When a toddler acts out, it's not uncommon for the tot's parent to first check and make sure that the other child is ok, remove his/her little one from the situation, and talk to him/her about what happened, what the consequences are and what a better choice would have been.
When an older child hurts a toddler, however, the discipline is not always as clear cut. Sometimes the older child's caregiver doesn't see the incident, sometimes the older child complains about the punishment being unfair, or the toddler becomes exceptionally frightened and has a difficult time recovering. Big kids are just that...BIG!
Many parents force their child to apologize. It is a kind gesture and I'm sure their intentions are good, but the older child's apology it is not always appreciated by a hurt toddler. Why would he want to interact with a child who hurt him? Why should he wait while the older child protests and tries to wiggle his way out of an apology? And, no, most likely he doesn't want to be close enough to the older child to receive a hug or a pat on the back.
A hurt toddler probably wants the big kid to play somewhere else so he can continue to play and not worry about being hurt again. Surprisingly, I don't see this outcome happen often. Most of the time, the older child might whine, apologize quickly, and then immediately return to rough playing right next to the hurt/frightened/upset toddler.
How do you handle these negative interactions between toddlers and older kids? Do you force your child to apologize to younger children? If so, how do you ensure a successful interaction?