Toddlers look so cute, but they can have a dark side. Aggressive behavior like hitting and biting is natural at this age and a concern for many parents.
When you think about it, it’s understandable. You probably feel frustrated at times. Imagine how much more difficult that is for a little one who’s eager to explore the world, but unable to express their thoughts when they run into trouble.
You can ask others to respect your boundaries. Your child may think knocking a playmate over is the logical way to get their toy back. You can teach them that they have options besides lashing out.
Positive reinforcement and close supervision can help keep the peace and speed up the learning process. Try these strategies for dealing with aggression in young children.
- Limit temptations. Some triggers are avoidable. Childproof your home by keeping fragile and dangerous items out of reach. Choose activities your child will find engaging. They probably like puppet shows more than formal weddings.
- Change the subject. Keep distractions on hand. Play games or sing songs if you need to lighten the mood.
- Enforce nap times. Your child is more likely to act out if they’re tired. Toddlers need 11 to 14 hours of sleep each day, which may mean one or two naps. A balanced diet and plenty of physical activity helps too.
- Talk about feelings. Help your child to understand their emotions and empathize with others. Discuss how their actions affect their family and friends.
- Rehearse responses. Practice what to do in various situations. That way your child will be more prepared for disagreements during recess and long lines at the supermarket.
- Praise positive behavior. Let your child know you’re proud of them when they’re being responsible and kind. That may include resolving differences with words and taking turns.
- Monitor media consumption. Movies and TV shows contain a lot of violence, and small children are especially impressionable. Pediatricians recommend no regular TV watching for children under two, and a maximum of 2 hours a day after that.
- Be a role model. When you’re calm and peaceful, you teach your child to make smart choices too. They’re watching to see how you handle traffic jams and rough days at work.
Dealing with Aggression:
- Give time outs. Used appropriately, time outs can be safe and effective. Apply them immediately and keep them brief. Ensure that your child knows that solitude is for relaxation rather than punishment.
- Break it up. It’s often preferable to let kids work out their differences themselves. However, there are times when you need to step in if emotions are too strong or someone may get injured.
- Go home. Public tantrums happen even when your parenting skills are top rate. However, removing your child from the situation can help them to calm down and recognize that their behavior is unacceptable.
- Band together. It’s easier for your child to learn if each of their caregivers follows the same rules. Try to create a united front with your partner, grandparents, and babysitters.
- Avoid spanking. A growing body of research confirms the negative effects of corporal punishment. Frequent spankings tend to undermine a child’s self-esteem and increase the chances they’ll use physical force themselves.
- Seek professional help. If your child seems unusually violent and angry, your pediatrician can help. They can help you find resources for dealing with conduct disorders and other issues.
Most toddlers and preschoolers will naturally develop more self-control as they grow older. Until then, you can reduce aggressive behavior by providing a loving home, consistent discipline, and practicing peaceful alternatives to aggression.