It is hard to imagine toddlers behaving in a way a seasoned bully would. But toddlers do at times show aggressive behavior towards their peers which more or less qualifies as bullying.
Toddlers are not actually bullies as they do not act with the intention of doing harm to gain satisfaction. Toddlers are at an age when they are constantly exploring and discovering new things and such behavior falls into this category of exploration. Still, parents should respond as if not corrected now, chances are the toddler will indeed grow up to be a real bully.
Why toddlers bully:
The first thing to understand regarding toddlers is that they are extremely territorial. Hence if someone steps into their comfort zone, irritates them, or touches their toys and other stuff, they often lash out violently.
Children of this age have not yet learned the social skills of controlling oneself and reacting in a controlled manner. As the child grows, they learn that certain types of actions bring certain fulfillment. So when they need something and you refuse it, they often indulge in “bullying” to get what they want.
Toddlers are more used to being controlled by their parents or adults. So if they find an opportunity to control someone else, be it a peer or someone younger, through bullying, they will gladly resort to it.
Problems of such bullying:
Once the toddler gets into the habit of bullying in order to get what they want, they will grow up into individuals who cannot take disappointments and failures. Bullying also leads to less development of social skills in the child. The child may turn out to be abusive and violent. These activities lead to negativity in the child’s mind, and they become unable to handle conflicts in a healthy way.
Steps to be taken:
Punishing the child is not a good way of dealing with this problem. You should make your child understand that hitting, pushing, biting etc. is not a good way to deal with things. One needs to acknowledge the child’s problem as well as make them realize that such behavior will not be accepted.
You can teach your child to be sorry for their wrong actions. If they have hit someone, it is important to ask them to say sorry. This teaches them to think about how their action is affecting the other person.
In certain cases, the child needs to learn the consequences of their actions. Losing playtime with friends or a dearly loved toy taken away can make them think twice before doing something like that again.
Bullying in toddlers is a part of a child’s life. But, if this habit doesn’t stop even after extreme measures. Then one might need to visit a counselor.