Alpha Dog

As O and I walked into daycare today, one of the other little boys (I’ll call him “GN”) looked at O and said “O bite” as he held out his arm.

“GN, O didn’t bite you,” one of the teachers said.

As an aside to me, she said, “Ever since O bit him that one time, GN keeps saying that. It’s funny—because GN is the one with the biting problem.”

“O hasn’t bitten anyone lately, has he?” I asked as I sat my boy down and started preparing his breakfast. “I haven’t gotten any reports.”

“No, no, not in awhile,” the other teacher said. “GN is just upset because he’s not the alpha dog anymore.”

“Oh really?” I said. “Who is?”

Both teachers shot sidelong glances at one another, then looked at O.

O? My little O? The Alpha Dog? He was a good three or four months younger than anyone in the class! A good eight months younger then the GN–the alpha he took down. And O is hardly one of the “big” kids—he’s average in height and weight. Plus—his personality: Everyone always comments (other than the kids in his daycare class, I guess) on what a great disposition O has. What? He’s the alpha dog? Huh?

“Really?” I asked, incredulous.

They both just nodded.

“But he hasn’t bitten anyone, right? Or hit?” I asked


Hmmm. So, the best I can figure is this: When O had a less-than-easy transition to the bigger room, he took it out on his classmates. For about a week, he went on a rampage, biting people and standing his ground. He had the other kids running scared. And although he doesn’t misbehave in that way anymore, he’s established his role. He’s now the alpha dog.


Any other moms have the “alphas” of daycare? Should I worry? I have to confess that I’m a bit worried. I don’t want my son to be a bully, yet I also don’t want my son to be bullied. I also wonder if he wasn’t in daycare if I’d have to worry about this at all. Is daycare forcing him to become someone he normally might not become? Yuck. What a horrible thought.

I’m not sure what to do, because it’s not like he’s misbehaving at the moment. It was all in the past. I suppose now he’s simply sitting on his newly appointed throne giving off the “back off” vibe, which isn’t so bad. I guess?

12 thoughts on “Alpha Dog

  1. LOL. This is so my son’s story. Did the same thing when he was a wee-little-1-year-old transitioning into the 1-2 year old classroom and again when he transitioned to a new center all together. I have no advice, just commiseration — I don’t want him to be the bully, but don’t want him to be bullied either!

  2. Anonymous says:

    My 3 year old son acts out every time he transitions (or his best friends do). I used to get all worried about it, so I decided the best offense is a good defense: we talk about the transition before, during and after it happens. This talk happens to contain a LOT of “we dont hit, bite or push, or take away toys from others”. All his teachers say this is normal behavior, so hope that helps.

    I confess I have also wondered if daycare is “ruining him”. What I do is talk to his teachers, ask lots of questions, talk to my son and just be aware of what is going with him.

    Like your son, mine can be agressive, and it’s usually in reaction to a change that makes him feel out of control of the situation. It will pass!

  3. My daughter and another girl have an ongoing “who’s the alpha dog battle?” They are usually battling over who gets to play with a certain third child, who gets to dance with certain boy, etc. I take the fact that my daughter often is considered the “alpha dog” as a good thing! Now, there’s never been any biting, but I want my girl to hold her own and stand up for herself. And if that means that others stand aside and let her be in charge, that’s fine with me!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know if I agree with Dem Mom.

    I wouldn’t want my boy to be the one that parts the sea of other kids or has the other kids fearful. That isn’t the best way to act in the real world and aren’t we teaching them the skills now so they can be the best adult they can be?

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with standing up for oneself – as long as we’re teaching them to do so in a healthy way – not through intimidation.

    Just my two cents…

  5. I think GN needed to be taken down a few pegs.

    And I speak from personal experience when I say O is delightful.

  6. I don’t necessarily think that fear is the way to get what you want in life, but there’s sometimes a fine line between fear and respect. And respect is how you get what you want. Like I said my daughter has never been a biter or a hitter. But she can be bossy, and she comes by it honestly. I like to think of it as assertive. And THAT is important in the real world. I guess the trouble is that kids don’t always know how to assert themselves, and end up using physical means.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Assertive and bossy aren’t the same thing, naturally or not.

    Again, I have to disagree with you.

  8. After all this, I would say that I think that “alpha dog-ness” usually doesn’t last very long with 4 year olds (that’s my child’s age, assume yours are in that “pre-school” range). Their personalities are still forming, they’re trying out different techniques to get what they want, make friends, have fun, get our attention and that of their teachers. As in all things good and bad with kids, “This too shall pass.”

  9. I hope so dem mom!

    Just this week, my P (20 mos) has become so clingy and quick to cry. A new child started in her class and is having a really tough go of it. She cries a lot (which is a huge step above the scream/cry/squeal thing she was doing on Monday – my ears are still bleeding a bit). I’ve notice the teachers tend to pick her up to console her quite often and P must be catching on because when she doesn’t get her way IMMEDIATELY, she’ll walk around with her arms up to the heavens begging “UP, UP, UUUUPPPPPP”. Oy – please let this new trait pass QUICKLY!

  10. Look on the bright side, she figured this out because she is SO smart!

  11. Dem Mom – Oh go on… (blush blush)

    I mean it go on…

  12. Our son seems to be on the receiving end of the biting and hitting. However, he seems to have his limits. He has fought back when needed. We don’t encourage it but we don’t want him to be taken advantage of either. He’s a very sensitive little boy but we want to make sure he stands up for himself as time goes on. It’s only natural.

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