Family, Life, Parenting

My 16 month old son is a bully

It didn’t really hit me until last month. I’d seen this behaviour show it’s ugly little face before, but I never thought it was a persistent problem. It only hit me during our last playdate when we basically scared my friend and her son away*. I immediately messaged my husband at work and said “I think Kyle’s a bully”.

Don't let his sweet looks fool you!

Granted, Kyle is only 16 months, so I don’t mean it in the same way bullying is referred to in the media, but non-the-less, it’s the most fitting term that I can think of. Kyle only seems to be aggressive (i.e. pulling and biting) towards infants that are smaller (both in age and size) than him. But when it comes to older kids, he’ll laugh, giggle, hold their hands, pass them toys and basically be a “perfect little angel”. That’s why this was so hard for me to spot it right away.


The first time Kyle bullied another kid was when he was just over 11 months old. We had a series of about 5 different play dates in one week. I think it wasn’t until the 3rd play-date that Kyle made his first move. He was still crawling at this point, but he lunged at his “friend” and tried to bite him. At first I thought it was cute, a little kiss, until I realized, HE’S BEING AGGRESSIVE.

I quickly went to get him! How embarrassing. This went on for a couple of more times until I decided that it was time to go for a walk since Kyle was obviously just tired!! I mean, my husband and I are very loving people, both to Kyle and to each other, how can Kyle be a bully?. And Kyle is home with me all day long so it’s not like he sees me biting or pulling other people (I promise). Considering all of this I was shocked to see him behave like this, and I immediately dismissed the notion that anything is wrong.

Then began the episodes in music class. I remember we all went around and introduced our child, their name and something about them. Well, my “thing” about Kyle was “keep your kids safe because Kyle might come and give them some love bites”. I should mention, he was the 2nd oldest baby in the class. It’s a good thing the other parents were warned because Kyle apparently decided he wasn’t going to make me look like a liar with my fun fact about him.  Although, he wasn’t too bad either, I think there were only 2 instances in the entire 10 class session. I mean, it doesn’t matter that we didn’t go to half of the sessions, right? There were only 2 instances! I’m sure there wouldn’t have been more.

Kyle with his older cousins

This past October we were in Edmonton visiting my brother and his family (wife and three kids). Two of Kyle’s cousin’s are older and the other is one week younger. It was amazing to see how Kyle played along and interacted so nicely with his two older cousins. But when his younger cousin was within arms reach, Kyle attacked!  Not caring that it was his cousin’s turf and home court advantage. The thing is, the adults didn’t help the cause either because at first we just laughed at it. We thought it was funny and just an isolated instance. But I should have known better. We made it through the week without any injuries inflected by Kyle. However, the same thing happened when they came for a visit to Toronto in December. At that point, I realized that things had to change. This really was an “issue”.

Kyle bullying his younger cousin

I sought help on a Facebook forum for mom’s who live in and around Toronto. One sweet mom wrote “It’s probably an age thing. Very common. Remove child from situation. Tell him it’s not ok. Give brief time out – 30 sec-1min sitting by themselves.”. My first thought to myself was “thank g-d it’s VERY common”. I was instantly relieved. I didn’t know if this was a KYLE thing, or an age thing. I started to do some more reading on the topic, and realized that this behaviour IS common. According to, “aggressive behavior is a normal part of your toddler’s development”. PHEW!! He’s normal; I’m not a bad parent. I can handle this, and so I read on. The first thing to do is follow up with logical consequences such as pulling your kid away, showing him what he’s missing out on and telling him that he can only go back if he stops the behaviour he was exhibiting. The next steps are to keep your cool and set clear limits. Namely, don’t start yelling at your kid and immediately remove them from the situation (perhaps a short time-out). Lastly, you want to teach alternatives and reward good behaviour. Once your kid is calm, emphasize what he’s feeling (i.e. angry, frustrated, mad) but explain that it’s not okay to hit, push or bite but rather, it’s best if he talks to the other kid or seek out another toy to play with. Most importantly, if your kid is sharing, make sure to praise them, noting what they’ve specifically done (i.e. that was so nice of you to give the truck with Jonny when you were done playing with it).

I hope we're allowed back in class

Taking all of this advice into consideration, I had a chance to use it just last week during one of our classes. Kyle saw the only smaller kid in the class and immediately made a v-line towards her. He started pulling her shirt and growling at her. As I rushed over, I saw the big RULE sign hanging on the wall that clearly stated “no bullying”. I thought to myself, if I don’t do anything, we will never be let back in (and I WE NEED to be allowed back; I need time out of the house with Kyle). So I stepped into SUPER mommy action and followed the advice I read. First, I removed his little hands from the poor girl’s shirt, held him up and calmly told him that he can’t touch her. I put him back down and within a minute, he was back at it. This time, I pulled him away and sat him on a chair several feet away and told him that he can’t touch the girl and if he does, he won’t be able to play anymore. This also only lasted a minute! The third time called for more serious action. I picked him up and removed him from the room completely. I told him that he can’t touch the girl and if he does, we’re going to leave and he won’t be able to play anymore. I kept him out of the room for a good 2-3 minutes. When we went back in, I saw him run towards the girl again. I was hesitant to remove him too quickly, and it was good that I didn’t. He ran towards the girl, with his arms out-reached towards her, but stopped just short of pulling her.  Instead, with his little finger pointed right at her face he said “Ga, Ga”. Oh THANK G-D! I said to myself… it worked! For that day at least…

* We are currently accepting new ‘playdate’ applications.  Older kids are suggested 🙂

14 thoughts on “My 16 month old son is a bully”

  1. Great post! We had that for a little while as well around that age, and Yoni was at daycare! I tried to not take it too personally. I promise it is a phase that passed- thank gd. Its esp hard when they can”t talk. I am sure the phase will reappear (based on kid’s personalities, influences etc) but just knowing its not you and remembering a phase makes it a bit (repeat, a bit) easier 🙂

  2. With my two boys… and believe me boys are just naturally aggressive. (Albeit, some more than others) I found it particularly helpful to not just say “don’t do that,” but to provide an alternative. For example, in the case of the little girl, tell him he can touch her if he is gentle and soft; give him a ball to kick. And I think it makes a really good mom to recognize issues and face them head on rather than just go in denial.

    1. Yes – I Completely agree with you. I also prefer to say something other than “No” to my son, no matter what the situation is. THanks for the advice. I will try it out next time I need to (hopefully I won’t though – hahah, ya right, who am I kidding). Thanks for your encouraging words.

  3. Yes, it is common and we are STILL battling the biting. At 2 1/2, my daughter bullies her older brother. I, too, am told that it should get better. But can someone tell me when?

    1. oh no! 2 1/2… hopefully my son is just getting it out of his system EARLY!! I really feel like such a bad parent when he does it… but at the same time, it’s not like he learned it from me (I’m sure when I give him love bites, he doesn’t think it’s the same… right???) lol Thanks for your comment!

  4. Aww no! And yeah it is pretty common. My cousin, who is about 10 years younger than me, would bully his little sister when she was a baby. But then she got back at him when she could talk, ha.

    Since you are trying to find a solution, he will grow out of this phase. Good luck! 🙂

  5. You can use Sammy as your test subject next time! I’ll have a little chair handy on the corner of the room if Kyle gets out of hand! 🙂

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