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The Power of Friends


For young toddlers, screaming, hitting, biting, and kicking are usually the first line of both offense and defense.

"One-year-olds don't have words yet to express their emotions, so they show their pleasure or displeasure physically," says Mindy Bostick, who runs an education center in Morgan Hill, CA. "At this stage, a parent's role is just to draw the physical limits so they don't hurt themselves or another child."

That's what Laurie Schneider, a mom from Scituate, MA, is working on with her 1-year-old son, Drew. "Since he's the oldest in the group of kids we hang out with, I had him practice how to act around little babies by showing him how to touch the flowers in our garden very gently," says Schneider. "When we're around babies, we do the same thing  -- just stroke them with one or two fingers."

For the most part, your child's friends will be the ones whose moms or dads you're simpatico with. And you can make it easier for the kids to get along, by helping, sharing, and taking turns, because anything that requires giving something up can be torture to toddlers. "Whatever is in their hands is theirs, and whatever is in someone else's hands is also theirs," says Bostick. "And when they have to relinquish what's theirs, they get very angry. They don't yet care about the way another child feels."

That means you'll need to be on hand to settle disputes and soothe jangled nerves. "When Max plays rough, often the only solution is to remove him from the situation," says Natasha Fishman of Staten Island, NY, whose son is 18 months. "I tell him 'No pinching' and separate him from his playmate temporarily."

Another trick: When a friend is coming over, set aside your little one's special toys beforehand. "I remember having a playgroup at our house, and when all the kids were playing with Alex's toys, he started to cry. Then he asked me when they were leaving," recalls Jane Herzog, who lives in San Mateo, CA. "After that, all the moms in our playgroup learned that it was okay to tell our kids to put away the toys that are closest to their heart."