This letter really hit home because I dealt with a similar situation with Ryan. Please help this reader with any advice you can offer!
Dear Playing Mom,
My son is 19 months old and he has always been a sweet, kind-hearted child. Just recently, whenever he goes to ”play with” or acknowledge another child, he grabs their face or pulls their hair – HARD. Children usually cry and sometimes it leaves a mark. I stay really close to him and usually catch him right before he does something, but I can’t always grab him in time. Parents glare at me and keep their kids far, far away. Problem is, I totally understand and feel AWFUL! I don’t know what to do other than pulling him away and scolding him – then showing him how to use a gentle touch. It makes me shrivel up inside and want to disappear. He also doesn’t do this at home – ever. If you have any ideas, please please help!
Ripping My Own Hair Out
Dear Ripping My Own Hair Out,
Oh you poor, poor Mommy. I TOTALLY feel you. I am even dealing with this at one of Lexi’s classes with another boy who is doing the same thing. I told the Mom that she’s lucky with me because Lexi is a tough one and that I am willing to let him figure it out a little bit with her as long as nobody gets hurt. I just really feel for this Mom because Ryan had a similar issue.
When Ryan was 2, there was a 9-month period when he began “crashing” into other kids. He had seen the movie Cars and was obsessed (read: OBSESSED) with how the cars crashed into each other. He was in a Mommy and Me class and also had playdates with a circle of friends that he knew since birth. He started crashing into everyone – pushing, shoving, running around and crashing toys into each other… anything and everything was violently crashed into. Every time something happened, I felt like crawling into a hole. He was such a sweet, sweet boy – what had I done? Other kids were falling and being pushed and looking at him like, “I don’t understand” and he just kept on doing it. I took him away from the situation, gave him timeouts (which worked temporarily but did not end the phase) and tried to show him how to properly interact with other children.
I felt inwardly like I was the worst person on Earth. I was embarrassed, flustered and honestly mad that he was acting this way and causing such trouble for us socially! When it eventually ended, I realized that like the child in Lexi’s current class, this was actually his way of communicating with other children and with getting people’s attention. He was ready to stop playing side-by-side with kids and wanted to play with them at this new stage of development. He wanted to interact, but didn’t really know how to do it properly. He literally could not control his hands. It floored me. I wish I could tell you that showing him 3,457 times how to be gentle worked, or that timeouts or keeping him socialized and watching how other children interacted did something, but I’m pretty sure he just needed to grow out of it.
That being said, if other people think I’m insane and there is a decidedly better way of dealing with this situation, please help! I know what this Mommy is feeling like and it’s no picnic.