My 2-year-old son is in daycare with several other boys. He seems to spend the most time with the two boys who are closest in age to him (and who are also the most consistent in attending).
One of these two boys (the one closest in age to my son, being only one month younger, who we'll call "Joe") is clearly very attached to my son. He gets extremely excited when my son arrives, and sometimes gets very upset when my son has to leave. The moment we walk in the door, he runs over to greet us.
Which is actually part of the problem.
Joe has some developmental delays (he was several months premature, and is still completely non-verbal), and has some trouble understanding social boundaries (perhaps even more so than is normal for a two-year-old). As a result, he tends to immediately run up to my son, get right in front of him before we can even get my son's coat off, and starts reaching for whatever toys my son has brought with him for the day.
My son picked up the concept of sharing fairly well maybe 6 months ago or more. Joe is still working on the concept, although he's very much improved over the past couple of weeks/months. Most days he starts off by handing my son whatever toy he's brought with, and only then reaching for what my son may be holding. Usually my son will share his toys in return, although he always shows a preference for the older boy who isn't nearly as pushy (if my son brings 3-4 toys, he'll give the older boy several, and give Joe only one, and only after sharing with the older boy first).
All of this sounds well enough; however, my son has pretty clearly demonstrated that he doesn't like Joe's behavior at times (which is fair enough). The problem stems from how my son expresses that.
For a while, my son would respond to Joe running over to greet him with "No! Go away, Joe!", while holding up a hand, palm facing Joe's face. I told him repeatedly that that wasn't very nice, and explained that while I know he doesn't like that Joe is so pushy, all he has to do is say "wait, Joe, wait!". That, coupled with the daycare provider consistently telling both other boys to give my son some room when he comes in, seemed to have helped.
However, I have noticed that my son frequently isn't very nice to Joe. Sometimes he'll yell "No, Joe!" and point angrily at Joe. Sometimes I'll see him sharing with the other boy, but refusing to share with Joe. Most recently, I saw him put his face right in front of Joe's and growl loudly at him (!).
None of this seems to deter Joe, or even upset him, but it bothers me. I understand that Joe doesn't respect boundaries as much as my son would like, and I think it is appropriate that my son stand up for himself, but I feel there may be more constructive ways to express it, even at his age (my son has a pretty good grasp of language for his age, and regularly uses fairly complex sentences; sometimes he will use sentences of a dozen words or more).
The thing is, I'm pretty sure my son likes Joe. Almost every day when we ask him what he did that day, he says he played with Joe. He almost never mentions the other boys, and when we ask him if he had a good time playing with Joe, the answer is almost always an enthusiastic "yeah!". Of course, this is frequently followed up by complaints about Joe "taking his toys".
The daycare provider has told me several times that the problems we see in the morning almost always resolve themselves within a few minutes, and they (all three) seem to get along very well throughout the day.
Is it possible to get my son to be nicer (no yelling/growling/comments like "go away!, etc.)? How? Should I be looking to fix this?