Who's a big bad bully?

It's quite a shock to learn that your toddler is a bit of a bully at his childcare centre. You heard that he hits and bites his friends whenever he can't get his way to the front of the queue, and that he snatches their toys whenever he wants without asking. You need to work with his teachers to end his aggression now.

Your first reaction might be disappointment, anger or even embarrassment at your two-year-old's behaviour, especially when he seems so sweet at home. Before you take any action, however, consider the possible explanations for his conduct. For instance:

- HE SEES AGGRESSION AT HOME
If a child is raised in a family where physical or verbal abuse is commonplace, he's likely to behave in a similar way outside his home. That's why aggressive parents often have children who bully.

- HIS SIBLING HAS BEEN SEEN INTIMIDATING HIM
Maybe your toddler is on the receiving end of bullying from his elder brother or sister, and displaces this fear by doing the same to others. Remember that bullying can take many forms, including verbal abuse and social exclusion.

- HE BULLIES TO RELEASE TENSION
A two-year-old who's not allowed to express frustration at home will find at outlet for these negative feelings elsewhere - and taking advantage of another kid is a perfect vehicle for this. Feelings of inadequacy can also lead a child into bullying behaviour because this gives him a position of authority.

- HE DOES IT DUE TO PEER PRESSURE
A toddler wants to be liked by others of his own age at the childcare centre, and will follow the group standards of behaviour in order to gain acceptance. If his young friends are antisocial and aggressive, then he may imitate them in order to keep them as pals.

- HE THINKS THAT WHAT HAPPENS IN DAY CARE STAYS IN DAY CARE

A toddler sometimes bullies in nursery just because he enjoys the feeling of power. He thinks his parents won't find out about his behaviour, so it can come as a complete surprise to him when you have a talk with him.

Think long and hard about these and other possible explanations. Could any of them account for your toddler's aggression towards his friends? Study the information you

have very carefully, look closely at his conduct at home and then weigh the different possibilities. Once you have done that, it's time for action. Here are some strategies that might be helpful:

- GET A FULL EXPLANATION
Check out the facts by speaking to the adults who care for him at the centre. Try to establish a pattern by focusing on who he bullies, when and how.

- BE DIRECT
Make him aware that you know all about his aggression in childcare and emphasise that you want it to stop now. Even if he denies the accusation, continue to explain why you dislike all forms of bullying. This chat alone may be sufficient.

- ENCOURAGE HIM TO THINK ABOUT THE VICTIMS
He may never have thought about the impact of his actions on the other children - he might simply see the whole thing as a joke. So explain to your toddler how his victims must feel when he taunts them.

- MONITOR HIS PROGRESS
Discuss his behaviour with him regularly. It's not a matter of policing your two-year-old; rather, it's about letting him know that you care. This extra attention from you might, by itself, reduce his need to bully others.

Young Parents, Singapore's No. 1 parenting magazine published by SPH Magazines is available at all newsstands now.
 
Go to http://www.youngparents.com.sg/ for more stories.
 

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