Bullies and Babies {Guest Post}

Today’s guest post comes from Mandi. She and Baby C have a question about bullies. Read her story and leave a comment letting her know how you would have handled this situation.


Earlier this week, I took Baby C to an indoor playground not too far from home. Normally, I hate paying for “free play,” but I needed to get Baby C and I out of the house and socializing with others to help cure my Winter Blues.

Baby C was so excited to get down and play the minute we walked in the door. We paid for our hour of, what I thought would be fun, and put our
belongings in the cubby. Baby C took off right away. She was the happiest little girl running around with a ball half her size. Until some boy, at least three times her age, grabbed the ball from her and took off. Who steals a ball from the cutest baby on Earth?

I picked up Baby C, found a new ball and headed to the divided toddler area. As Baby C was having a ball (pun intended), out of no where, the same little boy jumps the wall, grabs Baby C’s ball out of her hands saying, “give me that,” and jumps back over to the big kid section. I was in complete shock that someone would do that AND wondered who in the world would let their child do something like that? A parent who obviously isn’t paying attention to their child.

My heart sank for Baby C, knowing that there would be even more bullies in this world coming her way and I won’t be able to protect her from them. But she just kept on playing as if nothing had happened. She began to climb the little tree house, when another little girl (who was at least 4 or 5 and looked much like the ball stealer) says to me, “Um, excuse me, but this is for big kids.” I wanted to say, “Um, excuse yourself right out of the toddler area.” But I didn’t. I simply replied, “It’s okay for my daughter to play here.”

After wrapping up our hour of fun misery, I picked Baby C up and headed home. The little events played over and over in my head and I wondered if I should have done something about the incidences that happened. Should I have reprimanded the boy or maybe talked to a supervisor? Or was I just overreacting and kids will be kids?

Have you ever been in this kind of situation? What did you do or what would you have done? This new mama needs advice and reassurance.

I’m Mandi, a former teacher turned stay-at-home mom to my Sweet Tiny Blessing, Baby C. I’m also a wife, friend, sister and daughter.

You can find me blogging at Sweet Tiny Blessings.




  1. says

    Thank you Mandi for this great post. I personally related to the experience you had. Although my son is now six, and these incidents happen significantly less frequently, when they do, I’m still inundated with a number of unpleasant feelings. I feel worried for my son’s safety, frustrated with the other child’s perceived lack of understanding of boundaries and safety rules, annoyance with the other caregiver who is not paying attention.

    Here are some ideas I’ve come up with …

    1. Be calm and stay present
    In moments when someone is rough with or torments my son, it is very hard to bring out the Mother Teresa in me. My cub is in danger; my heart beats fast, my adrenaline is pumping. I find it helpful to take a giant big breath and dig in deep for my compassionate and loving self with a confident and powerful voice. I ultimately personally believe there is no such thing as a bad kid. I find that when I come from a place of being firm yet compassionate, I seem to get better results with getting to my desired outcomes: speedy resolution, everyone is left feeling complete (i.e. I didn’t bring the other kid down just because I could or because s/he harassed my kid), everyone is back to playing and the day goes on. Big Breath!

    2. Help to set boundaries
    Both in my work as a teacher and as a mom, I think that kids are usually mostly doing two things. They are either working to understand/recognize boundaries, or pushing them. Rarely are they setting them. (I believe this is true for adults as well.) It is the grown ups job to help teach children how to set boundaries, as well as what to do when boundaries are crossed.

    For the little girl, I might have said something like … “Thank you for telling me the boundaries for the baby play area. Can you tell me where the area for four year olds is, and can you please play there? That way we can all be safe?”

    For the boy, I might have said something like … “I can see you want the ball, but grabbing is not safe. Would you like a turn playing with the ball?” This is a very gentle approach. If I felt that being a bit firmer would have been better, I might have said something like (using a firm but not angry voice) … “Please stop. The baby is playing with the ball now, and when you grab we are no longer safe. Please stop grabbing and please leave the baby alone.”

    This said, I’ve had situations when I’ve told me son, “this play no longer feels safe to me. There is a bigger kid who does not follow boundary rules and does not know how to be safe. We are going to move out of reach now and play over there.” My son has thrown tantrums but we coped with the frustration of leaving. My message though reinforced the message that when a situation is no longer safe, it is our job to move out of reach to safety. (This is also great for adults.)

    3. Learn and find support
    Most of the language around boundary setting that I use in my life (and above), comes from my learning with http://www.Kidpower.org . They are the leading experts in teaching safety for people of all ages. I absolutely love their books, comic strips, stories and articles. When I was training to become a Kidpower instructor (yep, that’s how much I love them), I can still recall the ED, Irene Van Der Zande’s question: are you talking to your son about boundaries? I said no, since he was only eleven months old and could barely talk. She then told me that was the best age to start. Start pointing visible boundaries like fences, and walls and call them by the name. While my kid was a toddler I showed my son ropes in lines at an amusement park, orange cones on the street, and side walk signs. We made games. When he got older, we starting talking about the boundaries that we cannot see, that we feel. Now we talk about people crossing his emotional safety boundary when someone hurts his feelings by calling him names, or when he has to cope with taunting, or teasing. All I can say, it’s an ongoing and never-ending journey.

    I see it every day: parents are amazingly resourceful, and event the perceived bullies are figuring things out. I try to show my son how to confidently deal with people who cross my boundaries, how to say “no” or “stop”, but I try to teach him that no kids are bad. They just don’t know the safety rules.

    Hope this helps,

    Twitter: @NataliaGabrea

  2. says

    When my no-longer baby was just a year old, I had the same reaction as an older tike kept grabbing toys from her at a play get-together. She’d move on to the next toy, only to have it grabbed from her a few minutes later. I could sense her bewilderment as she tried to figure out WHAT she was “allowed” to play with – though I was more upset than she. And it drove me nuts that the other kiddo’s mom was apparently oblivious.

    Since then, MY baby kid has been the bigger one on occasion. And I have to admit there were days I was just happy she wasn’t hitting the littler one. You can lecture your little ones over and over about sharing and being nice, and discipline them, but they keep pushing boundaries, and sometimes mamas are just too tired to do more than make sure their kids aren’t putting others in danger. She’s grown out of it for the most part and is ever so much more reasonable at just about 5yo.

    If I had to do it over, I’d probably speak to the bigger kid rather than expect the mom to intervene. Sometimes the scariness of having another adult speak up is enough to stop the bad behavior.

  3. says

    It’s tough when you are somewhere and all you want is for your kid to have some fun in a supposedly safe environment. I’ve had to deal with my share of bullies around my three children… In some situations I have removed my children from the situation, in others I have confronted the parents but was nice about it and in others I just let it go and made sure my children found something else to do/play with. It really depends on the situation. Better luck next time.

  4. June says

    Children need to be taught from an early age that bulling is NOT Ok. This begins at home with them learning how to share things with others. Some parents in today’s world, if you ask me, just shouldn’t be parents at all. They do not teach their children good moral ethics. I call these lazy parents. Some times I wonder who the adult is in many families today, you should never let your child walk all over you. Be firm about who’s the boss.

  5. says

    For me, I wouldn’t have told the boy off but may have said that its not very nice to do that to someone/that you upset people when you take things from them. I think the only thing that really helps is trying to avoid the situation in the first place. Were you not close enough that you could have seen what was going to happen to stop the boy being able to take it….i.e. just as you saw the boy coming quickly started playing with your little one as to put him off. That’s what I tend to do…or did.

    It’s not really up to you to “parent” the boy BUT it is up to you obviously to protect your own child. So I think trying to prevent those situations from happening in the first place is a good idea and if you can’t just consoling your child and helping them. As your child grows you can explain to them that some people are just like that, or some children just want something so bad they just take it and you can also say to the child before they dart off that its not a very nice thing to do…however preventing them from snatching in the first place – i.e. grabbing the ball before they do and telling them its not nice to just take things from others it hurts them or getting in the way so they don’t do it is probably the best idea.

    That’s what I do…as your child gets older she will be able to handle herself I think. I watched my 4 year old interact with 2 year olds and it was very interesting. They would take stuff off him constantly…and he tolerated it because he knew they were younger than him and just did things like that – then after so many times of it happening he snapped and said no this is mine. The other child cried of course until I found them something else for them to play with (it seems a lot of people don’t like to parent their kids and leave them to get hurt and upset and don’t try to help resolve it!) because they couldn’t have the toy they wanted but my son didn’t have to have something snatched off him.

    I don’t just let my son put up with things like the above. Generally I intervene by helping the other child find something as their parents seem to not care at all. This was at a birthday party too – a SMALL gathering at someone’s house! However, I chose to observe to see how my son would handle it. He never asked me to intervene or came to me to moan about someone taking toys from him – instead he tolerated it up to a point and then said to the next child trying to take something that he wasn’t done playing which is totally fine although the 2 year old can’t really understand.

    Generally though it seems that if you are going to be a public place like that expect that other parents are NOT going to care what their child is doing – they go their to take a break from them. That’s the impression I get, so you have to be really on the ball with this stuff.

  6. says

    I wouldn’t worry too much about it, he probably wasn’t even worried about it. He was probably just focused on playing it didn’t bother him too much. I would talk to the parent next time though..

  7. says

    For my part, I feel an authority figure should have intervened, and that in the absence of a proper authority any grown-up will do the trick. At the same time, I’m glad it sounds like these events were more harrowing for you than Baby C. Obviously Baby C probably wasn’t happy about them, but there’s a special kindof burning sense of injustice that comes with maturity. Here’s hoping Baby C handles that injustice with just as much poise as an adult.

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