Dear Miss Faith,
What can I do when my toddler is rough with the baby (usually unintentionally, but sometimes by-accident-on-purpose)? My impulse is to yell and I know that’s not good and honestly doesn’t really help! It seems like you often suggest being light-hearted or making things into a game, but that doesn’t feel right in this case. I want her to know that it’s absolutely unacceptable but I also don’t want to scare her or anything. Thoughts?
Yes! I’ve found that when children hurt helpless things (babies, toys, plants), the thing that’s worked best for me is to react immediately, not with anger, but with sadness and concern. Concern for the baby or the toy, that is. “Oh no!” I’ll say, and I’ll rush over to the baby. “Are you OK, little one?” I’ll look her over. If she’s not crying, I’ll say, “Oh, I’m so glad you’re OK. Your sister is just learning to touch you gently.” Only then will I turn to the perpetrator. “It’s important to touch the baby gently EVERY TIME. Let’s practice together.” Then you take her hand and physically help her stroke the baby. “Yes, that’s it. You’re learning!”
If the toddler has hurt the baby (whether accidentally or accidentally-on-purpose) and the baby is crying, I do the same “Oh, no!” routine and pick the baby up to comfort him. Most of the time toddlers stand and watch while I comfort the baby. Once the baby’s c rise have lessened, then I’ll turn to the perpetrator (with baby still in arms) and do the “It’s important to touch gently ALL the TIME” piece. If the victim is an older baby and doesn’t want the older child to touch him, then I might shake my head sadly and say, “It looks like he’s not ready for your gentle touch yet. Why don’t you find a toy that he might like, instead?”
Getting sad instead of getting mad works for kids throwing toys, too. Say a toddler throws a wooden truck. Instead of yelling at her, I’ll rush over to the truck. “Oh, no! Is this truck OK?” I’ll pick it up and look it over. “Whew! Thank goodness!” I’ll snuggle the truck for a moment, then turn to the perpetrator. “We have to treat our trucks gently. You can drive this truck!” I’ll put the truck down on the ground and drive it over to her, then get her started. If it’s clear that she doesn’t really want the truck but just wants to throw, I’ll just put the truck back and say, “You can throw soft balls! Where IS a soft ball for you to throw?”
Warmly, ~Miss Faith
P.S. This exchange took place in our last Tele-Class, Joyful Days with Toddlers & Preschoolers. The next Tele-Class is about to start soon! Check it out by CLICKING HERE.