Help - my best friend's toddler hit my baby son... What to do?!

(27 Posts)
ClarrieSam Thu 10-Jul-14 20:36:55

Hi all

Long time lurker has finally registered here to get your advice on a horrible problem I have.

Without too much detail that could potentially 'out' me, I am at a complete loss about what to do about this...sorry for rambling...

My very best friend has a 2 year old son. Since he was born she has had the worst time imaginable and lost more than 1 baby in more than 1 pregnancy. Last year, we found out we were both pregnant (me with my first) and due within a month of one another. Whilst everything was initially fantastic, her baby arrived early and was in neonatal intensive care for several months.

This put a huge strain on our friendship, and to be honest could have potentially ended it had we not have had such a strong bond (she felt I wasn't there enough - something looking back on I think to my shame there was truth in - my only sorry excuse for it being I was so terrified of my own pregnancy since it wasn't trouble free and being so aware of what can go wrong having supported her through previous losses).

The other major consequence has been the behaviour of her 2 year old since his sibling was born. He is very aggressive, ranging from spitting at strangers in shops when we go out, to attacking other children his own age.

For months now, he has kicked, bitten, spat at and thrown things at me when I visit. When I was 9 months pregnant he hit me with his full strength in my tummy.

I love this child, have known him since he was an embryo (!) and have always made excuses for him as he's been through so much.

However (I'm almost done now I promise), today he hit my son (who he has never shown any aggression towards before) hard enough to startle him into crying. He was on my lap, I managed to snatch him away before anything else could happen. To my horror, my bf then told me he had grabbed his sibling in the face the day before ... So this was not a one off.

Moreover, he has started hurting himself (biting, pulling his hair) when upset or told off... I'm so scared he could do really damage to himself of someone else.

My bf asked me if I was worried to bring my son over - I lied to save her feelings and now regret it. Her family have suggested a child psychologist and in my heart I think this could help? I really don't want to overstep the mark, but I feel like I'm one more attack on my son away from stopping visiting and given our turbulent recent past I know I would lose my friend as a result. Help - does anyone have any experience of a similar situation or anything to suggest?

If you made it this far thank you for listening x

Quangle Thu 10-Jul-14 20:46:03

No real advice but sympathy as it sounds like everyone has had a tough time.

FWIW, all toddlers do some or all of this. I had an incredibly placid one who once bit me so hard I had a bite mark for a week. And another who used to headbang in frustration. And when DD had grown out of her own biting, along came DN who covered her in bites and it was really hard to manage but it was just a phase and all absolutely normal.

My sister and I had to really step up the activity levels after the biting - we realised we couldn't just sit and chat while the DCs got on with playing because it always ended in biting/hitting so we spent about six months going out a lot with the DCs, swings, zoo etc. So that we were actively engaged in monitoring their play all the time and the toddlers didn't get bored and frustrated. The phase passed and now they all play really well.

I can't really tell from your post if this is normal toddler aggression or not. I suspect it is but perhaps you are interpreting it more seriously because of all the heightened emotions you have about each other. On the other hand if other people think a child psych is required then perhaps she does need some help.

SolomanDaisy Thu 10-Jul-14 20:46:21

A child psychologist for a two year-old who hits? Bloody hell, there'd be some long waiting lists.

Madrigals Thu 10-Jul-14 20:53:05

I have seen one toddler in the last 4 years where I personally would have got a child psych involved - that was frequent and furtive, frenzied hitting, always completely unprovoked and after deliberately checking adults were not watching.

Normal toddler hitting is usually sudden loss of temper and response to a trigger stimulus eg tired, loss of toy, jealous etc.

I would suggest she speak to the HV.

Vacillating Thu 10-Jul-14 20:53:32

I had a child who was very aggressive, he damaged my friend' s child many times. He had reasons one being his age but others too.

We both tried to keep everyone happy and safe. We talked and did our best. They are great friends now and mine the very much better behaved.

We are friends, we love each other's kids. If you think this is true of you too then you really need to raise your game.

EvilHerbivore Thu 10-Jul-14 21:01:32

He's 2...shocker but sometimes 2 year olds hit. This is your first baby, yes? 2 year olds can't comprehend the fact that "this is a baby and we have to be gentle", they're still at an age where they are very self-centred and concerned only with their own needs/wants, I know he seems huge to your little one but honestly, 2 is still really so little

You've acknowledged yourself how much of a rough time your friend has had, with miscarriages and a prem baby, the last thing she needs is you judging her and probably could do with some support from you - I know maternal instinct kicks in when someone hurts your pfb but he'll be fine - maybe in future suggest walks/soft play where the kid can run around and yours can be in a pram/sling and a bit more protected?

mipmop Thu 10-Jul-14 21:02:18

The two year old sounds vulnerable. His behaviour shows that he is very upset. Maybe he needs reassurance. He certainly needs time and attention spent on him now. It doesn't sound like anything useful is being done. TBH my first call would be parenting support and info. His behaviour could be due to external issues, rather than an internal issue with the child.

Also, two year olds don't have much impulse control. So his behavior is quite an accurate indication of his internal turmoil.

pitcher Thu 10-Jul-14 21:03:24

If his new sibling was in neonatal care for a long time then he's probably not received enough attention and is now crying out for it. Does his baby sister/brother have additional needs? (That is, still need more attention than a child that age usually would?)

Does your friend give her 2yo attention, do you think? Could you possibly offer to have both babies for a session (say 90minutes) while she spends time with the 2yo?

mipmop Thu 10-Jul-14 21:05:53

Just to be clear, I assume the two year old is behaving like this a lot, and that it's not just normal levels of 2yo frustration.

HaroldLloyd Thu 10-Jul-14 21:06:19

DS1 scratched DS2 in the face quite a few times at 2, he no longer does this at all.

Twice when I have been out toddlers have hit him quite nastily, one mother apologised profusely and said he had been ah being a few moments since their new baby was born.

So it's not totally abnormal behaviour.

ClarrieSam Thu 10-Jul-14 21:06:39

Thanks for all your replies. There are some more things I chose not to share that contribute to the family suggestion - I agree that in abstract his behaviour is totally normal for his age and that the worst thing to do would be to intervene if not needed.

I don't pretend to be some kind of child expert, but I haven't seen another child his age with this level of contestant aggression, towards himself and others.

I take on board the attention factor, he's gone from being the only child when we get together to one of three- that must be contributing.

Next time I see him I will really focus on giving him enough attention- when contented he really is a lovely child.

ClarrieSam Thu 10-Jul-14 21:10:19

Yikes more to add... Yes my child is my pfb but the point of my post really isn't to whine he got hit - it's more about how I go about supporting my friend who I feel I've let down in the past.

Yes his sibling does have additional needs so taking the babies isn't an option at the moment.

vestandknickers Thu 10-Jul-14 21:10:24

2 year olds hit. They grow out of it. You don't sound like a very supportive friend. It is easy for you to make sure your baby is safe and still be there for your friend. It sounds as if she has gone through a lot.

HaroldLloyd Thu 10-Jul-14 21:11:29

I thought the idea of offering to look after the baby was a good one, but even in little bursts eg meet at the park and you can sit with the babies while your friend takes him on the swings etc.

I wouldn't stop visiting but having some experience of it with my DSs just not leave them unattended. As long as your there and on the ball it will be fine.

Shahsham Thu 10-Jul-14 21:17:51

Also dont underestimate how scared he will have felt with a sibling in neonatal care. He will have picked up everyone else's anxiety and fears, without really understandig what was happening.

I was diagnosed with a life threatening complication a week after giving birth to DS2. DS1 became really really hard to deal with. He also had meltdowns whenever I or DS2 went to see a Dr. He was scared but didnt know how to express himself.

We stopped talking about Drs/illness etc and I spent every moment when not feeding with DS1 - my parents took the baby. This really helped and Ive got my adorable DS1 back.

BerylStreep Thu 10-Jul-14 21:30:45

I think the op sounds like she is doing her best to support her friend in this. I think VestandKnicker's post was a bit harsh.

NoBusinessLikeSnowBusiness Thu 10-Jul-14 21:44:32

Clarrie - you sound like a good friend to me. Best of luck.

vestandknickers Thu 10-Jul-14 21:47:56

Sorry, I agree my post was a bit harsh!

There's nothing worse than having your child criticised though so please give your friend's DS the benefit of the doubt and see if he grows out of it. He's been through a lot and so has your friend. Your baby really isn't in any danger so concentrate on being a good friend and trying not to judge.

VikingLady Thu 10-Jul-14 22:44:20

Can you try to arrange some meet ups at groups/activities where your friend's toddler will be entertained and occupied? Like playgroups that cover birth upwards (I know we have a lot round us, so assume they are elsewhere too), or soft play or similar.

We can only see what you have written, and only you (and your friend, obviously!) know whether his behaviour is markedly worse than average. I did have a friend with a very violent 2yo and my DD was his favourite victim. If I wrote what he actually did it would not sound like much, but in reality everyone knew there was a problem. We both attended groups at our local Surestart centres and I spoke to the staff about it so they could tactfully suggest coping strategies for her. He's much better now. They asked her to take a parenting course but were incredibly tactful about it - they said she should do it so she could tell other people how helpful it was and basically act as an ambassador. So maybe that could help?

Coughle Thu 10-Jul-14 22:57:17

I disagree with pp who said you don't sound like a supportive friend. As the mother of a child whose aggression levels were off the scale, I will never forget the patience and understanding of my friends. It's not easy to see your child being hurt.

I did visit a psychologist and access professional help and our lives have completely turned around.

There's normal toddler behaviour and then there's... Well, it's still normal, but it's on the extreme end and might not go away on its own.

I'm sure your friendship can survive you sharing your concerns with her. You sound like a good friend.

306235388 Thu 10-Jul-14 23:04:44

He's just a baby too, really, I know it seems like he's not next to your baby but he is.

Kids bite, kids hit, it's not ok but it is, generally normal and my personal opinion is that making it into a psychologist issue will not help.

He needs taught how to behave and in the meantime I'm sorry to say he needs to be watched like a hawk. No exaggeration.

Don't be too harsh on him and I know you're trying not to be but it really is a matter of softly softly especially when he's been through so much.

Madrigals Thu 10-Jul-14 23:54:52

Coughle, do you mind if I ask how seeing a psych helped?

I have been dithering on whether to hint very gently about the incredibly violent toddler I know (DS of best friend since school). His hitting seems extreme to me and I'm honestly very laid back about toddler hitting as my DS has occasionally hit and of course been hit, but this is something else.

Coughle Fri 11-Jul-14 01:26:56

madrigals it helped first of all by validating my feeling that there was a problem - I had so many people telling me "oh it's normal, he'll grow out of it," but they only saw him for small chunks of time; they didn't see how the behaviour went on and on and on, relentlessly. They didn't see how isolated I had become because of having to avoid playgroups etc. It was affecting our whole family. It triggered my pnd.

So to hear her say, yes, this is a problem, and you can do something about it, was an immense relief. It stopped me feeling so helpless and trapped.

And then, she gave us specific techniques to use and things to avoid. So that was very helpful too.

Oblomov Fri 11-Jul-14 01:41:56

I feel really sorry for your friend.
tell her to come on over to my house! I'll be her friend.
hopefully, in a few years, once your child is 6, or 10, or 13, you will look back and cringe with embarrassment about how pfb you are now.

ShadowsShadowsEverywhere Fri 11-Jul-14 01:46:08

While you are there and playing with him OP, if he goes to start hitting could you try kneeling down, telling him "it's ok sweetheart" Nd cuddling him? He may lash out a bit more for a few seconds and then just slump onto you. My DD gets like this sometimes and it is meltdown scale rather than temper tantrum. She just can't handle the emotions and sensory overload she gets from certain things. If this poor wee boy has been picking up on the atmosphere and fear that was around when his sibling was ill he probably has huge amounts of confusion, fear, insecurity churning around in his head. Just try ignoring the hurting behaviour, the lashing out, even if that means putting your pfb down somewhere for a few minutes and just pull him close and cuddle him. DD will fight me for twenty seconds or so and then break down in sobs. If it doesn't work and he gets worse, then you know that doesn't work and no harm done. But if it does work then you've just helped a little boy and his mum find a way to begin to reconnect after a traumatic time for the whole family. Worth a try I'd say.

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