Bullying in Toddlers

Toddlers are active and impulsive, and they’re going to have little fights and wrestling matches
that occasionally get out of hand. This play-related conflict can actually benefit young children
because it teaches them how to compromise, negotiate and forgive.

On the other hand, bullying, whether physical or emotional, damages kids’ self-esteem. Even
bullying between toddlers can cause hurt feelings, fear and anxiety. Being picked on, pushed
around and not allowed to play with the group is not acceptable at any age.

We’re here to help

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we want you to know that we care about what your toddler is
going through, as well as about his/her health. Please come in with your child to talk with us if
he/she is being bullied, or if you suspect that he/she is. Together, we will find solutions for how
to stop the bullying so that your child can be healthy, happy and safe.

Is your toddler being bullied?

Some signs that may indicate your child is being bullied are if he/she:

  • Loved daycare or preschool but now doesn’t want to go
  • Complains of stomachaches or headaches before being dropped off at a playdate, daycare
    or preschool
  • No longer wants to play with a child he/she once liked
  • Repeatedly tells you a certain kid is being mean to him/her
  • Suddenly becomes withdrawn, anxious or clingy
  • Has unexplained boo-boos. Toddlers often get bumps and bruises when they play, but if your
    child seems to have more than normal or can’t tell you how he/she got hurt, you should be
    concerned.

What you can do to stop the bullying

1) Role-play

Pretend you’re the bully and encourage your child to tell you in a loud voice to “Knock it off!” or
“Stop that!” and walk away. Then reverse the roles.

2) Tell your child to ignore the bully

Often if you don’t give a bully attention, he/she will eventually stop.

3) Encourage your child to stick with friends

Bullies try to isolate certain kids so they can pick on them. As the saying goes, there’s safety in
numbers. If your child doesn’t have many friends, help him/her make some new ones through
play-dates or activities he/she is interested in.

4) Teach your child to tell an adult

The best way for your child to stay safe is to tell a grown-up what’s happening. If you are not
there when the bullying is taking place, your child should go to the teacher, group leader or
parent-in-charge.

When your child’s the bully

1) Show your disapproval

The instant you see your toddler start to hit another child, intervene as quickly as possible and
tell him/her loudly and firmly, “No! We do not hit.”

2) Remove your child from the situation

Calmly take your child to a different place and firmly explain that hitting or biting is not allowed,
ever.

3) Block the abusive behavior

If you see your child about to hit or bite, catch his/her hand in midair or place your hand over
your child’s mouth.

4) Apologize for your child’s actions

If your toddler hits or bites a playmate, turn your attention to the victim. Check to see if the child
is okay, and make sure your child hears you apologize and that you are very upset with his/her
behavior. Apologize to the other parent who might be angry but hopefully can see that you’re
working on stopping this unacceptable behavior in your child.

5) Encourage your child to use words, not fists, when angry

Help your toddler use language and gestures to communicate. Strongly encourage him/her to say
simple words like “mad” when he/she is frustrated. If you reward your child’s efforts to talk,
he/she will ultimately learn that words are a more effective and socially acceptable way to
communicate than violence.