July 02, 2015

Q: My 18-month-old son acts out aggressively in daycare to all the other children, but only when another child is present. This child loves my son and always wants to be around him and hug him. My son does not behave this way when this child is not there. Why does he act out and what can we do?

A: Usually, behavior problems in daycare should be viewed as problems with the environment -- and problems with how the adults are handling the children -- and not as problems with the children themselves. It sounds like your son feels overwhelmed by the other child. Everyone is different in their desire for closeness and touching.  If someone hovered around me and tried to hug me all the time, I might have an occasional meltdown, too!

Schedule a sit-down with your child's daycare provider -- without any children present -- so that you can discuss the situation and try to problem-solve together. Ask what she recommends and don't go with any pre-conceived notions about the outcome.  Be open, listen, and be thoughtful in your responses. Good daycare providers have "seen it all" and will have ideas for how to improve a situation like your son's.

Answered by Dr. Heather Wittenberg


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