I followed my daughter outside as she went to put my grandson in his car seat to go home. I love this time when I get to interact with him as he is saying goodbye. As she was strapping him into the car seat, he was very excited, and he grabbed a toy that was in the car seat tray, and he threw it at me, hitting me in the face with the toy.
I immediately said that it was “not a nice thing to do.” Now my daughter was grown up with me working as a bullying prevention specialist. She was in 7th grade when I first began my work as a bullying prevention coach in the local elementary school where we lived. I was always proud of the fact that as a middle schooler she was always happy to have me at school and was never embarrassed when I would come up to her in the schoolyard. Even when I had to talk with her or her friends about bullying behavior she was never embarrassed or mad at me, we have always had a great relationship.
One of the reasons why I started this blog was ever since she had my grandson, I have been coaching her on how to deal with bullying behavior either my grandson’s or other kids I saw him interacting with. I am a preventionist at heart; I enjoy tremendously teaching kids coping skills and educating them on how to stand up to bullying behavior or how to get their needs met without using bullying behavior.
So, without missing a beat, she very firmly told him that was not a nice thing to do and that he had to say he was sorry to grandma. At the time my grandson was about 16 months old, he was not verbal yet. But he understood immediately that the throwing the toy was wrong and that somehow, he needed to make restitution for the aggressive, hurting behavior. A lot of parts do not understand that even at this age children are fully aware of what is being said to them and that it is very important at this age to begin to set boundaries of behavior that is aggressive and mean. Do I believe that he meant to hurt me, of course not. He was hyped up because he was getting ready to leave and he impulsively grabbed a toy and threw it. But the result of the action was that he hurt someone, and he needed to know that this kind of behavior was not going to be tolerated by Mom. Laying a foundation of teaching your child how not to use bullying behavior is to let them know when they have used behavior that is unacceptable and enforce consequences, consistently.
In this instance, after Mom had told him he needed to say sorry, he picked up a pretty toy and handed it to me in a gentle, and conciliatory manner. I knew immediately that this was his way of saying that he was sorry for having hurt me. I took the toy, said “thank-you” and the episode was over and done with. Lesson learned. This may have to be done over and over as he begins to understand that aggressive behavior will not be put up with and if he “hurts” someone then he needs to make restitution.
As a preventionist, I believe that it is imperative that parents begin to teach their children at this critical age of 0-5. This stage of their life will be the building blocks of future behavior and boundaries.