Help, please! Daycare says our 17-month-old is 'too physical'

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

Question: Our 17-month-old has been in full-time daycare since she was four-months-old. Generally she has loved it and adapted well, and her infant room teachers all praised her.

Now that she is in the toddler classroom, we have been told she has hit other children without provocation, pulled hair, etc. (thank goodness no biting yet) and becomes upset when others play with what she views as "her" toys.

It's the first thing one of her teachers always tells me during drop off - what she did the previous day that was wrong. (The other teacher only praises her, so maybe they've adopted a good-cop/bad-cop approach.)

We have been working at home to share and praise sharing, and to practice "gentle hands" with others. However, she has always been a very exuberant, feels-everything child who loves physical play (she loves nothing more than being swung around or wrestled with, though we certainly don't play-hit or allow that).

How do we encourage better behaviour around others (particularly little children) when we don't really see any of the physical aggression at home? How do we also make sure we don't over-correct?

I don't want to excuse it all as normal toddler behaviour if there is a real concern we need to be addressing.

Answer: If you could see, I am giving this note some major side eye.

Not because of you, you sound lovely.

But I get a tad cranky when I listen to daycare providers do this to parents, especially at drop-off and pick-up. Like, what are you supposed to do? Their comments just serve to panic and worry, and I don't hear one speck of solution in here. Hmph.


Here is what I don't know: your child loves to be wrestled and swung around, and that is totally typical for 17-month-old kids! They play and learn through MOVEMENT.

But you may want to keep an eye on sensory processing stuff as you child ages. If it seems like your daughter is only increasing in her need to be very physical and she doesn't seem aware of this need, it is worthwhile to keep in contact with your pediatrician and keep an eye on it. Don't spin out. Just keep an eye on it.

In terms of what is happening in daycare, it is normal. Seventeen-month-olds are not interested in sharing, nor do they see the toys are everyone else's. These kids are emotional creatures, they want what they want when they want it, and they are not able to empathise with other's feelings.

So, this daycare needs to be proactive, period. They need to expect that these children will be possessive and react with that knowledge, as well as set up play that helps the children succeed.

Call a proper meeting with these providers and create a plan for them. Please list everything you are doing at home, and also bring in a list of typical behaviours for this age.

Good luck.

Meghan is the mother of three daughters. She holds a bachelor's degree in English and secondary education, a master's degree in school counseling and is a certified parent coach.

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