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My daugther is almost 17 month old which is our first child and she is not in kindergarten yet (starts in two month). Whenever we go with her on a playground or meet her neighboring friend (same age) she behaves very dominant. This behavior includes:

  • taking away toys - even from much older children (4-5 years old)
  • claiming all kind of objects from the moment her peers hold them
  • trying to hug and snuggle other children
  • when we offer fruits to all children she tries to eat all at once

So far she has never been violent in the sense of hitting or scratching other children. So we think this is not a problematic thing. Still, we are asking ourselves how to deal with this kind of behavior.

We talked to several friends, read about it and talked to the pediatrist and what we hear is mostly "Kindergarten will balance this out through social interaction". Meaning we should not handle this at all and let her be.

I sometimes tend to interrupt her when she shows this behavior, but I am not sure if this affects her negatively e. g. by stopping her beeing exotroverted and open minded.

Are there other opinions or similar experiences?

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    Just a note for our American users - it sounds like Matthias is using the word "Kindergarten" in the European sense, meaning "daycare/preschool" as Americans would use it, not the 5 year old school grade. :) – Joe Jun 25 at 15:05
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    "So far she has never been violent in the sense of hitting or scratching other children. So we think this is not a problematic thing." Depends what you mean by "problematic", because demanding toys from others and snatching is still bullying. – deworde Jun 25 at 17:06
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    @deworde a 17 month old child isn't "bullying" by taking a toy. A 17 year old is. At 17 months, the concepts of "right" and "wrong" are rudimentary, at best. – FreeMan Jun 26 at 15:26
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    @Freeman It doesn't carry the same moral weight, but the act is the same as when they're 6 or 7, and if you don't teach them It's wrong, why would they stop? – deworde Jun 26 at 16:30
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    @deworde taking someone else's toy is, indeed wrong, and a child should be taught not to. At under 2 years old, though, it's not "bullying" because the kid doesn't understand that it's wrong, and at that age, you cannot expect the kid to understand. By the time the kid's 4, 5, 6 (depending on the child), one certainly can expect her to know that, and the punishment for continuing in the wrong behavior grows more severe as the age increases. When you're 18 (in the US) and you take someone else's toys, we call it theft and throw you in jail. You don't do that to a 2yo. – FreeMan Jun 26 at 16:36
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+200

In America, this is referred to as "The Terrible Twos". You just got to start early, while some kids don't hit it until they're three or so.

It's pretty normal behavior for kids that age. They don't understand the concept of sharing, fair play, or being nice. It's all about "What's mine is mine, what's yours is mine, anything I see is mine, I didn't want it but I see you playing with it so it's mine, even if I don't want it it's mine. It's mine, it's mine, it's MINE!!!" At that age, the universe does, in fact, revolve around your daughter - from her perspective.

Also, verbal skills are very limited at this age, so even if she wanted to nicely ask for it she probably doesn't have the ability to do so in an way that's understandable to others. i.e. even as her parents - the ones who know her the best - it probably still takes you a while to figure out what the screaming, crying, grunting and pointing really mean. Another toddler or pre-school aged child won't have a clue what she's on about.

Gentle correction is all that's necessary. Most other parents will have watched their kids go through that stage too and if they see you taking some action, reasonable adults won't take offense because they've been there and know that you cannot control your child's behavior at that age. Of course, if hitting, kicking, scratching, biting start you must take immediate action to stop it so the other kid doesn't get hurt, but taking toys is the first step in learning to share toys.

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    Very nice answer, +1. My kids didn't enter into their terrible twos until they were eleven! It was like clockwork. – anongoodnurse Jun 26 at 15:25
  • Thanks, @anongoodnurse! As for your kids... I'm sorry... :( – FreeMan Jun 26 at 15:29
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    Thanks for the sympathy! Lol, at least at that age, I could attempt to reason with them. :) – anongoodnurse Jun 26 at 15:34
  • I dont agree with your answer. It's true that a child at this age is not yet developed enough to process emotions, so punishing probably wouldn't do much, but to ignore this behavior completely as you suggest in this post would be a serious mistake. I tend to agree with the other posters that the OP should make the child aware of her bad behavior, that includes asking her to look into their opponents face, returning the toys to the victims, and strictly telling her that it's not ok to do that. Kids even at this young age understand when they're overstepping their boundaries. – Bach Jul 1 at 15:07
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    @Bach If you'll read the full answer, you discover that I never said that it should be ignored completely. The last paragraph starts out with "Gentle correction is all that's necessary". What I do say that's somewhat different is that this behavior is perfectly normal for kids at this age (even though we, as adults understand it's unacceptable), and that parents shouldn't freak out when they see their child acting this way. It's part of life and the development that each child has to go through. You are free to down vote if you feel that strongly, I won't be offended in the least. – FreeMan Jul 1 at 15:42
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When a child does something that makes another child feel bad, whether violence or just selfish behavior (which is basically what you're describing), my go-to at any age is to show the child how the other child feels. Ask her to look at the other child's face, which is presumably sad, and point out why.

This does two things. It helps to emphasize the emotions to your child, which helps develop her sense of empathy, and it also ties the action more concretely to the emotion - otherwise it's up to her to figure out the cause and effect.

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  • In extreme cases like the other child is sad or upset because our daughter took away a scoop we do that of course and tell her this is not ok and she would not like this behavior the other way around. But often the other children do not seem to be upset at all, turn around or are even irritated that a much younger one approached them like that. – Matthias Mohr Jun 26 at 6:14
  • I'm just curious if this approach has ever been successful with a 17 month old child. At that age, children have minimal ability to reason, they are totally ruled by emotion (their own emotion, not anyone else's), and have minimal (but non-zero) empathy for anyone else's situation. If you have examples of this actually working on kids that age, I'd be most interested in seeing examples! No toddler I've ever met (nor my wife whose mom took care of other's kids, and is a school teacher) has ever responded to logic or reason. – FreeMan Jun 27 at 14:27
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    @FreeMan Actually, that's kind of the point! This is not really an attempt to reason - it's an attempt to help them empathize, which is something very important to develop at that age. And don't expect it to work instantly or perfectly - it's a long game move, aimed at teaching them over time to improve their empathy and help them learn to read others. – Joe Jun 27 at 23:02
  • @FreeMan: Empathy generally starts between 6 months and 1 year. If I eat some chocolate and go "yuck", and then eat some broccoli and go "yum"; when asked to feed me, a 6-month-old will offer me chocolate because they like chocolate, and a 1-year-old will offer me broccoli because they know I hate chocolate and like broccoli. Currently looking for a link to the study I read not too long ago. – Flater Jun 28 at 10:29
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    @FreeMan: Found the link, though I was slightly wrong on the age: it develops between 12 and 18 months. – Flater Jun 28 at 10:32
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This feels like very normal behaviour for an only child of 17 months; and the paediatrician is right that socialisation will solve most of the issues.

That said, you're the parents, so while it's the school's job to handle this when the child is in their care, it's your job by default.

To be honest, all you're seeing here is the standard impulse control problem of "I want X, and I don't really acknowledge the needs of others" which is very normal for children of that age.

Taking the behaviours in turn:

  • Taking away toys - even from much older children (4-5 years old)
  • claiming all kind of objects from the moment her peers hold them

Here you should definitely be returning the toys to the children. Don't necessarily tell your child off, but make it clear that the other child's claim is important. After a certain period (your choice), tell them that they can ask for a turn with the toy.

  • trying to hug and snuggle other children

This is about teaching her personal boundaries. If a child seems uncomfortable with her getting too close, take her away from them and apologise to them.

  • when we offer fruits to all children she tries to eat all at once

Again, in this case, you again need to make sure that she understands that the fruits are for everyone. Maybe make her responsible for handing them out?

You're basically just teaching her how to behave towards people in general. Try and model good behaviour and let her know what the right behaviour is.

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