ASK CAROLYNN

QUESTION: After an altercation between two children (2 ½ and 3 years old), I noticed that you comforted the aggressive child.  Doesn’t that give, to the aggressive child, the wrong message – that you condone her behavior?

ANSWER:  I can appreciate how you would come to that conclusion, but I don’t believe  that the child came to that same conclusion. She clearly knew that she did something hurtful and wrong. When two children have a disagreement (usually over an object), first I comfort the offended child.   I teach that child to say, in a strong voice, “Stop” in conjunction with an outstretched hand, motioning stop.  Then the child should state what their need is e.g. it’s my turn; that hurt me, etc.  When children are too young to assert themselves, I will say (in a non-accusing tone) “It looks like Sally doesn’t like that” or “That hurts Sally”.  I always want the children to be accountable to each other, rather than to me.  That way they understand the direct result of their actions. Generally they recognize the fairness of the situation and that is the end of a fuss.

The object is to instruct, not to place blame or assign guilt.  When a child feels badly about himself or herself two things happen.  First, the lesson is lost with the overwhelming guilt or fear; and second, the child feels even worse and is more likely to behave badly again.  Children do not act good when they feel bad! And it is a big mistake to ever expect otherwise. The exception would be if a child is so fearful of authority, that they always act well-behaved. I’ve been there, and I would never lead a child down that path. I want our children to sincerely respect each other, and to act accordingly. And for the most part, they really do.

 I recall the occasion that you witnessed and I know that the “offending” child had some extenuating family issues that she was angry about.  This is a prime example of why it is important for parents and I to have a good rapport and to constantly communicate matters that affect the children physically and emotionally. I was fortunate to be well informed, and to know that this child was acting aggressively because she was in pain.  And that is why it was even more important for me to comfort her.

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If you have questions or comments about this issue – or any others, please email me at  carolynnstoddlers@yahoo.com.

If you are interested in learning more about Positive Parenting (and topics such as the above), please contact me for info on my next workshop. My phone number is 769-7921,

 Carolynn DiGiuseppi is a certified Montessori teacher with a Site Supervisor Permit and a Master Teacher’s Degree in Early Childhood Education.  With over 35 years of experience caring for children, she is the Director of Carolynn’s Montessori for Toddlers in Petaluma.