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Reality Check: My Son's a Pushover!

Q. Our 18-month-old lets other kids take his toys and push him around. We teach him to be loving and cooperative but also want him to stand up for himself. How do we get him to fight back?

A. You could always feed him raw meat with hot sauce and teach him to snarl like a pit bull  -- you know, toughen him up for when the big, bad 2-year-olds come his way. Or you could thank your lucky stars that you have a mild-mannered child who, for now, prefers to be a lover, not a fighter.

This, of course, is not such an easy thing to accept, is it? No matter how often we encourage our kids to share and play nice, we still don't want them to play the chump.

You're right that no child should take your kid's toy, and your son will eventually be happiest if he learns to speak up against the Lego snatchers of the world. But at this age, how he reacts has little to do with what you're teaching him and all to do with his temperament  -- which appears to be sweet and non-confrontational. Next time a toy thief strikes, acknowledge what happened: "That wasn't nice of Johnny to take your truck, was it?" And then applaud his non-violent reaction while giving him tools for responding in the future: "When someone takes your toy, it's okay to tell him that you don't like that and to please give it back." This approach seems to fit with his personality (and it's the one that we wish every child would choose).