When toddlers attack

With apologies to iStockphoto, I don’t have an account and can’t be bothered to set one up. But this photo captured perfectly the type of attack that DS has executed on hapless children, who are his own age or younger, but always much smaller than he is.

This is the “scratch attack”, and a few months ago it was the source of much distress on my part. You can read about it here. I didn’t understand the behaviour, nor how to put a stop to it, until a mama friend shared her experience. Before having kids she’d worked in a daycare and they had a little girl who’d exhibited the same behaviour. She said that after they’d been able to prevent any attacks (by shadowing the child and placing her in “safer” environments) for about 2 weeks, it’s as if the child “forgot” about it and she didn’t do it anymore.

Alot of what she said rang true for my son. I suspected that DS was enjoying the reactions he was getting when he scratched other kids. From his perspective, doing this resulted in some very strange and amusing behaviours from the grownsups around him. I think this reinforced the behaviour. I’d also noticed that, particularly with this one (sweet!) boy at homelearners group, DS was acting like it was a game. He would try to run over to the boy, laughing while I chased after him, and trying to scratch the child before I got there. Obviously I could not stop intervening, and nobody was going to act like nothing happened. So it made sense to me that, given the short concept of time that toddlers have, if I could simply prevent the situation from happening for a while then maybe he would forget about this dangerous little game of his.

It seemed to work. About two weeks went by where we avoided places where toddlers would be. If a small child was around I would shadow DS and direct him away from the kid. I recall eventually going to a water park and running after DS in a panic as a small toddler approached him. The toddler got to him before I did, but DS didn’t try to scratch her. I stayed close, but there were no attempts on his part. While I could not be completely inattentive, I felt a big sense of relief.

Unfortunately, the behaviour has returned, although thankfully he’s not scratching anymore. Instead he’s slapping and pushing. It started while we were on vacation. I tried to warn DH but I don’t think he believed how bad it was. And he wasn’t able to predict a potentially hazardous situation before it happened (whereas I can see it coming quite clearly). So under DH’s watch there were too many situations that were just setting DS up to fail, and fail he did. Our friends have two kids, one almost 2 and one almost 4, and they are both petite little things. DS whacked both of them a number of times and of course DH was embarrassed and distressed and reacted strongly, which just made DS laugh and want to play this game even more. By the end of the week I couldn’t let DS out of my sight.

Our vacation was some time ago, and I have been mindful of the situation since, but in the past week there have been at least two incidents where a small child has come close to DS and without any provocation DS has lashed out and either hit or shoved the child. I’ve decided it’s time to do some serious deprogramming again, so we’re back to “avoiding little kids” mode. On the one hand, I am confident this will work which makes it easier than not knowing how long this behaviour will continue. But on the other hand, accepting that the problem is back also brings up alot of difficult emotions. I’m looking forward to the day when seeing toddler approaching doesn’t fill me with apprehension and dread. It’s no fun being the mama of a child who hurts other kids. šŸ˜¦

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