"My 18-Month-Old Plays Rough with the Dog"
The best defense: Show her the right way.
Don't be too hard on your child: Empathy doesn't always kick in this early -- it may take until age 4. For now, explain in simple terms why her behavior isn't acceptable: "Ow! That hurt Rex. Now he's sad." Kids this age may not recognize when they're being overly aggressive, so they need you to step in. "It's up to parents to model and teach appropriate behaviors," says Marcy Safyer, director of Adelphi University Institute for Parenting, in Garden City, New York. Try holding your child's hand, walking gently toward your pet, and saying, "Let's use two fingers and pet Rex softly. Can you try that?"