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What Is Considered Bullying Behavior in a 2-Year-Old?

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell, studioD

Toddlers are known to throw tantrums when they don't get their way -- or for no reason at all. The thought of a 2-year-old "bullying" someone can be hard to fathom, but toddlers can be "bullies" or victims of "bullies," according to the University of Michigan Health System. However, bullying behavior in a toddler is much different than the intentional torment often imposed by older children. A 2-year-old is naturally egocentric and will snatch a toy out of another child's hand simply because he wants to play with it. It's not necessarily done to to hurt the other child.


Aggressive behavior can reach new heights around age 2. Because a toddler isn't capable of seeing life from another person's point of view, he doesn't realize that his confrontational actions are hurtful. For instance, a toddler might push another child in a day care simply because the child happens to be in the way of a toy he wants to play with. He might knock over another tot's block tower not to deliberately hurt the builder but because he thought it would be fun to watch the tower come tumbling down.


A 2-year-old might resort to biting when he can't express his anger or frustration with words or when he's happy or excited. A toddler might also bite another child to let her know she's standing too close to him, notes Zero to Three, a website published by the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families. Teach your child that biting is a big no-no. Explain that such conduct can easily injure the person who's bitten.

Learning By Example

A 2-year-old might first witness genuine acts of bullying in older children in child care centers or home day care settings. Although you are basically powerless over what your toddler observes in day care, you do have control over how you act when dealing with conflicts between you and your tot at home. Keep in mind that a toddler loves to imitate others so do your best to control your emotions around your 2-year-old. Don't resort to name-calling or finger-pointing when disciplining your child, advises HealthyChildren.org, a website published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.


Teaching your child socially acceptable ways to be assertive will help ensure that she gets along with others. Learning to say "no" with confidence makes your child less apt to be bullied or to be become a bully, explains UMHS. Role-playing with you or a doll can help your tyke get the hang of being firm with a peer who may taunt him without mistreating the bully in kind. For example, teach your child to self-assuredly tell a bully who wants the toy he's playing with that, "I'm using it now."

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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