How can I stop a 1-year old from bullying my baby?

Q: The 1 year old I watch always takes toys from my son. Then, as my son moves on to other toys the other boy does things to keep my son from playing with the new toy, like putting himself between my son and the toy or sitting on my son. I've tried time outs, talking to, and playing with them, but when I look away he still does it. Please help, iIm at my wits end.

A: Dear Andreadreher_83:

The one year old boy that you watch might be too little to be called a true bully, but his bullying behavior towards your son is certainly not doing your son any good. So I agree that something must be done to stop this, for the sake of both children.

The one year old is simply doing what many one year olds will do--trying to push people around to get their way. The grown ups have to stop him from succeeding. Unfortunately, the one year old is also too little for your attempts to discuss his behavior to mean anything to him. Trying to punish him or distract him will not really change his behavior either. The one year old is probably jealous of your son and feels angry at his own mother for leaving. It won't help for you to describe the problem to the other child's parents, because there is really nothing that they can do about it when they are not present.

The simplest solution is to tell that child's parents that their son needs to be in a different day care arrangement--and I can assure you that placing such a child with a group of children who are a bit older and larger will provide a magical cure to his aggression. But perhaps this is not possible. If you must continue to watch both children, I suggest you get a playpen or one of those temporary indoor kiddie fence guards, so that you can separate the children physically to give yourself several short breaks during the day. Otherwise, there is no alternative but to involve yourself with the two tots and watch them like a hawk at all times.

A few years down the line, these two boys might be inseparable friends. But right now, your son can't defend himself and the one year old can't control himself. So unfortunately, it is all going to be up to you.

Elizabeth Berger MD Child Psychiatrist and author of "Raising Kids with Character"


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