My Daughter Is A Pint-Sized Bully.

Dear Abby Internet,

I am the mother of a sweet, precocious toddler. She is generous with hugs and kisses, quick to laugh and happy to bake goodies for everyone in her play kitchen.

At night, she looks out her window and says good night to all her little friends from daycare, one by one.

In the morning, she asks me who will be at school to play with her. And when I list the names, she claps her hands with joy.

But then she gets there. And somehow she turns into a monster. She pinches. She smacks. She scratches. Today she even drew blood.

If this keeps up, I’m afraid we’ll get kicked out. And if that happens? I don’t know what I’ll do.

I’ve done everything I can think of. I take away her right to watch her nightly episode of Dora when she’s bad. I bribe her with special treats and trips to the park if she’s good. I put her in time out when she pinches me at home. And always, I lecture her and lecture her and lecture her. But nothing gets through.

What on earth am I supposed to do?

Help me, Internet. You’re my only hope.


One Frustrated Mama

21 Comments on My Daughter Is A Pint-Sized Bully.

  1. Jen
    October 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm (4 years ago)

    I think that is one of the worst positions to be in. When your child is the one hurt, it’s easy to get upset and people won’t think anything of it. But when your child is the one hurting others, it feels like your parenting is being called into question.

    Here’s the thing. What your daughter is doing won’t last forever, and it doesn’t mean she’s a bad kid. It’s actually pretty normal behavior for a kid her age.

    Many preschoolers engage in physical aggression because they haven’t yet fully developed language skills. Talking and using words when you have a limited vocabulary and understanding your feelings (their brains are changing so rapidly that it’s got to be all kinds of confusing up in there) is much more challenging than doing something physical to get your point across.

    So my advice?

    1. Take a deep breath.

    2. Talk to the teachers at school about what they’re doing when it happens. Create a team approach so there consistency with consequences at home and at school.

    3. Keep consequences simple, clear and try not to draw too much attention to the undesired behaviors. Be very matter of fact. You hurt someone, go sit on the step or chair or wherever.

    4. Set up situations where you know she might pinch, hit, etc. Then block and redirect her so she doesn’t have the opportunity to pinch or hit. Right now, there’s a pattern set up and it’s good to try to break up the pattern. Think of it as a reset.

    5. As her language skills come in, then you can talk to her about the greater meaning of why you don’t hit, it’s not nice, etc. But for now, I’d just keep it as simple as possible. No pinching!

    6. Remember she’s a great kid and you’re a great parent! It’s difficult to deal with these phases, but if you can stay as neutral as possible (which I know is incredibly difficult when it happens) and consistent, you’ll see these behaviors greatly diminish over time.

    Lots of hugs to you and you’re little one!

    • Amber
      October 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm (4 years ago)

      Thank you for all the great advice. Breath taken! It’ll be alright. I’m going to sic grandma on her this weekend. No kid can resist the power of grandma, after all.

  2. andi
    October 28, 2011 at 12:16 pm (4 years ago)

    I remember reading once that bullies stop bullying once THEY are the ones getting bullied. Any way you could hook her up with a bigger, even more precocious toddler to teach her that getting picked on isn’t fun?

    Just an idea. Good luck. I hope you figure out something – and let us know what works!!

    • Amber
      October 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm (4 years ago)

      She’s the smallest kid in her class, so that’s not it. Maybe she has to be extra violent to make up for her small stature? It’s tough being short, after all.

  3. Kelly
    October 28, 2011 at 1:12 pm (4 years ago)

    How old is she? I have found with my son (3 yrs old) that he was being a bully because he was having trouble expressing his frustrations. We try to repeat everyday before daycare “use our words, not our hands.”. I have told him if there is someone that is being mean or he doesn’t like something. Say something to the other child, or just go tell the teacher. It took a few weeks, but it sunk in. Oh and everything that Jen said too!

    • Amber
      October 28, 2011 at 3:35 pm (4 years ago)

      She’s 2.5. So in the same age range. I’m definitely going to try that!

  4. Meagan
    October 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm (4 years ago)

    I’d add to the list from Jen to tell her the words. Sam still hits when he’s mad or frustrated but we try to give him the words to express himself. “Are you mad X took your toy? Say ‘I was playing with that. Please give it back.’ instead of hitting.” Or whatever seems appropriate. Repetition is key. And just punishing, which you still need to do, doesn’t actually help them learn alternatives.

    Bring her over here sometime to fight it out with my two. You will probably get lots of opportunities to step in & they can hold their own. :)

    • Amber
      October 28, 2011 at 3:35 pm (4 years ago)

      Yeah, I think that’s the problems. It’s easier to lash out than find the words. I still have that problem, and I’m thirty mumble mumble years old.

  5. Monsterchew
    October 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm (4 years ago)

    I second the other commenters, especially with teaching her words to use instead and that she will grow out of it.

    Also, any chance you can give her a pillow/lovey/object to hold that she can squeeze or throw when she’s angry?

    • Amber
      October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm (4 years ago)

      That’s a thought. She does like to chuck things when she’s mad…not that I blame her.

  6. Rebecca
    October 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm (4 years ago)

    Bite her back bite her back….no wait, that’s not what a good parent would do. Just what I would do……I mean ya know, never mind.

    • Amber
      October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm (4 years ago)

      I’ve been tempted, that’s for sure. But punishing violence with more violence…I don’t know. It just makes me squirm.

      • christina
        November 18, 2011 at 5:30 pm (4 years ago)

        It makes me squirm too, but my son had a biting problem… I finally bit him back. Not enough to bruise, or draw blood, just enough to show him that it hurts when you bite. I don’t think he realized that it really hurts until I did that, and he never bit again.

        • Amber
          November 22, 2011 at 9:30 am (4 years ago)

          Good for you! Really – I think it’s great that you managed to show him in such a gentle way. If it comes up again, I may just have to steel myself to do the same thing. I’m kind of a coward…

  7. Amanda C
    October 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm (4 years ago)

    It sounds like everyone here has excellent advice for you. I’d just reiterate the ideas of redirection and reminders to use words. I’m finding Vincent starting to try to bully little Julian, and I know it’s out of jealousy sometimes or just attention-getting behaviors. Even at five years old, he’s still trying to find ways to express himself appropriately. These are the concrete/selfish thinking years. Until they realize there are others outside of themselves, they’ll have the “mine” mentality for a while. It just takes patience. (I know, easier said than done.) She’s getting closer to the age when she’ll start to realize others have feelings, too. :)

  8. Lady Jennie
    October 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm (4 years ago)

    First of all, I don’t think it’s your fault. Before having kids, I always thought it was the mom’s fault. Now I don’t. It may just be a period you have to get through – I know others in your position.

    Keep your courage!

    • Amber
      November 6, 2011 at 9:28 pm (4 years ago)

      Thank you! We’re doing better now. Maybe that was the worst of it? Here’s hoping.

  9. Janet
    October 30, 2011 at 7:51 pm (4 years ago)

    I don’t think she’s a bully at all. It’s actually really normal for kids this age to act like that, simply because they don’t yet know how to appropriately express themselves. I get tired of hearing teachers say, “Use your words” a billion times a day, but the idea is a good one. As others have said, you and her teachers need to teach her how she SHOULD handle it when she gets angry, frustrated, sad, etc…

    The teachers should watch and see if there’s a pattern to the behavior. What’s going on right before, and what happens typically right after she lashes out. After a few times of really paying attention, usually you can figure out, ooooohhh…she gets upset when someone does…. and then you can teach her what to do/say instead. (Or maybe she gets a lot of attention from a certain person AFTER she hurts somebody. That in itself can perpetuate the behavior.)

    Don’t beat yourself up, and don’t blame her either. She just needs to learn!

    • Amber
      November 6, 2011 at 9:26 pm (4 years ago)

      She did much better this week. The only one she pinched was…me. But better me than the baby at daycare! Thank you for your good advice!

  10. A Mother's Thoughts
    November 5, 2011 at 10:07 am (4 years ago)

    Well, it may not be the proper parenting approach but I actually do it back (with restraint of course) so that they cry and realize that what they are doing hurts and makes other people cry. They don’t listen with lecturing until they have experienced what they are doing. Once they know then they know it is wrong. I don’t think there is anything wrong with giving your child a little pinch, or putting a little biting pressure on their arm, or pulling a couple of hairs on their head. It’s not abuse if you are teaching them that those feelings aren’t nice. It works. It’s better that we show them then them coming home from someone else doing it to them. :)


    • Amber
      November 6, 2011 at 9:22 pm (4 years ago)

      I respect that, I totally do. I just…can’t. I am physically unable to do it.


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