent someone else's child, nor to contradict Elda's mom's preferences- it's kind of just a reflex when I see a kid shoving my kid off a stepstool.

I really like the family and think that hanging out together is a net positive for all of us, despite small misalignments like this, so I don't want to sever or harm the relationship.

Any suggestions for how I can keep the relationship smooth AND prevent my baby from getting whacked? Or is whackage just a normal part of being the younger one in a playdate, in which case I should just chill? Thanks!
posted by nouvelle-personne to Human Relations (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
This feels like a good topic for a casual phone call or in-person conversation before your next play date. It's important to gently express your concerns when the behavior is not happening. I would ask Elda's mom how she would like to see things handled when things feel scary/dangerous (stairs!) for your little one. This puts the onus back on her and allows you to diplomatically express your desire for her to take some ownership of the situation.

Also, you're definitely not overreacting. While there's a real element of "but they're babies!" and "she didn't mean to push her so hard," it feels important for Elder's mom to realize that Lill absolutely cannot protect herself in these situations. Her reaction to the conversation will tell you a lot about whether this seems like a good play date situation for you and Lill.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 10:56 PM on June 21, 2019 [12 favorites]


I come from the same type of parenting approach as the other mum. My approach if my child were doing the pushing would be to physically restrain him (preferably before any harm came to your child) and tell him "Lill doesn't like being pushed! Pushing hurts! " At 18 months (or in fact at 2.5 where we are now) he is very much still learning self control and taking other perspectives and it isn't his fault he is only little. He might get angry with me for restraining him and that is fine.

I would encourage you to reflect on why you feel you have to use a deeper and sterner tone. I thought about this a lot and in the end I felt that the stern voice fit my idea of discipline but it was really aimed at making the child a bit startled and, yes, a bit scared. In the end I didn't feel that was the way I wanted to teach my child how to interact. I suspect that is where the other mum is coming from.

Having said that she should absolutely be proactively trying to make sure your child doesn't get hurt. Though I do think some shoving, biting, hitting and snatching is normal and expected (but not without attempts to stop it) between toddlers.
posted by kadia_a at 11:48 PM on June 21, 2019 [23 favorites]


I agree that you two as parents should talk. How old is Elda? I've been in your position and found it very distressing to see another child hurt my child without the parent intervening, so I empathize. (And this from a parent-child duo I really respect and like!) However, self control is not something that kids under a certain age even really have, at least not in an unfailingly reliable way. I even see my own 3.5 year old lose the ability to restrain himself when he's really tired. My job as a parent is to know him well enough and be on my toes enough to keep him from hurting others. Elda's parent can speak gently but also should block all harmful touches, following her around if necessary. I remember when my son went through one (thankfully short) phase as a young toddler when he expressed delight with other little kids by clapping their cheeks, so I had to be immediately behind him any time he was within arms' reach of any kid. If I was having the conversation, that would be what I would hope the other mother would agree to.

I don't think I've talked to other kids the way you talk to Elda, or seen anyone else speak that way to my kid. I'm not quite sure what I think of it -- I think I'd have to see it to know how I feel. (On preview, I think I see things similarly to the way kadia_a does. I could, however, envision an emergency where startling a child was a safety necessity -- "NO, NO forks in the outlet.") The way I generally see it work is that the parent of the aggrieved child comforts or very occasionally represents their child ("uh oh, Lill is crying now, she is sad"), and the other parent addresses their kid and/or apologizes to your kid.

Also, I'm wondering how close you are standing to the stool and staircase. At those ages, words of any sort are far less useful than a well-placed hand that blocks the push or catches the child who was pushed before they actually get hurt. You may well be doing that already.

Last comment: I've found that for playdates at these young ages, especially with people you really like, there's a long game to be played. Pushy kids become the sweetest angels right as yours develops a possessive streak or a proclivity to scream at the top of his lungs. And then vice versa again. It sounds like maybe you're not quite into that phase yet, but soon enough you'll be able to give the other parent the "don't worry, I get it" face and develop your own ability to say "I'm sorry, we're working on it" to the parent while simultaneously talking to your child about whatever they just did. Anyway, good luck!
posted by slidell at 12:21 AM on June 22, 2019 [7 favorites]


Elda is 1.5. At that age, I'm not sure that you're going to get much impact from saying "No" in a harsh tone. Most parenting books suggest redirection and distraction at that age - babies are still not able to exercise self-control or understand that they shouldn't do something. In my experience, an extreme negative reaction was more likely to elicit repeated behavior like that as it becomes a game to see if they can provoke that reaction again. It's important to be calm.
posted by peacheater at 12:33 AM on June 22, 2019 [14 favorites]


I agree with the above. In this situation, I'd tend to my child first. I'd also not allow them on the stairs together without being close enough to block a push, or possibly at all. Prevent and distract.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:47 AM on June 22, 2019


“I can’t allow you to push Lill” while putting my hand or body between them.

And to Lill “you can say stop” (show sign for stop) “or you can say space” (as in give me some space, show sign for space). It was a positive revelation for me when I realized I had a duty/role to teach my daughter to stand up for herself. Once everyone is safe, I generally focus on instructing my own child as needed.
posted by CMcG at 3:20 AM on June 22, 2019 [13 favorites]


Thanks for the feedback so far, although I'm a bit frustrated by it.

Elda has shockingly good receptive language: you can say something like "That puzzle piece will fit if you rotate it the other way", or "I need a tool to reach the cup that fell behind the sofa... can you bring me the red broom?" - without even pointing to show what you mean - and Elda absolutely understands and acts accordingly. So a statement like "No, please don't hit Lill" is definitely within Elda's area of understanding, even though of course the act of gaining that self control is an ongoing process.

I think I may have misrepresented my tone by protesting too much, but please believe me when I say that I am NOT harsh in correcting Elda. I basically just switch from my cute "you're a baby!" voice to the voice I'd use with another adult. At this point generally Elda has either hurt Lill already, or is about to, and Lill is often wailing.

I suppose I am trying to surprise Elda when I make that vocal switch, because I want to disrupt behaviour that I may be too far away to physically prevent, and I want to convey that it's *very important* not to poke your friend in the eye.

It feels inappropriate to me to use the same tone I'd use for "please don't put shoes on the sofa" when I'm saying something like "please don't shove the baby face-first onto a hard tile floor".

Culturally I come from a more authoritarian background than Elda's family and many people here. I have received a lot of positive, unsolicited feedback from observers that I treat kids and babies with respect. But I do have firm boundaries around physical safety and consensual touch.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 4:54 AM on June 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


Definitely don’t allow the children next to/on the stairs alone at the age regardless of anyone pushing or snatching.

Elda is way way too young at 1.5 to understand not to push and why we shouldn’t push or snatch or poke or play rough. Talking to her about it is all well and good, but she doesn’t have the emotional knowledge to even have the empathy necessary to understand those instructions. It’s deceiving given how much ELSE they understand, but you can’t expect them to comply with any instructions.

At that age for my kids I used “please don’t push/please don’t snatch” and physically (and gently) intervened if the roughness continued. I would stop/redirect Elda to safeguard Lill, but what Elda’s mom is saying does not sound out of line to me.
posted by lydhre at 5:02 AM on June 22, 2019 [7 favorites]


Honestly, at this age, I this age they’re just too young to understand. In this situation, what I used to do was just scoop my child up and say, I think you two need some space, and literally place them at the other end of the room with a few toys to distract them. This is assuming that the parent of the ‘culprit’ didn’t intervene themselves. That way you avoid judgement on the child, the parent or the situation, you’re just taking them out of a space where they are being hurt.

Even at a much older age, some parents just don’t think their child hurting another kid is an issue - until their kid is on the receiving end. Then it’s a completely different thing! This is one of the many issues you’ll have to navigate as they grow up and you’ll find you gravitate towards those who parent the way you do, however that may be.
posted by Jubey at 5:05 AM on June 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


This is all true, and fair, and a tone I take with kids myself at times (albeit older). However none of this really matters; this is not your child, and the child's mother has made it clear that she doesn't want her daughter spoken to that way.

You don't get to parent other people's kids without their permission, no matter how vehemently you may disagree with their practice.

So this leaves you with three options, manage the situation with their child in a way they approve of; change the setting so the situation doesn't come up or is minimised; or stop hanging out.

The fourth option is a kind of "let a hundred parenting styles bloom" kind of thing. And honestly that's often a good approach. Friends and relatives often deal with my kids in (harmless) ways I'm not crazy about. I may complain it privately to my wife later, I may explain to my kids "that won't happen at home" or counsel their reactions. Ultimately though I think it's good for me, and for them to, to be exposed to a diversity of relationships and styles. The consistency at home far more important than what happens every now and then. Besides, my kids might well be the little shitbags next time. ;)
posted by smoke at 5:05 AM on June 22, 2019 [18 favorites]


One thing to consider is that a surprising event can make babies/toddlers try to recreate it over and over (baby scientist). It also becomes a kind of arms race. What happens when a slightly harsh tone is no longer surprising? It would be natural to get louder/harsher.

In “How to Talk so Little Kids will Listen” the author says give your child the positive action you want them to do because if you say “don’t do X” what they mainly hear is “X.” So for example when I tell my daughter “don’t throw your food” she usually throws her food. But if I say “put your food on the plate” she usually can do it.
posted by CMcG at 5:13 AM on June 22, 2019 [14 favorites]


Good receptive language does not equal good self control. Redirecting Elda as her mom does sounds about right...state the expectation and redirect. Is the other mom redirecting her kid physically? If so, she's doing physically what you hope to do verbally ("I want to disrupt behaviour that I may be too far away to physically prevent").

It's HARD to watch your baby get hit or poked... maybe think about whether your reaction is really about wanting Elda to learn manners, or if it's about wanting the other mom to show concern for your baby's welfare.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:15 AM on June 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


There is a school of thought which says that very young people should be instructed by saying what to do, not what NOT to do, because especially when someone is at the beginning stages of being verbal, a phrase like "don't push" necessarily contains and emphasizes the word "push". This may be where a phrase like "be gentle" is coming from. If that seems a bit too abstract, maybe "hands down" or something like that? Though really at this age I would just pick up my own baby and move her away from the other kid, distract and redirect.
posted by Daily Alice at 5:15 AM on June 22, 2019 [7 favorites]


I think it does feel to me like the other mom is a bit blasé about Lill's safety and bodily autonomy, thanks for nailing that, christinetheslp.

Sometimes she says "Elda, be gentle- Lill isn't as strong as you!" This annoys me because it insults my kid and praises the kid who's being shovey. These babies are too young to understand that right now, but they won't always be, and I deeply feel that this dynamic is harmful- it amplifies the power imbalance to praise the oppressor as strong while denigrating the oppressed as weak. And I don't think Lill should be protected from being hit because Lill is "small" or "weak"; people simply deserves safety and respect, period. I don't think the mom means to convey any of that, but it's in there and I'm feeling it. I'm glad to recognize this, because I know I can address that dynamic obliquely on a coolheaded day, maybe in a conversation about adult kyriarchy. She's awesome, she'll get it.

Scooping up and removing Lill feels unfair to me- Lill isn't doing anything wrong so being suddenly scooped up and flown away from an interesting toy feels disrespectful to Lill. Elda is the one who needs to be flown out, but since Elda isn't my kid, that level of physical intervention feels inappropriate to me.

I appreciate the feedback to give direction that's positive and doesn't emphasize the word you're trying to minimize ("hands down") etc. We do that for easy stuff like "Food stays on the plate" or "gentle hands with the dog" but yeah, in the moment when physicality is involved, my kneejerk is definitely to yelp NOPE. So I'll plan some positively-phrased scripts to use instead.

This has been helpful, thanks! I have some new insight and strategies so I'll mark as resolved. I'll keep reading if anyone else wants to add though.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 5:50 AM on June 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


My kiddo totally understood most ‘no’ at age 1.5. And I definitely have felt frustration when other parents seem to not mind my kid being in danger, because they don’t mind their kids being in danger.

I’d focus on prevention and consequences: Don’t let two kids under 2 on stairs together, and feel free to tell Ella that it’s not nice to hit people, and that you and Lill will go play over here while she thinks about gentle touch.

The thing is, kids understand more when you expect more. Sure, some of this communication is aspirational, but in that case it’s also educational. How will a kid learn to understand a word or concept of they don’t hear it or see how it works?! People baffle me.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:57 AM on June 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


I think maybe you are overthinking this part of it:

Sometimes she says "Elda, be gentle- Lill isn't as strong as you!" This annoys me because it insults my kid and praises the kid who's being shovey. These babies are too young to understand that right now, but they won't always be, and I deeply feel that this dynamic is harmful- it amplifies the power imbalance to praise the oppressor as strong while denigrating the oppressed as weak.

It is okay for a smaller baby to be weaker than an older baby—it is completely normal. It’s not denigrating the smaller child in any way to ask the older child to be more careful with her. It’s in no way an insult. It describes a fact! And frankly, it’s not an insult for someone to be weaker than another person.

It seems to me like you may be more (unconsciously) judgmental of the other mother’s parenting style than you think and maybe even more upset at Elda than you think—that your conscious mind knows a baby shouldn’t be blamed for not understanding how to interact with others, but your subconscious mind is waving a red flag and going “quit pushing my baby!” Maybe you have a gut feeling that wants Elda to be scolded more harshly because that’s how you experienced correction when you were growing up? Is there any chance you are feeling weak and helpless about not being able to stop Lill from getting hurt (even in a minor sense)? She will be ok, and it sounds like you’re a great mom.
posted by sallybrown at 6:00 AM on June 22, 2019 [14 favorites]


Maybe you have a gut feeling that wants Elda to be scolded more harshly because that’s how you experienced correction when you were growing up?

Just to elaborate on this—my parents had a much more authoritarian parenting style than Elda’s, we got spanked, and my mom was a yeller in top of that. Even after reading so much about different parenting and disciplinary styles, and watching my friends raise great kids using methods like Elda’s mom, there is still a little part of my gut that goes “that kid is not getting disciplined, they aren’t going to know that was wrong,” because the parents’ reaction does not “ping” on my radar of what discipline is.
posted by sallybrown at 6:13 AM on June 22, 2019 [6 favorites]


It is okay for a smaller baby to be weaker than an older baby—it is completely normal. It’s not denigrating the smaller child in any way to ask the older child to be more careful with her. It’s in no way an insult. It describes a fact! And frankly, it’s not an insult for someone to be weaker than another person.

I REALLY disagree with this! It ties into the paternalistic view of statements like "Boys shouldn't hit girls because girls are weaker." Nope. People shouldn't hit people, regardless of comparative strength/size. And it adds insult to injury to draw attention to a person's relative "smallness" or "weakness" in general, and especially during an interaction when they're already being disrespected. I don't think that's right.

But I agree with your insights that on some unconscious level I want all babies to experience the harshness I experienced, which, actually, on most conscious levels, isn't what I want at all. Thanks.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:17 AM on June 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


Just for the sake of reducing your level of annoyance with the situation—not for the sake of argument—can you think of the mom’s explanation to Elda as if she’s explaining to her the difference between an egg and a tennis ball, rather than something categorical like boys vs. girls? It would be just as wrong for Elda to push a four year old down the stars as Lill! But maybe the mom is trying to convey to Elda that Lill is going to fall down more easily so she needs to use more gentle hands than she would on an older cousin?
posted by sallybrown at 6:35 AM on June 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


What she says and how she says it is all philosophy; I'm kind of with you that I don't agree with her philosophy, but from the point of view of the argument, it's none of your business. The place you have standing is in stopping the behavior, and if her correction doesn't stop it, you do that to protect your kid. That might mean you have to sweep in and yank your kid out, and it's unfair, but that's too bad.

If the behavior is stopped--the mom is preventing her from hitting, or her words are working--you should probably just let it go. I never correct or overwrite someone else's parenting in front of my (now 10 years old) kid. I *DO* talk with him later about things I disagree with, and why they might make the parenting decisions they make, and how it's okay to disagree but you still have to be polite and respectful of other families' rules.

If he was ever unsafe, though, I'd nope right out of there. If this is happening a lot, or if the behavior keeps happening after her correction, then it's worth having a talk ("Elda is sometimes rough with Lill, and she doesn't always respond to verbal correction. She's little and that's totally age appropriate, but how can we make sure Lill is safe at a moment like that?" Maybe even add "I know it's not a big deal, but it makes me nervous so I'd like to make sure we're right on top of it when this happens")

But yeah, you can't change her philosophy, and you can't parent over her. The world is full of parents you disagree with whose kids yours will want to play with. Focus on keeping them safe (physically and mentally) and, as they get older, talking to them about your beliefs and how we have to live in the world with people we disagree with.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:54 AM on June 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


Oof I've been here a lot and it's hard to let go of.

AND prevent my baby from getting whacked?

You can't? not really. Especially under 2.. nope. The only "solution" is to not put them in proximity to other little kids.

I've had 2 little ones go through this and you can't parent other people's kids. You can control things like environment, "we don't play by the top of the stairs or by that pokey-whatever-whatever" those are responsible things to talk about. But slaps and hits and pushes from a 1.5 yo to a 1 yo are not dangerous. I don't believe you're approach of more sternly correcting another parent's child is a good one. Imagine a parent who shouts just a little louder than you, is a little harder in their language than you, being intense to your kid. eventually that would cross a line of "not ok" by your standards and you would not love it.

And your kid will have play dates were they are the bigger kid, knocking kids down, being super jealous (this gets really cringey at 2-3 sometimes) and acting a fool. It's not any better being on the other side of the equation.

Just be glad it's not biting, kids can leave horrible marks biting, my god, and neither one will have had a cross thought about it. Just casually busting a few hundred of their best friend's blood vessels.

But yeah, control the environment when you can, worry about your kid's behavior and try as hard as you can to differentiate "dangerous" from "unpleasant"
posted by French Fry at 8:45 AM on June 22, 2019 [9 favorites]


I think it's also important at this age that hitting/pushing are not really hits and pushes to babies the way they are to adults, they are using an amount of force that wouldn't do anything to an adult, the people they spend 99% of their time with. They need to learn that animals and other kids are way more fragile, that takes a long time. I'd think about why using a "deeper/harder" voice seems more like discipline. I'm a big person with a loud deep voice and had to learn to not use a "discipline voice" because I grew up being shouted at (and worse) and thought that sounded right. But i don't think it helps outside genuine emergency.

my approach is to point out and provide a better way "that's hitting, we don't hit" "hey that's too rough, we are gentle with our friends" "That looks like it hurts, lets be kind"

the shouting in my heart did not like these corrections at first, I chaffed against them, but as my kids go through school they are a lot better behaved and happier and kinder than I ever was.
posted by French Fry at 9:06 AM on June 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


I would phrase it in the actions have consequences way: "when you shove/hit Lill it hurts her"
posted by brujita at 9:43 AM on June 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised so many people are ok with Elda shoving Lill down stairs or poking her in the eye. It may not be malicious, but it's still dangerous, and it's totally within your rights and duty as a parent to keep your child from harm.

You can't reason with a 1.5 year old, nor ask them to empathize with another person; they haven't reached that level of social cognition yet. Hopefully, though, the other mom has reached that level of social cognition and can understand why you are skittish about this.

So, could you go to Elda's mom and say "I would love to have the kids keep playing together but I'm worried about my baby getting hurt, especially since Elda keeps doing XYZ even though you and I have reminded her not to. How can we solve this?"

It's also totally acceptable to decline playdates until the kids are a bit older and can play without hitting.
posted by basalganglia at 1:49 PM on June 22, 2019 [5 favorites]


"So a statement like "No, please don't hit Lill" is definitely within Elda's area of understanding, even though of course the act of gaining that self control is an ongoing process."

"There is a school of thought which says that very young people should be instructed by saying what to do, not what NOT to do, because especially when someone is at the beginning stages of being verbal, a phrase like "don't push" necessarily contains and emphasizes the word "push". This may be where a phrase like "be gentle" is coming from. "


So, 100% this. When you're saying "please don't hit Lill," she's hearing "hit Lill" as the action part of the statement. "No hitting" gets heard as "hitting!" THIS GOES ON WELL INTO GRADE SCHOOL, and you will have much better luck getting first graders to stop messing with each other when sitting on the floor if you say "hands in your lap, please" rather than "stop touching your neighbors!"

A little kid may know what "no hitting" means, but what they DON'T have is the ability to figure out what to do instead of hitting. When you say "no hitting" you are inadvertently reinforcing the idea of hitting as an action to do right now; when you say "gentle hands" or "gentle pats only!" you're suggesting an alternative action so the kid knows what to do INSTEAD of hitting. Any instruction that is "don't do that" will naturally be met with more doing of that thing, because now you've got them thinking even more about that thing, and brainstorming an alternative action on the spot is really tricky when you're two! Or six! It's kind of a "don't think about pink elephants!" situation -- you know the don't is there, but you're having the "think about pink elephants" bit reinforced, so you're now thinking about pink elephants even though I told you not to. (Elda's mom is super on top of child development research!)

If you're going to say "no" and expect a kid to stop, you're going to have to be willing to shout it loudly and meanly enough to scare a kid into immobility, which (IMO) is only appropriate if they're about to run into traffic or fall from a height.

In our house when we need something to stop immediately but don't have a good alternative action in mind because we've just walked in the room and there's some kind of wrestling championship occurring on the couch, we either say "Freeze!" or "everybody's hands in the air!" (like we're Gordon Ramsey on Masterchef Junior, a show they love -- mine are older). "Hands in the air!" actually works really well as an all-purpose "I need a hard stop here and a second to think of how to redirect this." "Freeze" isn't as good for us, but maybe it'll work better for you.

(Not that I state all directives as positive alternative actions, I'm human and I say DON'T DO THAT! because you can't always think as fast as you need to. But it definitely works better when I say "do this instead.")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:32 PM on June 22, 2019 [9 favorites]


I don't agree that telling the other kid to stop hitting is an out-of-bounds "parenting" of the other kid. Protecting Lill absolutely IS your job.

However, the actionable question is really more "does it work"? That's where we run into trouble on two fronts: 1. Elda is a baby, with the memory of a goldfish and the self-control of a... baby; and most of her teaching is coming from Elda's mom, who, so far, does not Get It. She, for some reason, does not get that it is more important to prevent Elda from poking Lill in the eye than it is to never have her kid hear the word "No." It's unlikely that your occasional input is going to be influential in how her daughter acts vis a vis Lill.

So, you're going to either have to have a conversation with Elda's mom where you convey to her, in whatever language works, that you need her to be more proactive about preventing Elda from hitting*; or you need to be more proactive yourself in watching them and preventing Lill from entering vulnerable situations. (She shouldn't be on the stairs without you right below her anyway.) Try both, but the only outcome you can really control is your part.

*don't get into the "no" philosophy discussion with her --- that's a land war in Asia, you're not going to win it
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:29 PM on June 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


I'm going to disagree with a lot of folks here. I have a 1.5 year old and he understands the word "no". I am stern with my "no" when it is a safety issue. If he is running into traffic he gets a stern "no" and if he is getting aggressive or physical with someone, that's a stern "no" as well. I have to say that I get a lot of exposure right now to the under 5 crowd and I see a very strong correlation between children who are very physical and harm other kids (pushing, biting, grabbing, screaming directly in their face) and parenting that never involves the word "no". I also want to just point out that when we are supposed to be teaching children, particularly girls, about boundaries and the value of being able to say "no", it is ironic that we are shaming and advising mothers (the first and most common female in children's lives) that they should not or can not say "no". (As a side note, the comments here asking you to reflect on your own feelings ran such shivers up my spine...)

As for what to say to other kids? My response is "Whoaa! Slow down there buddy!" or "Yikes, let's move away from the stairs!" But when other kids have repeatedly been physical with my kids without an appropriate parental response, I've found other kids for my kids to play with. At 1.5 you have a lot of options and it's ok to let a friendship cool a bit to see if the behavior and/or parental response changes.
posted by Toddles at 6:58 AM on June 23, 2019 [6 favorites]


I'm going to disagree with a lot of folks here. I have a 1.5 year old and he understands the word "no". I am stern with my "no" when it is a safety issue. If he is running into traffic he gets a stern "no" and if he is getting aggressive or physical with someone, that's a stern "no" as well. I have to say that I get a lot of exposure right now to the under 5 crowd and I see a very strong correlation between children who are very physical and harm other kids (pushing, biting, grabbing, screaming directly in their face) and parenting that never involves the word "no". I also want to just point out that when we are supposed to be teaching children, particularly girls, about boundaries and the value of being able to say "no", it is ironic that we are shaming and advising mothers (the first and most common female in children's lives) that they should not or can not say "no". (As a side note, the comments here asking you to reflect on your own feelings ran such shivers up my spine...)

This is my experience, too. I've raised my child in a hotbed of empathetic (attachment/RIE) parenting and generally consider myself an empathetic parent. My child's never had a time out or been otherwise "punished", Daniel Tiger is our parenting guru, and we talk about feelings more than any household I know.

But my sweet, sensitive daughter was often pushed around by wilder children at the same age--children whose parents refused to say no or put meaningful boundaries on their children's physical violence. Now we're the parents of five year olds and the more dogmatic parents among them are still having problems with their kids acting out violently.

In my case, with my child, on the rare occasions when she was physically violent at this age, I'd restrain her hands, say "I can't let you hurt [whoever]" and then, if she tried again, I'd remove her from the situation, every time. Of course she was upset about it and we could talk about that. But the important thing was to show that I considered other people's feelings and bodies important, too, and that my child would face very boring consequences if she hurt people. I think it was extra important to do this when she was small and could be easily constrained. A five year old who hits someone can actually harm them but it's not the case for an eighteen month old.

I also have a stern "no" voice that comes out in cases of actual physical danger. Yes, it's meant to startle the child. It comes out very rarely. However, pushing someone down the stairs absolutely qualifies because it's definitely something that could cause real harm to your child.

The frustrating thing here is that no, there's not much you can do when it's another parent who disapproves of you putting boundaries down on their child. You can do more to set the children up for success. For one thing, it's very very difficult for a child to always have to share their own toys. Switching up the playdate location to either your home or public spaces should help with that. You can also ask at the beginning of the playdate if there's anything Elda doesn't want to share, in which case it should be put away. And I'd make the ground rules of the playdate known in advance: 'Elda, if you want a toy that Lill has, please come to the grown-ups and we'll help you work something out.'

But sometimes all you can do is take space from playdates for awhile. Kids get older and more mature and sometimes a break can help you see whether this is a developmental blip or a more chronic problem.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:13 AM on June 23, 2019 [3 favorites]


Also in my experience, boys are absolutely given more leeway in terms of the physical violence that is tolerated so if Elda is assigned male I'd think about the values that Elda's mom is tacitly instilling there. Even in progressive circles there's a lot of value placed on having "wild," "bold", "confident" boys but a lot of times this encouragement comes at the price of hurting gentler children, boys and girls both.

Something that has always been valuable for me is letting my kiddo connect with kids who are not violent and more her speed. It reminds me that there's not something wrong with me or my kid or my parenting, that our children are in some ways just not great matches for play. That happens, even when you like the parent.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:16 AM on June 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


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