Take the 2-minute tour ×
Parenting Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for parents, grandparents, nannies and others with a parenting role. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am a mother to a 7 year old boy and I have a friend who has a 2 years toddler.Both my friend and I try our best to use the Conscious and Peaceful Parenting Approach.

Her little daughter is lovely and gets on really well with my boy. The only problem is she is quiet "aggressive". I don't know if "aggressive" is the right term because I doubt that she does the things she does out of anger because she usually laughs or smiles after these incidents so I assume she thinks it is just a game/way of exploring. However, there have also been times where she hits out of anger e.g. there was one time she was upset about something to do with her mother (nothing to do with my son) and my son went to give her a hug as a way of giving his moral support but she just slapped him and threw the metal music instrument she had in her hand and in hit my son hard on his head. She slaps my son on his face and also hits him with whatever she finds and it is so bad that my son has got bruises on his arm and legs!

It breaks my heart to see him having these bruises but what I am finding the hardest is the "conscious/peaceful parenting approach" of my friend who "accepts" these outburst. She says that it is a normal development of a toddler and that he isn't doing it out of anger. She literally stands and looks at her daughter while these things take place and says that she just needs to get it out when she is frustrated and so on. I admire her for her patience and how she is parenting peacefully and consciously. I think she is an amazing mum to be able to do this but at the same time it doesn't sit right with me that she accepts the "violence". I have seen how she gets annoyed when her daughter repeatedly slaps her on her face or on her body and she does say to her not to hit her but when it happens to my boy she doesn't say anything.

She also took some of my son's toys, some which are of some sentimental meaning to my son and kept banging them hard against the floor or wall and other times throwing them on the floor or on my son. When I asked my friend how come she is not really doing anything about it, she says that her daughter is only 2 and that is not the age to reason with them and explain things as they wouldn't understand right from wrong and so on and that it is just a normal part of the development when a child is 2. I see her as a good friend and both my son and I really adore her daughter but it really hurts me to see my son being hit like this, especially with bruises.

I can also see the frustration in my son as I try to explain him that she is too small to understand what she is doing and doesn't mean to hurt him. So he keeps this as a reminder but at the same time I can see him getting more and more frustrated as he feels he is being treated unfairly by the little girl who either hits him (without my son having done anything) or throws/bangs his things repeatedly until some of them are finally broken.

He has never done anything back to her but I sense my son's resentment towards her during and after these incidents. I said to my son to just gently hold her hand and say stop when it happens which he did but my friend isn't happy with this as she doesn't want people to touch her child as her daughter doesn't like it so she wants my son to respect that. So my son respected this and stopped holding the girl's hand. She suggested that he could instead just put his hand in front of his face and say stop but as my son told me with tears in his eyes, that method isn't working as she then just ignores the "stop" and carries on hitting. She doesn't hit with just her hands, usually she always have something in her hand which she hits with. The other day it was an umbrella she kept whacking him with.

The mum of this child blames my son such as stating that he should learn to assert and defend himself. She says that I do no service to him if I protect him from such situations endlessly (she says that she does not mean that I should let it happen, but to teach how to assert himself peacefully, respectfully and strongly so a 2 year old won't bully him). My son has tried to distract her and also blocked his face when she hits him but this has not worked as she just keep whacking him with whatever object she has in her hand. This is why I suggested to my son that he should gently hold the girl’s hand and firmly say “NO”/“STOP”. My friend is not happy with this and has told him to stop it as this then violates her daughter’s bodily boundaries and she ended up crying each time he did this. My friend seems to be more focussed on looking into how my son could have handled it better rather than looking into how to stop her child from hitting others. So my question now is 1) How can I support my son with this so he does deal with it in a peaceful way (to me, it was holding the girl’s hand and say stop but the mum obviously doesn't want this) 2) Any strategies on how this 2 years old could be supported to stop hitting my son?

Please help and give me some suggestion on what to do and perhaps some suggestion I could pass on to my friend about how she could support her daughter to stop the beating but of course in a concious and peaceful way.

Thank you for your time and help

UPDATE

31/07/2013

Thank you very much to you all for taking time to answer my queries. Your advice has been very helpful and re-assuring. Much appreciated :)

On another note, I use authoritative parenting approach (peaceful/conscious parenting comes under that category) and is NOT permissive parenting and very different from that. Permissive parenting lacks boundaries and direction/guidance. Whereas the approach I am talking about include boundaries, guidance and direction however in a collaborative and respectful manner (not where parents see themselves as the boss). To be honest, it seems like although my friend says she is using the peaceful/conscious parenting approach it looks like a permissive approach as she does not provide any direction or guidance and there are no boundaries either. This is not the case with my self. I had a very strict, authoritarian and violent upbringing myself and value the relationship I have with my child and he is a very respectful person who doesn't do harm to others. He treats people in a respectful manner which is the foundation of the parenting approach I use such as whenever there is a conflict we sit down as a team and come with solutions/options in a collaborative and respectful manner - not any of the "You do as being told because I am the parent, the boss". I am against permissive parenting approach as well as there is no discipline and this is not the type of child I would like to raise. Hope this clarified your question about the different parenting approach.

Concious parenting comes under the authoritative parenting approach but on a level where you are very mindful of a child's EMOTIONAL needs, especially the underlying emotional needs. It also includes a parent being conscious of how her/his own issues are getting triggered during conflicts and be mindful of these in order to not allow these triggers take over the parenting. E.g. when I feel that my son is taking something for granted, my own issues gets triggered such as "Nobody value me". A concious parent will be aware that it is ones own issue (past) and not the the child (here and now). So she would accept that it is her own issues and try to see things from the child's point of view rather than start getting angry/annoyed because of her own issues/triggers. (In summery, a conscious parent would be more mindful of not only her own underlying emotional processes but her child's too)

The reason I had to mention that my friend uses the peaceful/conscious parenting approach is that she is against shouting, spanking and time-out which I totally agree with. However, a concious/peaceful parent can still guide a child to what is right and wrong without using any of the above mentioned methods. However, she seems to not have the tools for this and very much being permissive as she lets her daughter do whatever she wants without any boundaries.

Once again, thank you very much for your time and help

share|improve this question
2  
Is this what you mean by Conscious and Peaceful Parenting? That site emphasizes peaceful ways to discipline, and specifically uses stopping hitting as an example. The book The Conscious Parent (which I haven't read) seems to be more about finding out about your own subconscious issues through observing your child's behavior. Neither seem to have anything to do with how your friend excuses and tolerate's her daughters misbehavior. –  Beofett Jul 31 '13 at 12:37
1  
Beofett, thank you for looking into this for me. I have written a paragraph below on what peaceful and conscious parenting is but I totally agree with you that this is not what my friend is using although she says that she is. To me, it seems like she is using the permissive parenting approach as there are clearly no direction/guidance and bounderies. –  Rose Jul 31 '13 at 13:37
3  
I'm sorry, but I lost it when I got to "my friend isn't happy with this as she doesn't want people to touch her child". This is a ridiculous double standard (the toddler is allowed to hit, but your son isn't allowed to stop her?) Your son is absolutely, amazingly understanding and patient to have put up with this treatment from her and not lashed out. –  Chris Sep 9 '13 at 5:04

6 Answers 6

up vote 15 down vote accepted

My daughter is 16 months (the "terrible twos" begin in the second year of life, remember) and we've always been conscious about discouraging, politely but firmly, any behaviors that cause physical injury. She may not understand all of the words we say, but a firm "no" is pretty well-ingrained as a signal that she's about to get plunked in her crib for 15 minutes if she doesn't stop whatever she's doing, whether that's pulling hair, slapping faces, pinching noses, scratching cheeks, wailing for no reason, etc.

Your 7-year-old, on the other hand, can definitely understand you. So talk to him. Tell him that he has the right to protect himself from injury and to protect his things from damage. The way he does so, however, should not be violent. He shouldn't strike back; that just reinforces her behavior as being acceptable. If she's hitting him for no reason, he can start with a firm "no" and if she keeps hitting him he has the right to block her punches and, in the extreme, to gather her up in a bear hug until she calms down. If she's banging a delicate and valuable (to him) toy around on the floor, walls and on him, perhaps it's time to put that toy away in a place she can neither see it nor get to it, and bring out something sturdier (and perhaps softer).

At the end of the day, you cannot control how your friend raises her daughter. You can control how you raise your son. Teach him to be an assertive but nonviolent person, who stands up for himself.

share|improve this answer

The simple answer, although I suspect it is the answer you don't want to hear, is that you need to limit your son's exposure to your friend's daughter, and make sure that the interactions are supervised (by you, not just your friend!).

I have to admit I'm not familiar with the "Conscious and Peaceful Parenting Approach", but this has all the earmarks of indulgent or permissive parenting.

Yes, 2 year olds are prone to hitting, but the whole thing about "she just needs to get it out when she is frustrated" is malarkey. It does, in fact, sound like sometimes she is doing it out of anger (2 year olds become angry quite easily... just as they experience most emotions at that age). That doesn't mean it is okay, or the behavior should be ignored.

2 year olds can learn that hitting is wrong, they can do it without harming or impeding their emotional development, and if they want to engage in play with their peers, they should learn it.

The mum of this child blames my son such as stating that he should learn to assert and defend himself.

This is even worse. Your friend is taking no responsibility for her child's behavior, and is instead placing all the blame on your son for what... not using his strength to physically restrain a girl 5 years younger than him? Not yelling at her? Not wrenching the toys or other objects she's using to bludgeon him with out of her hands? He's supposed to stop her, but not touch her (even though she's allowed to hit him!)?

No, it is not, I repeat NOT your son's responsibility to deal with an out-of-control 2 year old, and since it isn't your 2 year old, it isn't your responsibility, either.

There are plenty of ways to stop a 2 year old from hitting in a peaceful way (I'm not sure what is meant by a "conscious" way). Depending upon the child, a stern voice from an adult, while crouching down to their level, explaining calmly that hitting is wrong, and it hurts other people, is sometimes all it takes. A short time-out of one minute per year of age, presented as "time to calm down", rather than punishment, helps.

However, it sounds like your friend has never done this, and hitting has already been incorporated into the girl's idea of acceptable behavior, so I doubt that this would work. At best, it would likely require repeated and consistent responses (and an immediate end to the play session) until it started to sink in that the behavior is not acceptable, and you'd need the mother's full cooperation to do that.

Which, unfortunately, I suspect is unlikely. A parent who ignores her child's bad behavior, and instead criticizes your parenting, seems unlikely to be willing to consider changing.

If you must continue this relationship, the best I can offer is to tell your son that when she starts hitting, to just stand up and walk away, closing a door between himself and the girl if necessary. If she is destroying his property, then you and your son need to agree, and make clear to both the girl and her mother, that she simply is not allowed to play with your son's belongings, and therefore all play should be out of sight of any of his things.

If your friend argues with this, point out that A) the items are being destroyed, and B) they are being used as weapons.

But again, I am skeptical as to how effective this will be. Your friend is teaching your daughter, either by omission, or outright explicitly (particularly if she's saying that she "needs to get it out of her system"), that violence, both to objects and to other people, is an appropriate and acceptable means of expressing whatever it is she's feeling (and it sounds like it could range from anything from anger, to frustration, to just plain boredom).

This is not normal (the acceptance of the behavior, that is; as I said before, toddlers do hit, but that doesn't mean it can or should be allowed).

I strongly believe your best approach is to just stop letting the two children play together until the girl has "outgrown" this behavior (if she does outgrow it).

share|improve this answer
3  
+1 for time out being presented as "time to calm down." It doesn't even have to be away from everyone (unless that is helpful). Instead you can also hold the child and prevent the toddler - since 2 year olds are still able to be held in place by a parent - from hitting until the toddler is able to soothe herself. I came from a "siblings need to be able to fight it out" family and have come to strongly disagree with parents stepping back and expecting kids to simply intuit conflict resolution. –  justkt Jul 31 '13 at 12:58

Your friend is being inconsistent. Her daughter doesn't like having her hand restrained? Does she think perhaps your son enjoys being hit? Talk about "violates bodily boundaries"! It's true that toddlers will naturally hit and bite. One of the roles of a parent is to intervene and to teach other ways of expressing feelings. Without that help, a toddler can end up hurt (by someone who hits back) or feeling disrespected (by someone who restrains their hands) or sad (because they realize they hurt somebody.)

You have three options, perhaps more:

  • see this woman and her daughter when your child is at school so that he doesn't have to be hit and his possessions won't be ruined. This may mean you see less of them and it does mean he will lose the company of his young friend for some time
  • step in yourself when the toddler starts hitting, asking her not to hit, reassuring her she can express her feelings in other ways, removing her from hitting range and so on. This may upset your friend or even lead to a rift in your friendship, but it will show your son that you will protect him, and show him very clearly how to gently but firmly respond to toddler violence
  • tell your friend that you need her to redirect her daughter, and to help protect your son, and that you aren't directing her how to do it (though you have suggestions if she wants them) but that you must insist that she do it one way or another, or it will lead to a falling out

I used to tell a hitting child "I will not let you hurt [your brother / your sister / your friend / our guest]" and this is aimed as reassurance at both of them. Yes, a wave of emotion has come over you and you are hitting and screaming and throwing and hitting, and I bet you don't like it, but you are not alone, an adult is here, and it will be ok. Yes, someone has just hit you or almost hit you and it's scary, but you're not alone, an adult is here, and it will be ok, and I won't let anyone hurt you.

Natural consequences are a powerful way to teach. Sometimes, too powerful. Getting hit and killed by a car is a terrible way to learn to stay out of the street. Logical consequences, where a parent artificially imposes a mild consequence and prevents a severe one, is often more successful and happier for everyone. The logical consequence of hitting with things and of smashing things is that the things are taken from you. The logical consequence of insisting nobody disrespect an out of control toddler by controlling her in any way, however mild, is that you and your child are not welcome in some places you would like to be welcome. Your friend may not wish to learn this lesson, but I suspect the universe will insist on teaching it to her.

share|improve this answer
    
I tell my daughter very similar things when she hits or bites while I am physically preventing her from causing pain. –  justkt Jul 31 '13 at 13:00
6  
+1 "show your son that you will protect him"... No guarantee your friend will remain your friend - but your son will always be your son. Protect your son from an uncontrolled child. Do your best for your friendship, and the 2 year old, but family is #1. I wouldn't want to lose a friend over something like this, but I wouldn't stand for my kid to be railroaded either. –  WernerCD Jul 31 '13 at 14:33
1  
@WernerCD a friend who gets "lost" that easily isn't really worthy of the name... –  Kheldar Jul 31 '13 at 19:08
2  
@Rose - actually I think a lot of people would break up with a boyfriend over poor parenting like this. Divorce is a more serious matter, but you aren't married to your friend. As for talking to the toddler - you can always tell your friend that if she doesn't positively enforce boundaries in a manner like this, you will. Then do it. –  justkt Aug 1 '13 at 12:04
2  
@Rose - fair enough. In my comment I assumed you had already attempted to discuss this issue with your friend and found that she was unwilling to budge over the issue. Of course a friend deserves to be talked to first. However I absolutely would put family before friends if my friend would not change her ways. –  justkt Aug 1 '13 at 16:51

I agree with Beofett. This particular parenting style seems to be the latest fad among some groups of parents--one of my sisters-in-law happens to be one of those parents. She makes excuses for her sons' behaviors explaining them as "developmentally appropriate" and making little to no attempt to discipline her kids even when their behavior is obviously out of line. Heaven forbid that you attempt to step in when one of her kids is misbehaving and correct it! Can I tell you how this story ends? Her sons are now 4 and 6 years old. They are bullies who hit, undermine, manipulate, and her six year old is verbally abusive to his cousins who are the same age as him or slightly younger! He's SIX!!

A few weeks ago, after a particularly rough few days spent with this sister-in-law and her hellions, my other 2 sisters-in-law and myself were discussing the situation. This sister-in-law is not going to change her parenting approach because, for reasons we can't understand, she seems to think that there's nothing wrong with it. However, we DO NOT want to teach our kids that it is ok for others to treat them badly--even if that "other" is a friend or relative. We want them to know that if someone is treating them poorly that they should leave the situation because, ultimately, the mental health of my son and my daughter is more important to me than them playing with their cousins. And that is how we've decided to deal with this sister-in-law and my nephews. Hitting, saying mean things, etc. is grounds for automatic removal from the situation.

What does that mean for you? If you are visiting this friend of yours and her daughter starts on a hitting tirade, you simply gather your son and say you need to leave. You can even make an excuse and say, "Little Sally looks like she's getting a little tired, we should go. Would you like to meet at the park tomorrow?" or something to that effect. Don't make a big deal of it, even if your friend gets upset. If your friend is at your house with her daughter you could ask her to leave, or you can just take your son by the hand and say, "Why don't you help me in the kitchen for a few minutes until Sally feels like playing more nicely?". If it happens often enough, her daughter will probably realize that when she hits then her friend leaves, and your son will probably thank you for removing him from the situation. I applaud your son for being so nice to this 2-year-old and not hitting her back. Most seven-year-olds probably wouldn't be that kind. That tells me that he's been raised to know right from wrong and he's struggling to do the right thing in this situation. He needs you to have his back and help him out. Talk to him about it as much as you can so he understands that you are helping him as much as you can. At age 7 a lot of kids still sort of believe their parents can do anything and he's probably a little baffled that his mom can't make this 2 year old stop hitting him! It would be a good way to help your son understand that every family does things a little differently--a lesson that will come in handy in a few years when he comes home and wants to do something that his friends are doing but you won't allow him to do (like, have a cell phone, stay up until 10:00, or whatever...). And tell him that's it's ok if he doesn't want to play with this little girl. There's no law that says that he has to play with her. You can schedule play dates with other people.

As for toys, before your friend arrives with her daughter, you and your son can put away the toys he doesn't want her to play with/destroy. As for protecting the remaining toys, I don't really have any good answers on that although I think that Beofett's answer is spot-on. If she wants to destroy her own toys, that's one thing, but she shouldn't be allowed to destroy other people's toys just because she's two!

share|improve this answer
    
Your solution reminds me of another situation (toddler pulls dog hair, or puts fingers in dog's eye... nasty little naily fingers). Dog's nice, but painful is painful. If possible, the dog walks away, but sometimes it can't. Then the dog's mistress pulls the dog (which is quite small, actually), and puts it on the other side of a wooden barricade. Toddler can see the dog, but cannot touch it/hurt it. It's currently the third baby (cousins) that gets the treatment. Works fine. –  Kheldar Jul 31 '13 at 19:13

My view is that it is my responsibility to protect and to teach my child. I have been in the situation you've described, faced with the results of the rather permissive parenting style of your friend. I stopped the younger child hitting my son, saying out loud that hitting is wrong and saying to my child that to respond with violence is also wrong.

Protecting my child: done. Learning outcomes: violence is wrong. That's the message to my child. If the other child gets it too, great, but their training is not my responsibility.

If this approach doesn't go down well with your friend, then tough, in my view. If another's parenting style allows their child to hurt mine, then, as a matter of defending my child, I will step in immediately and stop any further damage. As a matter of training my child, I will instruct my child - loudly and clearly - that a violent response is not appropriate and to walk away. If that embarrasses your friend, tough.

If it is really your friend's view that your child should learn to defend itself, then I am afraid that her child will eventually receive a violent retribution at some stage in it's life. I am not sure she really wants that. Let's see how long her laid-back parenting style lasts while her child is getting hit back.

At some point, I will probably allow my children to learn some form of self-defence. A significant part of any self-defence training is non-physical - it is the mental process of knowing if, when, and how to protect one's self physically.

share|improve this answer
1  
Absolutely: "If another's parenting style allows their child to hurt mine, then, as a matter of defending my child, I will step in immediately and stop any further damage." –  Chris Sep 9 '13 at 5:10
    
It is like rights, yours stop and mine begin at the tip of my nose. –  kleineg Aug 13 at 13:56

The mum of this child blames my son such as stating that he should learn to assert and defend himself.
(...)
This is why I suggested to my son that he should gently hold the girl’s hand and firmly say “NO”/“STOP”. My friend is not happy with this and has told him to stop it as this then violates her daughter’s bodily boundaries (...)

Then what on earth does she mean by "learning to assert and defend himself"? And how does getting hit respect your son's bodily boundaries?

It would be wrong to do so, and you should be proud of your son for not having done so, but I wonder how it would go over if you just stated that

"It is just a normal part of the development when a child is 2 7 to hit back when hit."

She surely can't expect your son to use the Conscious and Peaceful Parenting Approach towards her daughter?
This is not peaceful, this is permissive to the point of not giving a *beep* caring. No matter what approach to parenting is taken, it is a parent's duty to correct — not discipline, but correct — their child's behaviour when necessary.

It's also your duty as a parent to protect your son. Take anything away from the girl that she's hitting your son with. Take measures to prevent her from getting her hands on stuff to break or hit with.
And if even the most basic non-violent methods of correcting or restraining that girl are not permitted, give your son the option to disengage. He doesn't have to play with her if he doesn't want to. Allow him to go play somewhere where she can't reach him. If you're at your friend's place, be prepared to cut the visit short and go home.

You berate your friend for not correcting her daughter, but you are doing your son a disservice as well. Your son should know that his parents always protect him and support him when tries to resolve a situation. You should stand up for your son and tell your friend that her daughter's behaviour is not acceptable and that you will not be visiting her again with your son, until that behaviour is corrected.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.