Dealing with Your Child’s Aggressive Playmate

In this episode: Janet responds to a mother who says whenever her 10-month-old gets together with her best friend’s 2.5-year old, the older child “hits, punches, pushes, and grabs toys” from her son. She says she feels guilty for letting her boy get pushed around, but she doesn’t want to insult her friend or “pretend I know anything about parenting by intervening in the conflict.” She asks Janet how she would respond and how to better understand the toddler’s perspective.


Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. Rose Orlik says:

    Your book has totally changed my life and attitude to parenting, my son and I are so much happier now, I can’t thank you enough.

  2. Georgia Dickinson says:

    Hi Janet,
    Thank you so much for your podcast and blog. I love reading your posts and feel like they have helped me so much with my 19 month old son.
    I am currently struggling with being on the other side of this issue where my son scratches his playmates faces on an incredibly regular basis. I initially was very reactive and upset but quickly realised that wasn’t helping anything and having read some of your posts I changed my technique to a much more unruffled position! When we are with other children I stay near him and make sure I am there to intervene and then I will calmly say something along the lines of ‘I can’t let you do that’ ‘I won’t let you hurt them’ and if I haven’t managed to intervene in time ‘I’m sorry I wasn’t there to stop you in time’ or something along these lines. Sometimes I wonder if it would be better for me to say nothing as this has helped us with other inconvenient behaviour but I have to admit to feeling awkward in front of other parents and feel like I should be ‘doing’ more. So as I said I wonder if this initially was to test me as his leader but now I don’t feel that can be the case. It seems like it has become a habit. It also seems worse when the other child reacts very strongly and I wonder if he is just exploring these reactions and his power and impact on other people.
    It is so upsetting as he loves people and interacting with other children but as you said in this podcast he is clearly uncomfortable and I would really love and appreciate some advice on how to make him more comfortable and settled so that he can enjoy his social interactions.

  3. Jackie Sperling Hosseini says:

    Hi Janet, thanks for all your work you do to help us be better parents. When we have questions, we come right to your website for insights! We’ve had fever good success with your methods. I found this episode “Dealing With Your Child’s Aggressive Playmate” and it’s similar to our situation but ours has some differences. Our girls are 4 and 6 years old and love to get out in town and do fun things. Two weekends in a row we came across nearly the same challenging situation. Both times we were at a play maze. The kind of maze that is several stories tall, and the kids climb through, there are different obstacles, and there are slides within it, as well as slides exiting it. They are so happy that they can finally independently go through it and explore and have fun. Usually parents are at the base of the maze (unless their kid gets stuck up in the maze and the parent has to go up to rescue them). Both times we went though (totally different mazes and weekends), my girls encountered a child in the maze who was behaving aggressively towards them. The children (I’m grouping them together now for simplicity), who both times was actually younger than them, pushed them down the slide, reportedly had their hands on their neck, was grabbing onto them without letting go, rammed into them with a cushion block, etc. My girls came down in tears once (and came down immediately the next time) and reported back to me but it was already after the fact. What do we teach them to do when they’re alone (like up in the maze) and a kid is acting aggressively towards them? They came and reported it to us, and we told them to stay with us, but we weren’t sure how they should handle it in the moment. Of course both times the parents of the children were oblivious to what their child was doing. Thanks in advance!

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