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I assume that this question has already been asked on countless occasions but I haven't been able to find the answer to it! I'm a separated father who sees his son 2 days a month. As you can imagine his education is out of my control as there isn't much communication with the mother. He doesn't go to the nursery, thus he doesn't know how to play or even acknowledge other kids.

Last weekend I went to a house where there was another toddler of 1 and a half yeare, the toddler came to play with my son and my son simply pushed him away. I got very upset and started telling him off. Instead of getting afraid of me, he smiled. I didn't use any kind of physical aggression but if shouting at him didn't work, what could I do? Remember that I see him only 2 days a month, and I want him to enjoy these days rather than being angry with me.

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    One does not need to shout at a toddler to get a point across. The parents job is to teach children how to behave, and neither shouting nor shoving is what we want. Ask your toddler questions to help him think about why he did that, and give him alternatives. – Jeff.Clark Aug 31 '16 at 23:07
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You asked what you could do to tell off your 2-year old son for pushing away a 1.5-year old.

Depending on whether he pushed only a little or rather hard, you could say one of the following:

  1. (questioning) Why did you push that kid away? They only wanted to play with you/say hi/have a look.
  2. (teaching) Hey, do not push that other kid; it is not nice. They only wanted to play with you/say hi/have a look.
  3. (mild correcting) Hey, be careful! We do not push other children.
  4. (correcting with consequences for not listening spelled out) Hey, no pushing! If you cannot behave then you cannot play here anymore and we will need to go home.

If the situation repeats, you could choose to use a higher level depending on how patient you are.

At home, consequences could be a time-out or a small task (stand in the corner/hallway and count to ten/sing a song) or you can ask him to go to his room until he can behave himself again (he will probably start crying and may need you to help him stop so he can come back). If you name consequences you should be certain you mean them, otherwise it is better not to name them and make up your mind about what they should be later.

This is what works for me and usually gets results quickly (though certainly not always); I hope it will give you some ideas.

What is probably not effective is losing your temper or getting very angry. If your kid is in a situation in which they do not yet know how to behave correctly for their age, just remove them from that situation or change the situation. You should only shout if you need your kid to pay attention and they are ignoring you.

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Your son is two. Two year olds aren't going to understand why they are being scolded. Basically, the only method we ever used effectively with my daughter at that age were to remove her from a situation bodily when she was interacting with something the wrong way. Shouting doesn't really help. Physical stuff really won't help. **

Children tend to cling to a parent and establish a base before they begin to explore an area. It's possible that the other boy came up before your son had gotten used to the area. Was he clinging to you? Was there a toy that he had that he didn't want to share when the other boy came up? It takes time for a kid that hasn't had interaction with other kids to warm up. Eventually, though, the curiousity makes them want to interact with the other child once they don't have to protect their rights over "owning" their parent. You're new at this ;-) but you'll see it in time.

So sad about the two days a month.

** And I'll clarify, shouting and physical don't work to discipline a child. Timeouts when they're older and monitoring what sort of input they are modeling their behavior on are the best shot you've got. Most of the time, kids don't need it. They are very protective of parents and tend to model themselves after the adults in their lives. We found our daughter (who is really active and loud and rambunctious) just needed our attention a lot at that age.

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I think when we see young kids behaving in a certain way, we have a tendency to project that behavior forward to the kind of person they might one day be, or compare it to adults we know.

For example, raising a generous child might be very important to me, so when my young child refuses to share something it upsets me. Or I might want to raise a brave child, and so when my young child refuses to try something himself, it upsets me.

In this situation, it might've upset you because you want your son to be inclusive and welcoming and kind, but he pushed the other child away.

The mistake is to think

  1. that the way the child is behaving now is the way he'll always continue to behave and
  2. that the child can necessarily change right now to fix this.

Instead, I'd use this analogy:

Your son is walking on a very long road. At the end of the road is the adult you'd like him to be. But it's impossible for you, his father, to simply jump him to the end of the road. Instead, your job is to generally keep him walking in the right direction and continuing down that road. He will always try to wander off to the sides here and there, but you can gently move him back onto the path.

In my experience with my sons (and with myself and other men in general), we never like to back down and lose an argument, and we like to think that every good decision was made on our own. So instead, give him a path to better choices in the future. For example: "Next time the other boy comes over, maybe you can find a toy for him to play with." Just keep subtly directing him back on the path, and though it'll take time and many small interventions, your son is always listening.

  • This is a most excellent and thoughtful answer! Re-direction and continuing discussion are great tools. The only thing I'd add is that when you use praise, it also directs kids down your preferred path to his adulthood. – WRX Nov 24 '16 at 19:56

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