My son pushed your child today: from one mother to another

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Dear fellow mother,

Today my two and a half year old son pushed your son, snatched a toy from his hands and shouted at him.  Your son justifiably felt aggrieved and cried; you came and comforted your child.  I wanted to connect with you, to talk to you about it, but it wasn’t the right place or time it seemed, and you didn’t make eye contact with me.  I wanted to tell you so much.  I wanted to say sorry.

Please know that just because I didn’t shout at my son, or take him by the arm and drag him away, or force him to give up the toy by taking it out of his hands or tell him that he must say sorry, just because I didn’t roll my eyes and say how awful he is at sharing– none of these things means that I’m not taking it seriously.  I am.  I feel sorry for your child. Moreover, I have a vested interest: I don’t want my son to hurt other people because I know such behaviour not only makes other people unhappy; it will make him unhappy too.  Like you, I just want my son to be happy.

Please understand that my child is doing these things because it’s normal behaviour for his age.  He doesn’t come from an unhappy home, I’m not too authoritarian or permissive, he’s not insecure and it’s nothing personal.  There are no pyscho-babble reasons behind his behaviour.  He’s two and I accept him for where he is now… I hope you will try to understand.

When I kneel quietly beside my son, gesture toward your crying child and say, “Look at his face: he’s sad” I am taking the long view.  In the short term there is no instant gratification in this approach in that your son doesn’t have the toy back and my son hasn’t said ‘sorry’ for what he did.  But I am teaching my child to tap into his innate sense of compassion for other human beings.  When I invite him to witness your child’s feelings, I am drawing him into your child’s experience of hurt.  In effect, I am asking my son to step into your child’s shoes.  Yes, I know it’s hard for him.  At two and a half you might even say it’s impossible.  But as I said, it is a long-term strategy.

You probably wonder why I don’t just take the toy out of my son’s hands and return it to yours.  I believe that this would teach him that snatching is okay (because mummy did it too!) and that ending the problem now is more important than working out a solution.  It also means that your son learns that dealing with problems is as easy as screaming and getting what you want.  The world isn’t like that and I want both of our children, even at their young age, to understand that it takes time, communication and effort to resolve disputes.

Some might think I should pull him away from the situation.  But I do not want my child to think that the solution is to walk away, unless of course the distance helps him to calm down… before he can reapproach your child to work out a solution.  I do not want him to feel ashamed of what he did: his behaviour was normal for his age and stage.  What I do want to do is to gently guide him towards behaviour that will contribute to his and others’ happiness.

Other people might think I should shout or tell him he’s a naughty boy.  But I do not want him to feel ashamed of himself.  I want him to trust me, to remain connected to me.  I believe in his innate goodness, and I want to remind him of it, not convince him that’s he’s bad.  I am his advocate and defender, and even though he has done wrong, it will take him time to learn to be less impulsive.  And I believe that he is more likely to treat others with love and consideration if he feels loved himself.

I want my child to learn to be compassionate toward yours.  When I point to your child and say, “Look, he doesn’t like to be pushed: it hurts” I’m not being woolly or weak.  I am pointing out for my son a universal human truth.  Nobody likes to be hurt.  When I say, “Please don’t hit” I am being respectful and polite, and even if some might think my son doesn’t deserve respect because he was the aggressor, the only way he will give respect is if he is respected.

Please don’t feel you need to coerce your child into giving up the toy.  Let’s work together to invite our sons to share it.  A ball is more fun if we roll it back and forth to one another, a car takes on a new meaning when we can wheel it to each other and see what the other person does.  Collaborative play is fun, but at two and a half it’s not the first kind of play that springs to mind– my son wants the toy because it looks exciting.  He doesn’t realise that it could be even more interesting to play together with your child.  Instead of giving up the toy and walking away, help me to show our sons how to work together.  And if they don’t want to play together, let’s invite them to take turns.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could do this?

I would love it if you would talk to me and meet my eye because I want to connect with you and I want you to see that I am uncomfortable and sorry and embarrassed.  I want you to know that my son is a lovely, kind boy who is able to share beautifully when he wants to, but like all children his age finds it difficult to live up to adults’ expectations all the time.  I know that like me, you are probably tired and exhausted by the business of parenting a toddler and possibly other children.  I know that your child’s screaming is setting you on edge and that he was happy before my son turned up on the scene.  I want to reach out to you and show you that I care.  I want you to see that I am a mother too and that even if you disagree with our don’t understand my methods, our journeys are so similar that it’s worth sharing.  I want you to see my love for my son as much as you see your love for your son.  And I want you to appreciate that although your son was on the receiving end today, one day soon he too will do the same things my son has done today.  I suppose I want you to do what I am trying to teach my son to do: to step into my shoes and consider me with compassion.  After all, I am just another mother having a tough day as I guide my children through the complicated waterways that lead toward adulthood.

Give me the comforting balm of understanding and connection, and know that I will return it to you when you too have instructed your toddler in the ways of sharing for what seems like the hundredth time that day.

With love and peace,


Photo credit: Jdodge3 via Wikimedia Commons

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89 thoughts on “My son pushed your child today: from one mother to another

    • That’s high praise Lisa. Thank you and thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  1. Dear Lisa,

    please don’t feel embarrassed, as you said in your post. (“I would love it if you would talk to me and meet my eye because I want to connect with you and I want you to see that I am uncomfortable and sorry and embarrassed”) I believe those feelings your son will also pick up on. When my son snatched a toy, and he did MANY times, I was a role model in a passive way and gave the other child something out of my bag. A small kiddies book or another little toy. I think that is appropriate for the age of 2.5.
    If my son hit another child, I said sorry to the child and asked if he/she wanted me to get his mummy.
    These things obviously never worked when I was tiered, or stressed with cooking, parenting or whatever… Or just in an engaging conversation with a fellow mum… or plain gossiping…
    So please if I fail to spot these things, because I’m connecting to another adult, which doesn’t happen very often if you are at home with young kids, feel free to make me aware of that.
    Yes, communication between parents in the playground is important. Even if it’s just an understanding look, from one stressed mummy to the other…
    very nice post x
    big hugs from mummy to mummy
    goddess blessings x

    • Hello Myriam!

      I love it when you comment on my blog. I can just hear you saying those words!
      Thank you for the marvellous point you make about modelling compassionate behaviour.
      Much love to you and your family.


  2. This is marvellous, Lisa, thanks for writing it. Reading it made me feel really quite sad as I know how often I have let my little boy down by treating him in a way i didn’t really like because i knew that others around me were expecting a certain response from me. I always know i should stick to my principles and do what i know is right, but it’s so hard sometimes. It was really good to read it and i will try to remember it next time i’m in that kind of situation. Thanks.

    • Thanks Kirsten. I must admit that I don’t *always* do this stuff– sometimes I’ve done it so many times in one day that I feel exasperated and just want to cancel the mother and toddler groups and stop having any social meet-ups with anyone! 😉 For me it makes such a difference to be around other mothers who I know will not judge my parenting choices, but support me in my struggles.
      Thanks for speaking up. x

  3. Thank you so much for this Lisa. When I was heavily pregnant with Joe and Sam was 2.5 I sat in the car crying outside a playgroup where Sam had pushed over every toddler and baby there! I still find it hard not to behave in a way that I think other people expect when Joe hits, pushes and snatches. I too will keep this post in mind next time xxx

    • Hi Abbe,
      I know what you mean– the pressure to do what others expect us to do is so great in these situations. I suppose that’s why I wanted the mother to make eye contact with me… but on Tuesday she didn’t. She kept her eyes averted, forced her son to relinquish the toy and walked away with him. I felt so upset, like you sitting in your car after the playgroup when Sam pushed the other children.
      I think this post has struck a chord with so many because all of our children do it… it’s normal.
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. It means so much to me.

  4. Yesterday I read this piece and agreed but felt that I wasn’t in that place anymore but today I can identify with it again as I struggle to get people to understand that when my child challenges things with the word no, I hear a six year old testing boundaries as is normal for his developmental stage; while they feel personally offended and the need to force their way through a battle of wills, scared that if they don’t win the child may one day be a criminal (no that is not me exaggerating, it is what people I know really think!). When my parents forced me to comply to trivial things for the sake of it they think I was learning a lesson………and I was. Today I can honestly say that I still feel as I did as a seven year old about these lessons. Did I learn to wash myself because of the one time they forced me when it would have made no difference anyway as I wasn’t dirty? No. I learnt to wash because of all the years they modelled that washing was what you do. Did I learn not to spill stuff by accident by not getting to go to the party? No! Just the opposite; I decided to not sweat the small stuff as I don’t want to live on the edge of stress every day all day. I did not learn the lesson they wanted to teach by being compliant. Maybe I failed to learn how to be self-motivated, organized when I don’t have a super-structure of someone telling me what to do and sure of my own decisions, just maybe. Anyway, I agree that it is really hard sometimes to be teaching through modelling in front of people who don’t even understand when you explain. It is scary for others to not be surrounded by the parenting style they have learnt and experienced themselves, because the style of backing children into corners and setting up battles which must be won tells you that without that disaster is looming. The majority of criminals in our prisons were extremely underloved and underparented as children. There are no jails filled with men who once said no to tidying up. Angie x

    • This is a great comment Angie. Thanks for sharing your experiences. You highlight an important point that is very close to my heart: that for so many people parenting choices come from a sense of fear rather than from the heart or a place of freedom. You make a great point when you ask the question, “what did I actually *learn* when my parents did that?” The quick result often teaches the least… we must be brave enough to trust in longer term results. It is a challenge.
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, especially from the perspective of a slightly older child. Really valuable.

  5. parenthood is so complicated and challenging. thank you for giving it your full attention and your whole heart, for what you are doing will shape the future.

    thank you thank you.

    • Thanks Anne, yes it is so complicated and asks so much of us. I must confess I often don’t have the resources in me to act how I want to, but I go easy on myself and hope that most of the time I can respond to Aidan in the way he needs.

      Thanks for your lovely compliment, for reading and commenting.

    • Thanks Callie! And thank you for taking the time to comment.
      x Lisa

  6. I can’t express how relevant this is to me and my 2.5 right now. I was beginning to feel like I couldn’t leave the house anymore. He is a lovely little boy that brings huge amounts of joy to our lives, but recently I have felt like noone outside our house sees this.

    It is nice to see so many mothers do feel the same way :)
    I have had people make comments and pull faces because my son has cried because he loves his mum and wants to be with me (then the same people saying I shouldn’t pander to it or he will always be this way) I have always been of the mind that I will treasure these years where my son shows so freely how much he loves me.
    All too soon it won’t be “cool” to cuddle my mum in public, so treasure these moments I say.

    And for all the mothers who give me “the look” when euan is being 2 and make me feel like I’m the only mother with a child that behaves this way I hope they keep it in mind when their time comes.

    • Dear Kirsty,
      It sounds like you have had a challenging time with Euan; it’s difficult to take a deep breath sometimes and think “this too shall pass.” From my experience with my other children, it is just a passing phase, and fortunately my older children have wonderful social skills and many friends. And yes, treasure every moment!
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  7. Hands down the best post I have ever read! Have read it 4 times already today. I just love it!

    • Thank you Alicia for this kind feedback. I am glad you enjoyed reading it.
      Best wishes,

  8. I could not disagree more. In effect, you have decided that your child’s right to learn correct behaviour your way is more important than other children’s right not to be hit or hurt during play. I am glad I have no children in a playgroup with you – it’s going to be a bumpy ride for the others.

    It is actually possible to distinguish disapproval of a child’s behaviour which is not the same thing as disapproving of the child. And saying “sorry” is an important thing to learn; that when you have hurt other people you must acknowledge your actions and attempt to make amends.

    You seem to think that all it will take is for your child to decide on his own that it is “wrong” to hurt another person. In actual fact, it isn’t “wrong” as such; why should it be? It is simply that living in a community it is unacceptable behaviour and you need to curb it if you want to live harmoniously within your community. I am very much afraid that your child is only going to learn correct behaviours when he is confronted by the universal disapproval of his community at his inapropriate behaviours. Because I don’t think you are helping him at all.

    Perhaps you are in a community where this is tolerated? Or you intend to homeschool him so he isn’t confronted with the self-control needed to live in a community? It might be an idea.

    It makes me feel very sad.

    • Hi Cathy,

      It’s unfortunate that we don’t see eye to eye about this, and I am sorry that you feel sad. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

      Best wishes,

      • Hi and thank you for this Lisa, and neat perspective, the writing of a letter to another mama after the fact. Thank you Tara at Organic Sister for sharing this blog through FB. Thank you Cathy for sharing your perspective because it prompted me to respond. Oh Mama’s all of us deep down wanting the very same things. I have to share my experience here. My son, who is now almost 8, and I were in many similar situations to the one Lisa wrote about, on both sides and then some. On the worst end of the spectrum, I remember a mother becoming so enraged at a park once when my son was having a hard time returning a toy, he was maybe 3, she was yelling, freaking out, very triggered that I was not shaming my child just intervening calmy…it set her off, I thought she would try to physically attack me…oh my. It was the craziest thing to me and yet we see it all the time, might makes right. Trust me I have had plenty of moments where the programming from my childhood takes over. You will see how many people, ourselves included, feel all variety of triggered reactions when we experience parenting that shifts our old programming. Okay so been there: averted eyes, and been there explaining to another mother what I am doing, and been there on websites like Jan Hunt’s The Natural Child Project, or reading Naomi Aldort, or Theresa Graham Brett or at Rethinking Education in TX feeling super fully supported in my intuition and my desire to rethink authoritarian shame and blame based, not only parenting, but human communication, period. Okay so about my son, who was never ever forced to say sorry or say thank you or please…never coerced, at least not by me…….he is one of the most kind compassionate people I know. When he says sorry, he means it and it flows freely and from authentic place when need be. He is appropriately if not extra socially compassionate. He was never forced to share anything, in fact I fiercely protected his right to decline to share, sometimes to the horror of other parents,explaining to the other child or parent if he couldn’t that he preferred not to share this or that and modelling safe boundries and space to parallel play which is so neccesary at certain early age stages. That boy shares so freely now it floors me, if he wants to, and often gives things away as gifts to his friends and even strangers. He seems filled up in the area of giving and receiving. I remember once both of us giving a mom and child, who’s car had been broken into, at his suggestion a big assortment of bounty from our car stash. Just living side by side of course I modeleld sharing, and also that there are plenty of things and times when I don’t like to share. So strange to me the double standards placed sometimes on children. It is as if adults expect children to master the skills they themselves are still struggling to perfect kindness, compassion, tolerance, patience, ability to share freely. Warning to parents who treat there children respectfully there may be a day in a park where you ask your child, please don’t give all your things away, eeeeek we just bought that. Your children may feel so loved that they actually respect you and themselves enough to be authentic. Hey and we “homeschool” in that he does not go to school and guess what we engage in all kinds of communities and we do just fine. Amazing! Treat children as we would like to be treated, they are not subhumans, they are our greatest teachers. The assumption that they must be trained into goodness overlooks the make-up of us all. Blessings, Maggie

        • This is lovely, Maggie. It feels great to be in a community to mothers who feel the same way I do. And it’s inspiring me to behave in this way more often, and not let my ‘programming’ take over!

        • Love this! We have handled my 3 yr old’s “phases” with compassion as well. She is doing wonderfully- this approach works so well and keeps relationships respectful.

    • Some education specialists – such as Montessori – don’t “make” children use good manners (say Sorry). Children are not ready to understand this properly until they are 3-4 yrs old. If you make them do it, they will learn to manipulate with words and use good manners because they are made to. If you model it and wait until the child is ready, they will have good manners because they really feel what they are saying.

  9. Lisa,
    Thank you for a wonderful post. Knowing you personally, both you and your child, I just wanted to say what a great approach you have when situations such as pushing/hitting/snatching do arise. I have always admired your cool head and your ability to use loving guidance when dealing with these dificult, and often emotional (for both children and mothers) instances. For those of us that have had two year olds, and come out the other side, we can understand that this is NORMAL two year old behaviour. I also know your son is a very empathetic little boy and when you explain how his behaviour has made someone sad, he understands this and does not need to be shouted at or removed from the situation. I have witnessed this, so I know this to be true. I have seen him return a toy to the other child (off his own back) and then seen how both him and the other child will then share that toy and play alongside each other. You really need not worry that other children in your playgroup are “in for a bumpy ride”. I am glad that my child is witness to the way you parent your son in a healthy, non aggresive way, especially when aggression is exactly the type of behaviour we are trying to deter! Grabbing your child, shouting, forcing them to say sorry (and yes, I do this one sometimes!) IS aggressive behaviour.
    With regards the homeschooling comment above. I personally feel very insulted. My children are homeschooled. My youngest child is still a toddler but my eldest child probably is one of the most self controlled seven year olds that I know. And do you know where she learnt that? Yes that’s right, from her parents. I don’t profess to be the worlds greatest parent ( I certainly am not) but I do on the other hand feel extremely proud of my beautiful, empathetic children, who ARE homeschooled, have a WONDERFUL social life, are EXTREMELY self controlled and are just generally GREAT human beings. I’m not quite sure what home education has to do with the original blog. My guess is that it has been included because of a misconception or misunderstanding about what home education actually is and what home educated children are actually like.
    Thank you again Lisa. Not just for the post, but also for being a great parent to hang out with! xxxx

  10. Hi Lisa

    After reading another comment above, I just wanted to reiterate how much I agree with how you approach these kinds of situations. It is exactly the way I always *mean* to approach them, and I’m pleased to say that I often do. (Although, as I have said, the stress of the situation is sometimes too much for me, and I sometimes act in a way I later regret.)

    I completely disagree with the suggestion that it isn’t ‘wrong’ to hurt other people, and that it’s just something regarded as inappropriate in our society and therefore something which has to be learned. I believe that it’s wrong to hurt or upset other people because it makes that other person unhappy, and I think it’s wrong to make other people unhappy, whenever we can possibly avoid it. Ok, let’s not get into whether morality is subjective or objective, but it seems to me that that’s a pretty universal code – because most human beings instinctively don’t want to hurt others. So I don’t think that it’s simply the case that we have to teach our children the rules, and make them ‘do the right thing’ because it’s a rule. I believe that it’s much more important to help our children develop their natural empathy, by showing them how upset people can get when we do something hurtful to them. That way, they will want to be kind to others, instinctively. Teaching them the rules, making them ‘do the right thing’ and forcing them to say sorry when they break the rules, without helping them develop their own empathy, risks creating children who follow the rules in public but behave badly when no one’s watching.

    Keep up the good parenting work, Lisa – you are an inspiration!


    • Hi Kirsten,
      You have made an interesting point here about helping children find their internal compass– the thing inside them that drives them towards behaviours that contribute to their and others’ happiness. Thanks for sharing your views.

      Best wishes,

  11. This is real food for thought. My son is 23 months old and just getting to the point I need to really think about how I am going to approach these situations.

    Reading this has made me realise up to this point I have just been doing what people expected me to do rather than what I feel is best.

    Think I need to think on this one.


    • Hi Chloe,

      Thanks for this comment. As you have probably seen from the rest of the blog, I have three children so this kind of situation has come up a lot. It has taken me some time to feel comfortable with how I deal with this, rather than follow what other people do (or expect me to do) and wonder why my child and I both feel so disconnected from one another afterwards. I began to explore the roots of that disconnected feeling, and I found that taking a gentler approach suited me better. It’s worth repeating that I’m certainly not able to do this 100% of the time. I am not an expert on much of anything: I’m just another mother muddling through.

      One of the reasons I so long to connect with the other mother (the mother of the child who has been hurt) is that I would like her to know that I am trying my best and really regret that her child is hurt. Eye contact, a smile and an “I’m sorry he hit your little one” can really help. If you can connect with the other mother you may find that you feel less like you have to do what pleases other people and be more true to yourself. Maybe…. This seems to have been the case for me.

      My way is not the ‘right’ way, just what suits me and my family. Take from this blog what suits you and leave behind the rest.

      I wish you well,

  12. Hello!

    I was wondering what happens when you’re on the other side of the equation. What if your child is the one constantly getting hit, pushed or bit by another child? It’s nice to stay calm and simply say: ”Oh look, he or she is hurt”, but I wonder if there isn’t an intervention or consequence, I wonder if my children will start those unacceptable behaviours. I also wonder if the child that his hitting will learn anything since they keep doing it…over and over. I would love your opinion on this!

    Thank you in advance!

    • Hello Ella,

      Thank you for your interesting comment– it has certainly given me much to think about this evening as we walked back from swimming lessons! 😉

      The approach I described is definitely intended to teach my child that hitting is not ok: it is not a punitive approach, but it is also not a no-consequences approach. Perhaps it would help if I am more specific about what I do? Usually I invite my child to empathise with the child who is hurt not only in words but also by modelling behaviour– I might help the child to find his mother, make a sad face to empathise, empathise with words by saying something like, “you were playing with that toy and he came and took it away from you. I’m sorry”, etc. Then to my own child I reiterate the rule (“no hitting/we don’t hit: see how he’s crying? It hurts him”), and work with my child toward finding a solution (“That boy was playing with that ball; you need to wait for a turn unless he wants to play with you.” Then I might say to the other child, “would you like to roll the ball back and forth to each other?”). I hope that this would make it very clear to both children that I don’t condone hitting and that perhaps we can find a way for everyone to be happy.

      For me, this is instructive for my child but also avoids shaming him. I should also point out, as I said in previous comments on this post, that like all mothers I have good moments and bad moments, and sometimes I go for a short-term solution and later wish I hadn’t. If you read other posts on this blog you will see that I am really big on cultivating self-compassion, in that we as mothers tend to beat ourselves up rather a lot and I’d like to find a way out of that where we allow ourselves (and our children) to make mistakes without punishing ourselves for it!

      It sounds like you are worried that your children would pick up unacceptable behaviours– so if another child bites your child repeatedly and there appears to be no consequences, would your child start biting too? Have I got that right?

      This might be a great idea for a post all on its own– my children have definitely been on the receiving end and there is probably more to say about how to approach things from that end. If you’d be willing to make further comments about your concerns I will try to address them in a future post (in the next week or so, as family time allows!). You can either make the comments here in the comments section or email me using the address in the Get In Touch Section.

      My reply here may have been sufficient, and if that’s the case please feel under no pressure to comment further! Also, as with everything else on this blog, take away the ideas that suit you and leave behind the rest. This isn’t the ‘right’ way, just the way that is right for me and my family.

      Thank you again for taking the time to read and comment. (and sorry for using the word ‘approach’ so much!– my vocabulary becomes steadily less varied as the day wears on!)
      Best wishes,

      • Hello Lisa,

        Thank you so much for your response. Thanks for clarifying a few things for me. My concern is mainly that this strategy doesn’t seem to work right away. It seems more like a long term plan that may work well. I’m just not sure how to deal with my children being constantly hurt by another child. Even my youngest daughter is being attacked and she’s only 9 months old. The child in question obviously doesn’t see the damage he is causing to my daughter and I get very frustrated that it keeps happening. The technique you use is the one the child’s caretaker is using but it’s obviously not working well for that child. My second worry is that my children will start behaving this way with others.

        I can e-mail you personally to elaborate if you’d like! I really appreciate your help!

        Thank you so much,

  13. Frankly, I don’t think it was her responsibility to make eye contact with you for you to take responsibililty for you and your son and apologize that that happened. When my son was 2.5 he knew to keep his hands to himself and despite being an only child to not grab from other kids. Just because WILL or HAVE to. I don’t see how you are teaching your child compassion for others without acknowledging your actions negatively impact others and you have to do something to correct that rather then just stand there and
    discuss it. I would not make eye contact with you and if I saw you or your child again id avoid you and tell
    my son too.

    • Hello Nina,

      You raise a valid point in that we all have a responsibility to build connection and that perhaps it is my responsibility to reach out to her and say sorry. Thanks for adding to the debate.

      Best wishes,

    • I completley agree with this comment, could not have said it better myself, the whole time I was reading this I kept wondering why it was the other mother should have had to do anything. And I would agree with your last sentiment as well, I would avoid a mother and encourage my child to avoid the child that made no attempt to rectify the situation.

      • Just wondering what you would think is appropriate in this situation? Asking your child to say sorry? Which would then teach your child that everything will be better if they say that word “sorry”? Yelling, hitting or otherwise shaming your child to “teach” them that what they have done is not acceptable behaviour in our society? (However they are not allowed to yell or hit or throw when they feel angry or frustrated).

        I think the point that’s being missed here is that the parent is down on their knees at the same level as both children, discussing what has happened and what would be a better outcome. (i.e what if you both play with this ball etc). In this situation I would ask my son what he thinks the other child is feeling and if there is anything that he could do to make the other child feel better. I am sure if you saw this in action you would feel that your child has definitely been listened to and understood. It is not a permissive action in which my child is allowed to get away with whatever he wants because I don’t want his feelings to be hurt. I am also sure that if it was your child doing the hitting, pushing or snatching – you would be relieved to be dealing with another mother who understands and doesn’t want you to scream at your child to make her feel better. My son NEVER hit, pushed or snatched until after 3.5 and I truly believe every child goes through it.

        As an adult, no one yells at me for making a mistake or drags me by my arm to apologise. No children are not adults but they will be and we need to think about how our actions now will shape the adults they will be. Personally I believe that a child who is listened to, loved and allowed to act in an age appropriate way with boundaries and natural consequences will grow into exactly the kind of adult we all hope our children will be.

  14. Hi

    Wonderful post! Thank you so much

    I would like to add something that I have seen from some older children in my neighbourhood that I think is a disturbing consequence of punishing your child in front of the child they have “wronged”

    I noticed that children in our neighbourhood would come up to me when my son had done something to hurt them, or that they didn’t like, with the clear intention that he be punished for having done this – and preferably in front of them! They WANTED to see him put in a “time out” or to be yelled at or be punished in some other way – often they had told my son ahead of time that he would get in trouble – which would often confuse him because we don’t punish in these ways that seem normal to children in our culture (we don’t punish at all really – but certainly talk about feelings – what has happened, and why things need to change if they do etc…)

    Anyway – when I focus with these kids on whether or not they are hurt – if they are feeling okay, and apologize for my son if he hasn’t – they always seem to be a little confused by my actions – and kinda disappointed that I haven’t embarrassed/humiliated my child in front of them. And I am always left feeling – WOW – this is scary that we are raising a generation of kids who have so clearly learned how to manipulate the adults around them into hurting their friends for them! It seemed to me that they would often make more of a minor situation they were perfectly capable of handling just in order to see another child get punished…. so sad really.

    • Hi Kristine,

      This is a thought-provoking, if upsetting, picture you paint. The idea of retributive justice, i.e., the desire for punishment of the aggressor, is perhaps a cornerstone of our society…but interestingly in post-Apartheid South Africa, things were done rather differently, around the ‘restorative justice’ model. Worth looking into if you are interested in these concepts.

      I really appreciate your contribution to this debate.
      Best wishes,

    • I have had my children’s friends come to me to tell me to spank my child. I respond the same as you described above – are you hurt? Are you ok? I’m sorry that he did that to you, and they look at me confused. Very scary.

  15. So your child pushes another person bringing them to tears, snatches/steals a toy off the child they have hurt and then plays with that toy with no lesson learnt outside of “I can do as I please” and “being physically violent and stealing things is perfectly acceptable… My mummy is watching and not doing anything. It must be okay”

  16. Honestly, my first reaction? You have got to be kidding me! What an excellent way to raise an awful little tyrant. You attempt to rely on a child’s innate compassion just when they are learning about feelings and end up creating little sociopaths who do not care about others! By not correcting your child’s actions you are simply enabling the behavior. Why be good when being bad gets you the
    toy? Mom won’t take it away. Primate mothers don’t even allow this type of favoritism. Monkey mothers (Rhesus) will reprimand, physically, their children for play too rough with others. Chimpanzee moms will watch their child play with others and intervene if the other child gets too rough. There are plenty more examples, but the long of the short of it is that we are animals and there is no reason to think that a reprimand (I don’t imply a physcial one) for bad behavior is misplaced. Children will still learn compassion and empathy, but they also need to learn social norms about sharing and interaction. And taking a toy away from your
    child that he stole from another is not the same as hitting for hitting. It is redressing a wrong, and not allowing the other child to be a victim. When your child is a bully to another, should you worry about the bully or the poor kid being picked on? I am for the latter – bullying behavior needs to dealt with. What would you do if another kid knocked yours down and stole his toy? Nothing? Right…

    • Hi Ryan,

      Thanks for your honest gut reaction. We don’t see eye to eye but I do appreciate that you have taken the time to read and share.

      Best wishes,

    • Ryan,
      I can certainly see your perspective. Parents would not do well to encourage children to take toys. Consider that two and a half year olds are learning about life every second of the day by soaking up what they see, hear and experience. They do not yet know that taking a toy is “wrong”, it is part of the learning process. Parents who can “sports cast” the “victims” disappointment teach be modeling. Repeating what the “bad” child has done just reinforces that it is OK to take a toy, since that is what the mother has modeled. Lisa shows respect for her child and models non-aggression, even if the “victim” does not get the toy back for the moment, though in most cases the toy will likely be dropped after a few minutes. Forcing a child to say he is sorry, is encouraging him to be untrue about his own feelings. Children are amazing and will learn to be socially correct, polite, kind and empathetic if they are surrounded by adults who model those traits. They will learn at their own rate on their own time, without the need for forceful intervention.

  17. I wish I had this to print off when my son was younger. As a child, I always tried to get him to connect with why he was saying he was sorry, not just saying it. Look into your heart, see how the other person feels, etc. One day I realized just how much influence the babysitter had. She would say “shame shame, say you are sorry”. My son (age 5) was walking along the top of a hill type wall made of bricks, he threw a brick at a girl and yelled “sorry” as it was flying. Luckily it didn’t hit her. But at that moment I knew I had to work harder at showing him the meaning behind sorry. If I had your letter, I could have shown the sitter and maybe she would have dealt with things differently. Thank you so much for putting into words what so many parents feel.

  18. I saw your blog through a friends facebook, and I just wanted to say thank you for sharing. I like your article on “pausing” and visualizing the outcome(not screaming). As a mother of 4, its true, sometimes we want to “please others” and make our kid say “sorry”. What you wrote I resonate with, its their stage, and its not a bad thing. Thanks for sharing. :)

  19. Lovely, lovely post. I think our children start helping us find OUR internal compass as we learn what is best in our situation. It only becomes more complicated to parent outside the norm as your children grow so this is very good practice for us to release, or at least buck up in the face of, disapproval from other parents. I appreciate your approach. It is modeling the framework for non-violent communication which will serve your child well. When my son was small, he was a very gentle little spirit. There were a couple of boys at school that bullied he and another boy. My husband and I invited the parents and the boys over for refreshments. The boys played while we parents did the trouble-shooting. Then we all joined up for further conversation about appropriate behavior. My son, who is now approaching 30 years old is still good friends with both of those boys, who are now young men. It is a beautiful thing to cooperate and work these issues out. Could you invite the young Mom over with her child for a playdate and conversation? You may be surprised at what could happen.

  20. This post just made me smile from ear to ear. It’s so comforting to know I’m not the only parent who deals with this issue, my issue is with my 1.5 year old lol. My kids are a year and a day apart and being a single mom I don’t get to go to playgroups ever since I have no car either and honestly this scenario always terrified me for when my kids were around others their age. They do share great together but they have their moments when they’re fighting with each other over one specific toy (even though they have tons of toys they always need to play with the same toy at the same time). I’m going to start trying this method with them so hopefully my home will become a more peaceful place and I’ll feel better about finding playgroups. Thank you for posting this! It was a great read and hopefully will help me become a better mom

  21. Thank you, Lisa. I come down on my little girl, who is three, like a tonne of bricks when she pushes other children, even though I KNOW she is sweet, and caring, and capable of such love and kindness that it puts me to shame. I teach secondary school children, where I find it so much easier to get them to understand when they’ve done something wrong, where we try to get them to look at the bigger picture, and yet find it hard to have a more just, wise, and wider-reaching reaction to my own beautiful child.

    Your writing brought tears to my eyes, so I’ve reposted it on my Facebook page, out of character with the other links to much more cynical and self-effacing images and writing that are my usual offerings. I hope at least one parent reads it, because, as I know from teaching the older students, life lessons are so very difficult to make them understand if those lessons do not come from the ground up.

  22. Yes Lisa how right you are- it took me back to when the god father of the child you are moulding, was in the group I organised, and a mother told everyone she was no longer coming because my child was too rough in his play – as a two year old with two older siblings he wasn’t always aware of the gentleness needed with single female delicate little girlsof 18mths! I still feel the hurt today that that mum couldn’t come and talk to me about how we dealt with it but as you know I now have the gentlest ( if somewaht giant) of a younger son who knows excatly how to play gently with his 2 year old – taken him 25 years to learn so keep onin the way you are!

    • Hi Nicky,
      Thanks for this– I think many readers of this blog will be heartened to hear what a gentle and kind person your son has turned out to be.

      Your visit here and your words have touched my heart,

  23. Mothering is hard, isn’t it? Even harder when we are trying to mother alongside others. :)

    It took me a while to process this blog post. I am a mother of four and have been on both sides of this many times. While I agree with not overreacting and yelling, hitting/spanking, and/or dragging the child around physically, I don’t think allowing your child to keep a toy they just snatched from someone else is a good solution either. There is no way to win/win here. If my child were to take a toy, I would do the same thing that you do and then explain (in a very simple way) that we now need to address the situation. Which would be finding the mother and working through it together as a group. I feel as I include the other child and mother, my child has more exposure to their feelings and that will help develop my child’s sense of right and wrong.

    Anyway, I like where you are going with this and I feel your heart is in the right place, but I do think follow through is important. If I were the other mother and you had allowed your child to keep my child’s toy he just snatched, I would probably be upset and leave as well.

  24. I don’t agree.

    Your statement about not taking the toy from your son and giving it back to the child that is crying because you don’t want him to learn that screaming gets you what you want; that is not your call to make and it’s non of your business what that child is learning. I am sure that a large amount of the reason that that other child is screaming is because your child was the aggressor and startled and perhaps hurt that child. And I think that what you are teaching will leave him confused about functioning within a group when he is older and you are not there. What happens to an adult who is knocked over and has their purse stolen? They are upset and want it back, and are vocal about it. They file a police report and if they get it back…well, that was their property, it was their purse. The other person had no right to take it away. The police don’t come back and say they cannot penalize this person. The police don’t say they cannot take it back because it might damage the person’s psyche. And they certainly don’t suggest you share.

    As a parent it is our job to guide our children. No, you cannot force them to feel empathy. But you can teach them right from wrong. Perhaps you don’t take the toy back, but you have your son give it back. Otherwise, you are going to end up with a situation where your son has learned that if he takes something, hurts someone, and then acknowledges their pain or sadness, he still gets to keep what it was he was after. Or he gets a share in it because now you expect that other child to share with him in order to teach them both a lesson. And that isn’t a lesson you want your child learning.

    • I completely agree. I think that your heart is SO in the right place, but I agree that letting your child KEEP the toy only teaches him that HE GETS WHAT HE WANTS when he takes. This is totally different from the other child crying as a result of your child taking the toy. The other child’s crying was an appropriate response to what happened to him. And he was the child wronged, not yours.

      I would have done what you did…gotten down and explained to my child what the other child was feeling. I then would have taken my child over, and made her give the toy back. I would have apologized to the parent and the other child for my child’s behavior and then I would warn my child that if he continues to take things from others, we will have to leave. And then I would follow through.

      Good luck to you!

      • Totally agree with you. If you want to teach real compassion, just pointing out that the other child is sad is not enough. Taking your child over to give back the toy, and perhaps a hug or a nice touch would go a lot further toward teaching him empathy and how to right a wrong without shaming him.
        No one is saying you should have raised your voice or shamed your child in any way, I just don’t think that this brand of non-intervention goes far enough to teaching the lesson that needed to be learned in this situation.
        And also, what do you think the other mother should have to teach her child as a take-away from this situation? That life is hard? That children are allowed to be physically violent and mean and the wronged child just has to take it? Having been on the receiving end of other small children inadvertantly bullying my small child and seeing the confusion and heartbreak, I would say perhaps you are not going far enough to put yourself in someone else’s shoes as it relates to your child’s behavior.

  25. I also totally disagree with your approach for the same reason as the previous poster Elizabeth.

    Your child is not taught right from wrong and you are taking it upon yourself to teach someone else’s child ! What is wrong with calmly and quietly telling your child that their behaviour is wrong and asking them to return the toy? If you had done that then my guess is that the other mother would have suggested sharing the toy! You are teaching your child that he can do no wrong in my opinion. When he gets to school age he will have a shock.

  26. Nobody has the right to tell you that your parenting method is wrong, or cast uninformed predictions about the outcome it will have for children they have never met. Those people, I’m sure, would not appreciate having their own parenting choices treated so scornfully, and a true sign of deep ignorance is to refuse to accept anything that doesn’t conform to the way you choose to live, and to judge something that you have not tried or experienced. The same can be said across all walks of life.

    So my opinions on your parenting choice here don’t come into this. However I will say that this post did leave me feeling disappointed. I really want to back you the whole way on this, but I deeply felt that you did not fulfil your social responsibility here.

    Your responsibility in this situation is not only to your own child, but to the other child and his mother. The way you choose to handle this with your own child is your choice. However this should not be at the expense of somebody that has been hurt or wronged. That child doesn’t understand why he has suddenly, out of nowhere, been hurt and had his toy taken away and not returned. And that mother in question did not know your motives for not returning the toy, disciplining your child or making him apologise, so may not be able to effectively explain. You’re so busy teaching your own child a lesson in your own gentle way, but what about the other party that you’ve effectively just left high and dry?

    As an example, you don’t want to snatch a toy from your child because you don’t want to teach him that snatching is okay, yet the other child has had something snatched and therefore (as far as you’re concerned) been taught that snatching is okay.

    Where is the communication, where is your apology?

    It is also a basic social responsibility to prevent or restore any form of theft. The snatching of an object from a child is essentially theft at a basic level. I am not suggesting your child is a ‘thief’ or was wrong, but this does not mean that the other child was not stolen from or wronged. He was, and you owe it to this child to restore that, but you did not. Snatching back is not the only method of restoration of this kind of situation.

    Similarly, you don’t want to discipline your child or force him to apologise, because you would rather him develop his sense of compassion, and that is *your* parenting choice. I understand that and you completely have the right to that. Meanwhile, it is likely that this other mother’s parenting choice may be more along the lines of ‘discipline and forced apology’, as many are. You may not agree with this, but it is no more wrong than your own choices for the reason I state in my first paragraph. So, without any communication from yourself, your choices effectively undermine the other mother’s probable parenting choices, because instead of your child, it is her child who gets to learn in a way she does not agree with.

    While I’m not suggesting you should compromise your parenting choices and discipline or force your son to apologise when it goes against your grain, you really should (in my humble opinion, at least) recognise your social responsibility and show compassion and respect for this mother’s parenting choices, by communicating with her and her son yourself. Your child is still learning, but you are not. If he cannot apologise or explain, then you can. Blogging about it is all very sweet and good, but really it does nothing to help the child that your child hurt. You ask this mother to consider you with compassion, but really this entire post reeks of a lack of genuine compassion for this mother or her child, even though you profess to display it. I can’t see that here, not really.

    Just my thoughts. We’re all human, I appreciate this.

    • I agree with this comment, and Elisabeth’s as well. Of course my child has been on both sides, but the problem with only taking the long view and focusing only on *your* child, is that you both miss the opportunity to develop a caring community. It seems you and your child’s ‘needs’ trump anyone else’s. Sad. I’d most likely avoid eye contact as well, especially of it keeps happening, and you are not repairing the relationships with the other kids and moms.

    • I couldn’t have said it better Holly. I too felt troubled when I read this post, but couldn’t put my finger on the cause. I so wanted to be completely on board with this gentle and compassionate approach to parenting a toddler but alas something just felt “off” and I was sad not to be able to completely back you Lisa.

      We’re all just trying to parent our children to the best of our abilities and whilst I think you are doing a wonderful job gently explaining the situation to your son and encouraging him to observe how he made the other child feel, I think you fell slightly short in the end. As Holly mentioned, I think speaking to the mother and apologising to her and her son would have gone a long way to illustrate to your son and the other woman’s son that you acknowledge that the behaviour was unacceptable (albeit normal for their age). Understanding that a behaviour is age appropriate and showing your son love and understanding is different to condoning the behaviour and I think you toed that line today.

      I am in no way judging you as I have had my share of awkward situations when my kids were younger (and even now they are Primary school aged) and I was never as cool, calm and collected as you :) You sound like a wonderful mother and your children are blessed to have you.

  27. VERY well said. Love it and I shared it on my Facebook page for all my mommy (and daddy) friends to see as well. Thank you for this!

  28. This was a joy to read! My daughter is 2 1/2 and this is very much how I deal with her in similar situations. My husband says I’m soft on her but to me explaining why we do or don’t do things is better than just saying not to. It’s worked so far with the cat. She used to be really rough (as kids do). But she now understands that the cat does like to be hit or squished. Although we’re still working on her shouting ‘found you’ when he’s trying to eat his food. lol

  29. Thank you for your honest post. Hit home for me, the mother of an almost 3-year old who is experiencing a bit of regression with a move to a new house and a soon-to-arrive any day new baby sibling. I can’t tell you how validating it is to read your words and know I’m not the only one trying to parent intentionally, teach in the moment without shaming, and take age/stage/situation into account. Parenting mindfully is difficult work!

  30. I am kind of torn here. I do agree yelling and snatching the child up is not the solution, but I do not think for on second it is ok for the agressor to be able to keep the toy, nor do I believe the child who was pushed (probably scared more than anything) and had their toy taken is learning screaming will get you what you want. I believe the child who was pushed is showing a valid emotion which they are very much entitled to.
    I am sorry if this offends anyone, but it is your duty as a mother to be responsible for your child’s actions. If your child is snatching and taking things from my child (I do not care how gentle he is at home) if you do not intervene you can believe I will. I will not allow anyone to bully my child. I, by no means imply I will physically intervene but I will make sure I calmly let your child know to keep their hands to themselves.
    We need to teach our child empathy and compassion and sometimes that means our child must feel what it is like to lose the toy we wanted so badly. Because that is how we made the other child feel when we took it from them. My 2 year old is a push over, if someone just says “oh that’s cool he is giving up to them” but that does not mean it is ok for other children to take advantage of his kindness, and because I am his mother, protector, advocate and his friend, I will be the one to say enough is enough if you don’t feel a need to do so.
    I respect you right to parent as you see fit but I also have a right to keep my child safe and make sure my child feels secure and trusts that I will keep him safe, when you don’t feel the need to correct your child.
    Thanks for posting!

  31. Thank you for your wonderful, compassionate post. I have two boys, 3 and 2, who are extremely energetic, exuberant, loving little ones, and can sometimes also be aggressive towards other children, whether out of playfulness, normal lack of impulse control, boundary testing, etc. I attempt to parent in a gentle, compassionate way, but I sometimes fail, due to my embarrassment or perceived expectations from other parents. Usually though, I do what you describe doing yourself. This past December, I actually lost a mommy friend because she did not approve of my parenting style when it came to these kinds of incidents – toy sharing, pushing, normal toddler stubbornness. We had been having regular play dates for almost a year, weekly gatherings, and I always thought our children got along wonderfully, although yes, there were these normal toddler acts of aggression between them at times. And yes, I also won’t force my children to share a particular toy. I will invite them to, but I won’t force them. All of this bothered my friend so much that we ended up parting ways over it, which was an extremely painful experience for me. It created so much doubt in my parenting choices, so much fear over whether I was alienating other mothers, creating dislike of my sons. It was, in short, awful. I wish I had your essay this past winter, when I was feeling so much pain over my choices. It makes me feel so much better to know others parent in this way, and that other children go through similar phases. Thank you. xxoo

  32. Lisa, I hope I can have your permission to edit this a little and give it to the parents of my preschool class. I would love to have it come from a teacher’s perspective. I want them to understand my teaching method (very similar to your parenting method). You said it beautifully. Thank you.

  33. this was beautiful! and i really learned a lot from it that i know will affect how i deal with my son when he’s that age (just turned 11 months!). i would hope that this style of parenting during those “terrible twos” (which i can’t stand that phrase becuase there’s so much wonderful during that time too!) is what i would have come upon on my own, but this letter saved me that process. so thank you!!

  34. Wow, so well written. I have been there. I have been the mum of the child who pushed. I have felt guilty that I can see my reaction is not satisfying the mother of the child who was pushed. Thank you for putting words around my intentions.

  35. I understand the theory behind your choices but, in common with several other posters, I disagree with the way you’re implementing it. You say you were “longing to connect” with the other mother to let her know that you regret the fact that her child was hurt. I honestly don’t understand why you didn’t simply go and talk to her and express this regret.
    Just because you don’t want to force your child to apologise (for reasons I totally understand) doesn’t mean that you can’t say sorry. Your son, who is your responsibility, has hit and hurt another boy. Why don’t you apologise to the boy, and maybe to his mother as well? If you want your son to learn from modelled behaviour, surely this is the first thing you should do, rather than waiting for the mother to make eye contact with you or having long discussions with your son.
    Apologising to the boy dosen’t involve grabbing, shouting, removing, blaming or forcing your child, or any of the other actions you disapprove of. It has no impact on your relationship with your child, nor will it prevent him from developing empathy. How you talk to him about the incident is entirely up to you, but if somebody has been hurt, then you, as the adult in charge, needs to make amends.

  36. My eldest is now four and is renowned for sharing, even when it’s the last lolly or the newest toy. I attribute this to correcting the selfish behaviour you are describing AT THE TIME (stepping in and removing the toy) then doing the emotional reasoning you suggest. I too would avoid your eyes if I watched you allow your child to bully mine. Children defiantly have stages, and as parents we use those seasons to train our children. Not make excuses for them and raise a generation of kids who are not disciplined, in hope that they don’t want to hurt others. Good luck parenting when he throws his first punch in the school yard and you aren’t there to explain that isn’t nice.

  37. What a powerful post Lisa! I am guilty of the grabbing the toy out of my son’s hand and giving back routine and it really doesn’t solve anything except to make the other child’s parents feel I have done the right thing by her child. But what does my son learn? like you said “that it’s ok to snatch because mummy did it”. I have printed your post out and put it on my fridge. I intend to use it as a reminder when I am trying to deal with a situation like this. This I feel relates to normal everyday behaviour in the home towards me, his brother and other actions. As parents we tend to make the worst decision for punishment and consequences when we are at our wits end. This is a very calming post but one full of meaning and it will be a blessing to me and my four and 16 month old sons as time goes by. Thank you!

  38. Lisa, I have to say after looking at several comments from folks who disagree with you (some rather rudely) that you have handled yourself with grace in your responses. Thanking people for joining the debate and wishing them well is such a responsible way to interact with those who disagree. Just another way I’m sure that you’re a wonderful example to your children in learning how to respect others.

  39. Lisa,
    This is so wonderful! I just shared this on my facebook page and sent it to all my mom friends. Lovely. So well put, so heartfelt, and so spot on. You just gained a follower to your blog. I’ll be checking in regularly from now on.

    nancy o

  40. Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow. I have no words however I will dig deep to find some because I need to express just how deeply this post touched me. This is exactly the way I parent and I often feel misunderstood, not so much by other mothers (although definitely sometimes in identical situations to yours as mentioned) however often by friends and family who (I think) believe I am too permissive.

    I will be sharing your post and advising people that this is exactly how I feel.

    I have always wanted to write down something that explains how I feel and why I do what I do to maintain a strong connection with my son. Now I don’t need to as you have said absolutely everything I have ever wanted to say in beautiful, eloquent prose.

    Thank you,


  41. Lisa, I have read and adhere to Alfie Kohn’s ‘Unconditional Parenting’ which I’m sure you’ve read and if not, you should because your approaches seem so similar-peaceful and respectful. It is a gift to hear your story and hear first hand experiences of how this is all going to play out. My little one isn’t quite there yet, but at the rate time is flying by, I know it won’t be long. I am inspired by your gentleness and feel that your efforts are making this world a better place. Thanks, dear.

  42. Hi Lisa,
    Thank you for a thought provoking read. I really enjoy a blog that offers an interesting perspective and opens up a space for others to share their views. You’ve received lots of comments here, some of which are challenging, and it’s so positive to see you welcome them and respect others’ views. Thanks for hosting this debate so graciously.

  43. I’d be worried that by being so involved with your relationship between yourself and your child that you could raise a narcissist. It’s important to set boundaries with children of all ages and let them know what acceptable behavior is. I also think it’s important to let the other parents know that you know what acceptable behavior is. A community should have a set of standards, or it’s might makes right, which sounds like inadvertently what you are teaching your child.

  44. This is a beautiful post. I’ll pin it. It reminds me a few weeks ago, I was attending the nursery at our church and had my back turned to the kids (not a good idea but had to get something). A 2-year-old’s mom rapped on the window and pointed to her daughter. I could see her mouth the words, “She’s pulling his hair!” I felt embarrassed that she had caught her daughter in the act – but the mom didn’t want her daughter to hurt another child. So I admire her for that and now don’t turn my back. We’re talking 2-year-olds who don’t have much vocabulary and are just expressing themselves. She probably had the toy first. Great blog you have. Following you know. Hope you can visit my blog sometime: Kindergarten & Preschool for Parents & Children.

  45. how many times have we all heard the typical, “Sooorry,” from a child who clearly doesn’t mean it, and yet we are all satisfied with that. I would much rather take the long view, and instead of pushing, do just as described above and see genuine, heart felt apologies at the correct developmental age.

  46. Your post is food for thought.

    I love your dedication to peaceful parenting, and I do like the idea of natural consequences, but after reading your post and a lot of the comments I was still left with the opinion that this approach isn’t quite right.

    I walked away and made breakfast and then a thought struck me, that the mother of the hurt child was teaching you natural consequences in a peaceful way. She didn’t yell or get angry at you, but she did show you that by not making amends to the hurt child that you will be gentlely shunned. A feeling that no-one likes.

    The other mother’s obligiation is first to her child, if your child hurts other and you don’t adhere to the social expectations of returning the stolen toy and apologising to the aggrieved child, then the natural consequence is that you and your child will not be liked and perhaps eventually not welcomed as a playmate.

    It’s a very tough balance working out how to satisfactorily meet the needs of our babies and their playmates. .I applaud your intent, but I think there will be consequences.

  47. Lisa,
    I loved your story. More power to you. I would say that you baby has NOT “done wrong”, he is learning and you have DONE RIGHT.

  48. Hello Lisa,

    I enjoyed reading your post from your point of view, being the mommy who’s son was the aggressor. I think you’re right in that we should encourage our children to play together rather than returning the toy and continuing to allow them to play alone. I like that you show your son how the other child must feel being on the receiving end, that as you point out, should eventually teach him long term what it is like to be in the other boy’s shoes. You seem like a great person and mom, and you seem calm and rationale in your approach with your son. Bad, long, exhausting days are what us mothers experience now and again, and those days are particularly challenging for both us moms and our kids alike.

    Has your son ever been on the receiving end of the aggression?
    Because my son is usually on the receiving end of the push, the smack, the snatching of a toy mostly when he is quietly playing by himself. He is a sweet kid, and it’s not “normal” for him to be aggressive and take toys away from other kids just as you say is normal for his age, that’s just how he is. I have to admit I am one of those parents who expect the parent of the child to give the toy back, to pull him aside and tell him what he did is wrong. I disagree that “snatching” the toy away from your son is showing him that it’s okay to snatch back. I think you have to take the toy away and say it does not feel nice to have a toy taken away from you. So therefore do not take toys away. Instead of waiting for the other mother to make eye contact, why didn’t you approach her to talk to her. She didn’t meet your eye because she probably felt bad for her son and was quite frankly, upset. My concern is that kids will get away with this sort of behaviour because their parents do not seem serious or angry about their behaviour and therefore they will continue to do it. Although most of us are nice, kind people with good intention, unfortunately we all learn to be disciplined when there are consequences. If our kids don’t think they are consequences, they will continue the same behaviour. When your kids are misbehaving at school, they will miss recess or have some sort of consequence to their behaviour. Please don’t take this the wrong way, you seem like a lovely person and a lovely mother, but I disagree with some of your methods. I am just voicing my opinion :)

  49. I love this!!! I wish it would fit on a business card and I could pass it out to parents. It drives me crazy when parents think I should pull my kids pants down and spank him for the smallest thing. Glad there are other people out there that understand child development:)

    • I don’t think people are telling you to spank your kids, but just show them you are serious about what just happened. I notice a trend here on this post and that is that the moms of the aggressive children are all taking the same side. Please don’t make excuses for your kids and please discipline them otherwise they will grow up to be bullies. We don’t need bullies in our society

  50. Thank you! Shared this with my playgroup mommies, my child is 18 months and the rest of them mostly still under one year. Soon, we will have to deal with normal conflicts between the children. This will greatly help with opening up the topic on how to deal with the kids. I fully agree with you in every aspect of what you said. Seemed like the Universe sent me your words as an answer to some of my questions the past few days.

  51. In some pre-schools, children are not expected to share until they are at the age where they are developmentally ready. But rather they are taught to respect other children’s property (or that they are the ones playing with a certain toy at a given time and have to wait their turn). Think about us as adults, we don’t just share our things with strangers, I always found it strange to expect children to do this say on a playground when a child you don’t know takes one of your toys…

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